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


Metro planners contemplate system's second generation

By 2040, Metrorail ridership is expected to top 1 million daily rides and the system's core will be severely crowded. To cope, Metro has been looking at long-term possibilities for expanding transit, whether on the Metro system itself or in other modes, like streetcars or BRT.

Photo by sabine01 on Flickr.

A "second generation" of the system might bring new lines to the region and extensions of lines beyond their current terminals. None of the plans are concrete right now, but the first step toward system expansion involves studying of multiple possible concepts and determining which make sense.

These projects are still very much in the planning phase. At this point, for Metro planners, it's mostly about modeling ridership and attempting to find ways to optimize operations and redundancy in the system.

If this second generation system is constructed, only some of the lines and extensions up for consideration today will become a reality. And, before the work is complete, they may look significantly different than they do at this early stage. However, while changes to the current proposals are to be expected, these suggestions are noteworthy, nonetheless, as one or more of these scenarios likely represents the future of Metro.

Separated Yellow Line: As we've discussed before, Metro is looking at ways to separate the Yellow and Green lines. Mainly, this will allow for capacity increases on the Green Line, since the Yellow will still have to share with the Blue Line.

One concept involves building a new line under 10th Street SW/NW parallel to the existing Green/Yellow subway. This line would likely end near Thomas Circle. An alternative would take the line further east, crossing the Blue/Orange subway at Capitol South and ending at Union Station.

Potential separated Yellow Line alignments. Click to enlarge (PDF).

Separated Blue Line:
This idea is not a new concept. Metro has been talking about it for several years. It would greatly expand core capacity, especially on the Orange Line. Additionally, it would open up new areas of the core, such as Georgetown and Logan Circle, to rail service.

With regard to a separated Blue Line, Metro has looked at 2 basic concepts. Both would involve a new separated Blue Line from Rosslyn to the Anacostia River.

One option would be a subway roughly following M Street. From Rosslyn, it would cross the Potomac River to Georgetown, and then proceed east, toward Thomas Circle, Mount Vernon Square, and Union Station. It would rejoin the current Blue/Orange rail line at River Terrace, where the existing Blue and Orange lines diverge.

First potential separated Blue Line alignment. Click to enlarge (PDF).

An alternative vision also takes the Blue Line from Rosslyn to Georgetown, as described above. Then the line would turn south toward the State Department. It would run through Federal Triangle and Archives before curving north toward Union Station. It would then head east to rejoin the Blue/Orange lines at River Terrace.

Second potential separated Blue Line alignment. Click to enlarge (PDF).

Separated Silver Line: This option would shave a few minutes off of trips from Downtown to Tysons Corner and Dulles, but it would not add much capacity to the system. Instead of a new Blue Line subway along M Street, that line would be given over to Silver Line trains. Blue and Orange Line trains would continue to share tracks in DC.

The Silver Line would also get its own tracks in much of Arlington. After Rosslyn, the line would run "express" along I-66, with East Falls Church as its first stop after Rosslyn. It would share tracks with the Orange Line along I-66 before diverging to head out along the Dulles Toll Road toward Tysons.

Separated Silver Line. Click to enlarge (PDF).

"Brown" Line: The study is considering some completely new lines, as well. One, dubbed the "Brown Line," would start at Friendship Heights and run down Wisconsin Avenue to Georgetown. It would then turn southeast, passing the State Department, before heading east toward Federal Triangle and Archives. It would stop at Union Station and continue north toward the Washington Hospital Center, Petworth, and Silver Spring. North of Silver Spring, the line would follow US-29 to White Oak and the Cherry Hill Employment District.

"Brown Line." Click to enlarge (PDF).

Beltway Line: Another possibility is a heavy rail line circumnavigating the region. It would mostly follow the Beltway, but would deviate from that alignment to serve areas like Wheaton and National Harbor.

It would not replace the Purple Line light rail currently in the design phase. In the northern suburbs, the Beltway Line would be north of the Purple Line alignment, intersecting the existing rail lines at New Carrollton, Greenbelt, Wheaton, and Grosvenor.

Beltway line. Click to enlarge (PDF).

National Harbor spur:
Metro is also considering building a spur off of the Green Line, connecting Congress Heights to the National Harbor development on the Potomac River. This line would primarily follow MLK Avenue. Since it would be sharing the Green Line, it would constrain headways on both branches south of Anacostia.

Possible National Harbor spur and extensions. Click to enlarge (PDF).

Extensions: The planning group is also looking at extensions to some of the existing lines. Elected officials in outer areas and people on our "fantasy map" discussions have often suggested them.

Without additional core capacity, though, these additions will only further burden the system. Although not all of these extensions will be built, Metro is looking at a variety of options for modeling purposes. They're considering how many new trips are generated, as well as how these extensions affect crowding in the core.

Potential extensions include:

  • Red Line: Western extension from Shady Grove to Metropolitan Grove
  • Green Line: Northern extension from Greenbelt to BWI Airport
  • Orange Line: Eastern extension from New Carrollton to Bowie
  • Blue Line: Eastern extension from Largo to Bowie
  • Green Line: Southern extension from Branch Avenue to Waldorf
  • Yellow Line: Southern extension from Huntington to Lorton, via US 1
  • Blue Line: Southern extension from Franconia to Dale City
  • Orange Line: Western extension from Vienna to Gainesville
  • Silver Line: Western extension from Route 772 to Leesburg
None of these are about to be built or even necessarily things Metro believes are good ideas. The study is simply evaluating options with an open mind. They generated some projections around ridership, which we'll look at in more detail, and are also studying light rail and BRT options alongside or instead of Metrorail.
Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master's in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Greenbelt. Hes a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a contract employee of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. His views are his own and do not represent those of his employer. 


Add a comment »

I am all for the "transit Beltway." You already have a lot of infrastructure associated with the beltway, you have ROW, and now you can give the option of accessing it with transit. It also serves as a way to relieve pressure on the main system, especially if there is an accident etc. Finally, what better way to promote metro than having trains zooming past the gridlock.

By comparison, extending the existing lines risks creating additional problems in the already crowded down-town.

by SJE on Jun 21, 2011 4:10 pm • linkreport

I'd like to see them combine the second Yellow Line reroute idea with the eastern portion of the Brown Line concept. Basically, take the Wheaton-Silver Spring-Petworth-Union Station portion of the Brown Line and continue it down 2nd Street past the Capitol before turning west and going over the Yellow Line bridge. Call the whole shebang the Yellow Line.

by The AMT on Jun 21, 2011 4:12 pm • linkreport

metro will build in georgetown when pigs fly...and not like in that simpsons episode

by JessMan on Jun 21, 2011 4:14 pm • linkreport

There are a few things I don't quite agree with & a few I'm intrigued by... I'll take a closer look once I'm back from vacation to see if it might be time to update my DC 2100 fantasy map to version 3.

by Bossi on Jun 21, 2011 4:27 pm • linkreport

It may be useful for metro to change it's signalling system to achieve 1.5 minute headways on a constant basis. That's 40 trains an hour.

How about lengthening platforms to reach 12 car trains?

What would be the capital cost and what would be the impact? (Granted at some point the type of heavy investment will have to be made)

by Vincent Flament on Jun 21, 2011 4:29 pm • linkreport

The southern alignment for a separated Blue Line strikes me as a lot less desirable than the long-discussed M Street route. I can see it adding a lot of convenience for tourists looking for a 1-seat trip from the Mall to Arlington Cemetery, but I think the northern alignment would be much, much better for commuters and most others.

by The AMT on Jun 21, 2011 4:30 pm • linkreport

Look like some good ideas, there! Now you just need to get funding (1/100th of the annual Iraqistan War Budget should suffice) and convince the DC and suburban NIMBYs that hordes of economically disadvantaged thugs will not use Metro to invade their neighborhoods for the purpose of robbery, rape, and murder.

by Steven P. on Jun 21, 2011 4:31 pm • linkreport

Oh to have infinite money... Both separate blue lines intrigue me. The one I have read about plenty but not the one that cuts south to the state department and the mall. It would be a good tourist line.

I think the blue line needs to be separated first out of all these ideas before anything else can be considered.

by NikolasM on Jun 21, 2011 4:32 pm • linkreport

If we had an abundance of money, perhaps the Brown line subway would be the best transit option but a Wisconsin Avenue streetcar route can meet much of the expected travel demand, relieve congestion on the metro-rail system, and encourage infill development along the Wisconsin Avenue corridor at much less cost. The generally stated figure for building streetcar track is about $40M per mile.

North of Calvert Street, Wisconsin Avenue is over sixty feet wide. You can have dedicated north/south travel lanes in the median of Wisconsin Avenue if you eliminated on-street parking. This wouldn’t be too significant of a change for most residents, since curbside parking is already prohibited during peak morning and evening travel periods.

Ideally, a Wisconsin Avenue streetcar route would connect the Friendship Heights and Tenley metro stations with Georgetown. It could connect with the terminus of the K Street/Benning Road streetcar route that is already planned to end in Georgetown. This would give people an alternative to the Red Line and a transfer at Metro Center to get downtown and to Foggy Bottom. Similarly, you could use the Capital Bikeshare from Rosslyn and other destinations in Virginia and take the Wisconsin Avenue streetcar route in Georgetown for trips to Friendship Heights, Bethesda, etc… This would avoid a circuitous trip downtown and a transfer at Metro Center, potentially saving travel time.

As noted by commenters above, the Wisconsin Avenue corridor is already pretty dense and the 30s buses have some of the highest ridership and also are the third most delayed route according to the 2005 District Transit Alternatives Analysis report ( This report also estimated that a Friendship Heights – Georgetown route would have the highest ridership of the nine routes examined, with 6,000 riders per mile and scored second overall of all nine routes.

I encourage readers of this blog to join the Wisconsin Avenue Streetcar Coalition on Facebook to support this investment in mobility and improved transportation that this streetcar will represent.

by Ben on Jun 21, 2011 4:32 pm • linkreport

They've also been looking at adding wyes either just at Rosslyn or at Rosslyn and the Pentagon (in connection with a separated Yellow line).

A wye just at Rosslyn would allow a line between Dulles and Springfield, running through Reston, Tysons, Arlington and Alexandria (an all-Virginia version of the Red line reflected by the Potomac). This has the advantage of being cheap, but doesn't do very much to relieve core congestion.

Wyes at both Rosslyn and the Pentagon would allow some trains from the Ballston-Courthouse corridor to use the 14th St bridge to get into Washington (thus relieving some of the pressure on the Rosslyn tunnel). But this only helps if there's someplace for these trains to go once they get across the bridge, so it needs a separated Yellow line -- either version.

by jim on Jun 21, 2011 4:33 pm • linkreport

Wheres the Expanded Regional rail? Why is it always Metro rail?

by Corey Best on Jun 21, 2011 4:38 pm • linkreport

These all seem like good ideas, with the exception of the Beltway Line, which seems pointless. The northern version of the separated Blue Line seems like the priority out of these. Any extensions should be dependent on increasing core capacity first.

If they go with a separated Yellow Line up 10th Street, they need to build a literal pedestrian tunnel between Metro Center and Gallery Place (and the new Yellow station). Otherwise it will become a huge bottleneck of people riding for one stop before transferring. Go whole hog and make it an underground mall.

by Gavin on Jun 21, 2011 4:41 pm • linkreport

Orbital routes have inherent scheduling problems which are exacerbated by even small disruptions; this resulted in the re-routing of the Circle Line on the London Underground in 2009, such that it is no longer actually circular. Building an orbital rail line--particularly such a large one--seems like something which would necessarily become an operational nightmare.

by Kurt Raschke on Jun 21, 2011 4:45 pm • linkreport

@AMT Hm. That one's interesting, and prevents the Brown line from being another "line to nowhere" like the Red Line. I actually coincidentally read this report this morning before the GGW post, and thought that the Brown line was certainly an interesting option, and not one that had been proposed before.

(Mind you, the Red line's fine, and makes a lot of sense for the people who ride it. However, if we're going to expand the system, why not maximize the number of riders able to take a single-seat trip?)

Honestly, I think that the downtown blue line (northern alignment), along with the eastern Brown line would be a great match. You'd hit just about every densely populated and transit-deprived neighborhood in DC, along with several employment centers along the blue line. Everybody wins.

That said, if you wanted to open up completely new development close to the core, rather than serving existing neighborhoods, you'd build a Metrorail line down NY Ave NE. It'd be as cheap as a heavy rail line could possibly be too.

The Yellow/Orange Lines extensions are also along mostly undeveloped land, so those may also very well end up offering a very favorable cost-benefit ratio... I was a little surprised to see Belvoir sold as a yellow line extension, rather than a blue line extension (or the two paired together - you'd hit both sides of Belvoir, and create a small loop that feeds southbound Yellow Line trains back into the northbound Blue Line, to give passengers maximum flexibility)

Alternatively, if you built Blue out to Belvoir instead of Yellow, you could send Yellow over the Wilson bridge to National Harbor, which seems like a more logical route than doing it via the Green line line. (Or are those "transit lanes" going to end up being used for cars like almost every other transit lane that's ever been built?)

Hm. Other things.... Is that bulleted list of potential extensions from something published by Metro? I was under the impression that the BWI/Bowie extensions were little more than pie-in-the-sky.

Does the "silver bullet" need to offer a transfer at Rosslyn *and* EFC? It seems radical to not offer it, but it may offer a better passenger flow that does not create (another) bottleneck at Rosslyn. This could vastly increase the usefulness of the Silver line, by offering a true express service. Remember that Metro's trains and rails are engineered for unusually high speeds.

The Beltway line is weird, but interesting. Ring lines have been done in other cities with mixed results. I still don't get why the Purple line is being built as LRT -- I suspect it will be very successful, and reach capacity quickly. That said, I'd probably be opposed to a beltway line. Just doesn't make enough sense.

Glad to see that Metro are planning for the future. Jeez, this comment is ramble-y...

by andrew on Jun 21, 2011 4:45 pm • linkreport

A wye at Rosslyn would also allow airline passengers to transfer from IAD to DCA.

No idea how likely of a scenario that would be, but it'd be pretty cool nevertheless. (Especially if you built a freight Metro that allowed passengers to check bags through to both airports)

by andrew on Jun 21, 2011 4:51 pm • linkreport

Only thing I would caution about is the ever popular, but ever realistic law of diminishing returns (more accurately, the law of marginal costs). Are any or all of these plans sustainable, after factoring in the maintenance costs for any planned extensions / upgrades, plus maintaining the existing Merto infrastructure?

by C. R. on Jun 21, 2011 4:53 pm • linkreport

I think the brown line serves a good portion of DC that Metro needs a presence. The Ward Circle stop would be great for the coming offices and expanded AU campus and It would also serve the Mass Ave retail (Crate and Barrel, and soon a Trader Joes). Maybe instead of, or in addition to, originating in friendship heights, it could link up to Sibley Hospital and MacArthur BLVD too. I know street cars are on the way but some redundancy is a good thing. The beltway loop I see more as a longer term objective. I also wonder how many people in the suburbs will abandon their cars and hop on the beltway line. As a DC resident I'd rather have the Brown Line than the beltway line. And as long as they are looking at extending lines, Is there a reason they wouldn't be interested in extending the green line from Greenbelt to BWI?

by Johnny on Jun 21, 2011 4:55 pm • linkreport

- What about the Columbia Pike? Yonah Freemark proposed using the capacity freed up by the M Street subway for a route to Bailey's Crossroads (and perhaps beyond): (you could have the pike route share space on a separate yellow instead)

- Seems like the separate yellow would mesh well with the eastern part of your "brown line".

- Western "brown line" seems like a nonstarter due to lack of development potential

- This is all of course so much day-dreaming short of a Villaraigosa-esque funding plan (look it up!), an improved economy, and a lot more federal money available.

Back in the real world, I guess the best thing to hope for is dedicated bus lanes and signal priority, whether in the city or out in the suburbs. How is Marc Elrich's ambitious plan for Montgomery County going?

@Corey - MTA has a long-range plan to upgrade MARC service though it's nothing earth-shattering.

by EJ on Jun 21, 2011 4:56 pm • linkreport

I'm going to second @Corey Best here. This is a conversation that has been going on for a while; should metro be commuter rail or should it be urban rail. It is sorta failing at both. If we are talking long term future and dreaming with unlimited money and no NIMBY's, let’s do this right. We NEED to have much more commuter rail (i.e. MARC and VRE) running in and out of the city. Metro shouldn’t be running out to BWI (or even for that matter Dulles). To do so, we probably need a western city rail hub. So that would be on my list, a commuter rail hub somewhere around Farragut or west end or Dupont. The commuter rail would have to be put in as a tunnel, which could be dug as a five wide tunnel. It would have two heavy rail lines and three metro lines (extra one for express or to get around problems). Then I would run the Brown line and dig the second Blue line. Brown first because I think it's much more important for the growth of upper DC. The second blue line increases suburban commuting, but doesn't do much to add density in the city where people can actually get around better. And I would interconnect everything with street cars. A couple of street car systems actually. One in DC, one in Arlington/Alexandria, one in Bethesda/Rockville. That should do it. Now someone foot the bill. Should only cost five or ten bucks.

by DAJ on Jun 21, 2011 4:57 pm • linkreport

Some good ideas I see. However:

1.) I'm not sure aligning the Yellow Line to the center of Route 1 is the best idea; I don't see any room to widen the road enough for the entirety of the salient length to make room for the Metro line and stations. I like the suggestion I once saw someone make, to put the Route 1 portion of the line UNDER the highway, which would necessitate minimal displacement of structures and minimal concern about widening the roadway. Of course, that would be so expensive as to likely be rejected outright. Regardless, I wouldn't follow Route 1 all the way down to Lorton. I think it would be wiser to follow it as far as Accotink, then veer north to take in the new Army Museum before hitting western Fairfax.

2.) I still think it would be wise to take the Yellow Line a little further than Lorton; Woodbridge would make a good end station. (I might even see an argument for extending it as far as Potomac Mills...some form of transit to Potomac Mills would be great, as it would be a potential economic boon. But that may be a shade far.) Yes, Woodbridge has VRE access, as does Lorton. But...

3.) ...Fort Belvoir does not. And any extension of the Yellow Line in particular has to take that into account; I suspect that "core capacity" for that portion of the line would involve the Woodbridge-Lorton-Belvoir area. Would some people from that far down be coming all the way into town? Certainly. But a lot wouldn't be, I'll wager.

4.) I'm not convinced Metro needs to go as far as Dale City (though see the above regarding Potomac Mills). I'd take the Blue Line through the new development on Belvoir North before having it meet up with the extended Yellow Line.

Of course, given the local track record on transit in southeast Fairfax, all of this IS something of a pipe dream at the moment...

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 21, 2011 5:00 pm • linkreport

a separated blue line (the northern route) has me all hot and bothered. i find the beltway line pretty hot too.

theoretical transit swoon.

by dano on Jun 21, 2011 5:02 pm • linkreport


It's a WMATA long range planning group doing the analysis. They're going to focus on things that WMATA can do. Which doesn't include expanding MARC or VRE.

What's really needed is regional integrated planning. That we don't get it is a failure of MWCOG. MWCOG appears to think that integration is a fancy term for stapling.

by jim on Jun 21, 2011 5:10 pm • linkreport


Montgomery County commissioned a study of a 16-line BRT network and found it would be pretty successful:

Now, of course, they just have to find the money like everyone else.

by dan reed! on Jun 21, 2011 5:13 pm • linkreport

David, how much of this is fantasy and how much of this is honestly being deliberated by decisionmakers in a room with any chance of turning into a plan for the future?

It was my understanding that several years ago WMATA completely devolved all planning and construction to the separate jurisdictions and no longer centrally plans any future expansions of the system (that involve construction), leaving that entirely up to DC, MD and VA.

Without any concrete authority or plan to actually expand the system in a centrally conceived fashion, isn't this just yet another edition of GGW Metro Fantasy? (There should be a line here! A line there! Lines everywhere!)

The way I see it, this conversation needed to be happening 10 years ago for them to be anywhere close to staying ahead of the demand curve. We needed to be building the separated blue line (and Potomac crossing) now, rather than waiting for the Silver line to start and crush that tunnel capacity and us complain about how all Silver/Orange line trains are "packt like sardines in a crushd tin can."

(For that matter, the Silver Line shouldn't have been built without consideration of core capacity — something that didn't happen since Va could plan and build that on their own.)

by Steve D on Jun 21, 2011 5:19 pm • linkreport

And by David, I meant Matt. Sorry!

by Steve D on Jun 21, 2011 5:19 pm • linkreport

@Steve D:

That's exactly my point about the Yellow/Blue Line extensions. BRAC is's been coming for six years, but now it's HERE. The projected date for opening the Army Museum (long talked-about) is 2015. These are not shocking new changes. And yet nobody's made any move to even CONTEMPLATE expanding Metro service to either of those sites. Look at today's POST article on the museum - it quotes someone as saying that the old site, across from the hospital along Route 1, had to be rejected due to traffic concerns. If there were a viable transit plan for the neighborhood that wouldn't be the case, I'll bet.

Similarly, widening Route 1 would have been a lot more viable ten years ago. Now it's going to be tremendously difficult, if even possible.

Don't get me wrong; I'm in favor of the expansion. Better late than never, and all. But it blows my mind how nobody seems to have forseen any of these possibilities.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 21, 2011 5:26 pm • linkreport

@Steve D:
WMATA is making a plan to get the system and the region to 2040. That will involve system expansion is some fashion.

This is the brainstorm and study phase. Whatever comes out of this will be the result of a deliberative planning and political process at the regional scale.

Will any of the suburban extensions get built? Maybe. Will all of them get built? Definitely not.

But how do we know which ones should get built? We study them. What WMATA is doing now is putting all of their cards on the table. What's the ridership on this extension. How does this change affect crowding in the core? Will streetcars mean we don't need to do this?

Once they've answered those questions, it will be up to the jurisdictions to determine which lines need to get built, which lines will get built, and where to find the money to pay for all of that.

This is a visioning exercise. That's all. None of these plans are meant to be concrete plans for the future. They're meant to be lines in a computer model.

by Matt Johnson on Jun 21, 2011 5:27 pm • linkreport


Can you provide more information about the Trader Joe's for Spring Valley. There was discussion on the Tenley listserve about the Superfresh leaving the Massachusetts Ave locations (with the associated wild accusations towards American University).

by Ben on Jun 21, 2011 5:31 pm • linkreport

I'm all for some combination of the above. Northern Blue Line separation seems to make the most sense. Brown Line also looks good.

The priorities I see are, first, making better use of the resources we have, especially the Orange line; second, expanding the core to currently marginal areas, especially along 11th Street and NY Ave.; third, expanding Metro's downtown footprint, especially in underserved NE and SE; and fourth, expanding metro to the suburbs. The last thing we need is another Orange Crush.

by OctaviusIII on Jun 21, 2011 6:17 pm • linkreport

I know this will all look like one big pipe dream, but take a look at my Metro 2050 Fantasy Map on Google Maps.

DC's transportation future is a combination of BRT, streetcar, Metro, and rail.

by John M on Jun 21, 2011 6:40 pm • linkreport

Impressive range of options. Initial comments:
Beltway Line - interesting idea, but mind bogglingly expensive. I-495 is 64 miles long, this would be at least few miles longer than that. Extending the Purple Line south of New Carrolton has some merit, but all the way to King street would be seriously slow and expensive.

Best core concept is the variation of Blue or Silver from Georgetown along M-Street to Union Station. Provides a 1 stop ride from Union station to a number of downtown stops and Rosslyn. I like the Silver Line re-route from East Falls Church to Georgetown to Union Station as it would provide a 1 stop ride from Tysons to Union Station, but it would skip Ballston to Court House. I can see how a re-routed Blue Line to Georgetown & M Street would have greater utility.

Brown Line - would fill in gaps in Metro coverage in DC and MD, but it would either be the Silver/Blue re-route to Georgetown to Union Station or the Brown Line. And if it is just the Brown Line through DC, the Orange/Silver/Blue crush won't get any better.

Line extensions:
Orange line - ok, maybe to Fair Oaks and Rt. 50, but Gainesville?? Improved VRE service would be much cheaper.

Yellow Line extension down Rt. 1 - definitely worth considering. Going all the way to Lorton would be aggressive, but if it connects to a 7 day a week VRE service, could provide good transit route options.

Silver Line to Rt. 7 bypass - Come on, if the Silver Line goes that far west, why not all the way to downtown Leesburg? Maybe for a 2070 plan depending on the population of the DC area by then. Not in the next 20 years after $6+ billion is spent on the Silver Line.

Green Line spur to National Harbor - worth consideration.

Missing: a Metro line through Northern VA in the big gap between Blue and Orange: out Columbia Pike to Bailey's Crossroads, Seven Corners, Tysons. I guess it will be done with streetcars, but those will be very slow unless they go to dedicated lanes, fully separated from road traffic with a lot of grade separations. How about a grade separated light rail line from Tysons to Alexandria, mostly along Rt. 7?

by AlanF on Jun 21, 2011 6:59 pm • linkreport

As a Prince Georges resident, I don't want to see a National Harbor spur. The Largo extension has ruined the Blvd at Cap Center.

The Blvd. was a good concept with great potential, but Metro accessibilty allowed the SE DC knuckleheads to come out and f** it up for everyone else. Now no one goes there.

by ceefer66 on Jun 21, 2011 7:09 pm • linkreport

Cost overruns on the Silver Line will likely stop any further expansion of Metrorail in Virginia. Elected officials on both sides of the aisle have a long-lasting bad taste in their mouth from heavy rail. BRT is a better likelihood.

by tmtfairfax on Jun 21, 2011 7:16 pm • linkreport

You're right. Crime at the BLVD is not because of issues with that section of Prince Geothey'd or the design of the center. Clearly it's Metro's fault. After all, Metro has ruined everywhere else it's gone: Bethesda, Alexandria, Rosalyn, Silver Spring, and Rockville.

by Matt Johnson on Jun 21, 2011 7:18 pm • linkreport

Oh, right. Can't believe I forgot about Columbia pike. That should be near the top of the list for VA. (If anything, it makes more sense than the Silver Line ever will, if you remove the airport from the equation.

The cool thing about that line would be that it could be built with very minimal disruption to existing services. When the orange/yellow lines were built, a set of stub tunnels were built for future expansion on that corridor.

by andrew on Jun 21, 2011 7:39 pm • linkreport

@Matt - Sort of going back to what DAJ and Corey said - does anyone have any thought on projected costs for these options Metrorail options? Again, I know this is just the what if stage.

My thought is that as some people have suggested that expanding Metrorail makes less sense and maybe making more commuter-like lines would cost less and be more effective for lines that go to the exurbs.

I'm sort of thinking more like the French RER ( If we are talking about a 30 year $20 billion investment, maybe we should look at something completely different, something more like David Alpert's Metro Express, ( but bigger. It would fill in some of the gaps, introduce an 'express" service, and relieve the pressure on the legacy system.

by Randall M. on Jun 21, 2011 8:05 pm • linkreport

Ok, build it all, go! As Steven P mentioned, a fraction of the DOD budget or corn subsidies is enough to build this all. This should not be the next phase. This should have been completed 10 years ago.

I propose a small change, namely that the blue line not go south. Leave that to the yellow line. The blue line should go west along the Franconia and Fairfax County Parkways, and then hop along 123 through Fairfax City/GMU back to the orange and silver lines.

All lines should also be extended further out. For VA, the yellow line should follow US-1 down to Woodbridge and then follow the PW Parkway to Manassas and again the orange and silver lines up there. The blue line as described above, and the orange line should continue to Haymarket and then along US-15 to Warrenton.

The green line should be extended along MD-5 via Andrew's to Waldorf and possibly La Plata.

Then, we need new lines. The circle line is a good idea, as is the brown line. But we also need two infill lines in VA. One pink line from the Pentagon along I-395 to Franconia-Springfield, and possibly further. On the Pentagon end, it could hook up to any of the proposed yellow paths.

There also needs to be a white (? - I'm running out of colors here, and do not want to venture into mauve, peach or salmon) line from the Silver Line in Tysons along Rt 7 via 7 Corners, Baileys Crossroads to King St and them across the WW bridge to meet the green line in National Harbor, Branch Ave or Andrews AFB or possibly an extended Purple line.

Finally, we need a new switch in Rosslyn so that Virignians can travel from Vienna to King St without changing trains.

And I am sure Marylanders can come up with similar extensions in MD.

Finally, MARC and VRE should be transformed into normal train services that runs all day long, and into collaboration so that we can get decent (hourly) train service from Richmond to Baltimore at from 6am to midnight.

We will need this. The highways won't grow much anymore, especially within the Beltway, and probably not much beyond that. Yet Greater DC continues to grow. Without transportation options, the local economy can not grow.

by Jasper on Jun 21, 2011 8:16 pm • linkreport

Would it make more sense for the Blue line to go up New Hampshire, hit for the first Red Line transfer there, and then go down Massachusetts til the Convention Center and Union Station. That would seem to put more area within walking distances of metro, avoid too much overlap between the walksheds of the Orange and Blue lines, avoid tunneling under the Convention Center, double capacity at Dupont instead of making a block long transfer at Farragut, and provide a direct connection between Rosslyn Georgetown and Dupont to compliment (replace?) the Circulator. Or am I missing something?

by arlucbo on Jun 21, 2011 8:39 pm • linkreport


Metro already is an awfully lot like the RER as it is.

by Alex B. on Jun 21, 2011 8:41 pm • linkreport


Regarding prioritization: I'd move up at least a portion of the "suburbs" bit of that list, namely expansion towards Lorton/Fort Belvoir. I don't know if you go down Route 1 much, but it's already crowded as is, and that's without the added burden of traffic going to the fort when BRAC comes into play. Lorton's growing, and properly managed could become a good bedroom community for the fort. And that's not even counting the other development going on between Belvoir and Alexandria. Everything's strained to capacity down this way, and it's only going to get worse in the next decade.

Another thought: what about expanding some kind of service into southern PG County, down Fort Washington way? A National Harbor spur makes some might even be expanded down to the soon-to-be-built outlets. But what about further south? I don't know that area at all, and I'm curious what might be done to link it up, if anything.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 21, 2011 8:53 pm • linkreport

Metro's modeling to this point shows that any extension causes massive problems for core capacity. Therefore, expansion of core capacity needs to be the top priority - constructed at least in concurrence with expansions, if not before.

The priorities for new core capacity should be to eliminate the interlined sections of track. This has the dual benefit of adding new track capacity via construction, but also allowing the other half of the interlined portion to run at full capacity (i.e. the new Blue line under M street enables the Orange/Silver lines in VA to greatly increase their capacity and frequency).

Eliminating the interlined portions of track means prioritizing a new Blue line on/about M Street through downtown, a new Yellow line through downtown (with several potential routing options), and separation of the Yellow and Blue lines through VA - I'd opt for one of those two extending down Columbia Pike to Bailey's Crossroads, then turning south through Skyline City and hitting the Mark Center at 395.

Extending the Yellow line to Lorton/Belvoir without also investing in additional capacity on the current Alexandria to Crystal City section, as well as the downtown Yellow line wouldn't be a wise investment.

by Alex B. on Jun 21, 2011 9:02 pm • linkreport

What I would love to see is the Yellow Line be a mirror image of the Green Line so that is crosses the Red Line somewhere so that people on the east portion of the Red or Green Lines dont have to go through downtown to go west

by kk on Jun 21, 2011 9:04 pm • linkreport

How about modifying the Blue/Orange junction at Rosslyn to enable intra-Virginia trips? During rush hours, reroute all blue lines via the yellow line bridge and route every other silver line trains down to National Airport to create an airport to airport connection. Use the middle track at National as the terminal. This wouldn't increase the net capacity into DC but would facilitate intra-VA travel via Metro.

by hw on Jun 21, 2011 9:40 pm • linkreport

Brilliant! Thanks for this article. Would love to see a GGW "Fantasy Map" design contest based off of these ideas and maybe some of the other ones people have mentioned here, e.g. the Orange Line to King Street curve around Rosslyn.

by Shipsa01 on Jun 21, 2011 9:55 pm • linkreport

@Alex B.:

Oh, I agree - something needs to be done about capacity. My suggestion there would be to work on it while working on some of the more vital extensions. But I can think of two or three extensions that really ought to be on the short-term table. (Including the idea of a Gold Line that I first saw proposed here - I LOVE that.)

Sorry to be such a Johnny-One-Note here, but Southeast Fairfax is really the only area I feel like I know well enough to comment on. I've lived here for over 20 years, now, and it's becoming frustrating to see what could be done for it, versus what's being done, which is why I maybe let myself get carried away more than I should. :-)

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 21, 2011 9:58 pm • linkreport

Why is the yellow/red line station at "South Capital Street"? Shouldn't that be North Capital?

by David C on Jun 21, 2011 10:24 pm • linkreport

Metro needs to be more urban and more inter-urban.

It's not really an urban subway like New York but more a suburban commuter train system. We need more added stops in the center. The addition of the New York Avenue station is a prime example. I live at 14th and S NW and Metrorail is all but worthless for me. I can walk 4 to 7 blocks to a station, transfer, and then walk more blocks to get where I'm going. Or bike in 15 minutes. If we wanted an urban subway we would have followed the arterial streets with frequent stops.

Metro does do the Long Island Railroad suburban commuter thing well though.It just needs to go on and connect the existing urban centers of the area. Thank heavens they're finally talking about connecting to Baltimore via BWI. Hasn't anyone ever noticed there's 3 million people just up the road there and a whole lot commute to DC every day. Plus the airport traffic. Whether MARC or the green line to the 53 bus to the light rail, Baltimore to DC transit is pitiful.

I'm disappointed the red line is only projected to extend the minor distance to Metropolitan Grove. I have friends without cars in Frederick and Hagerstown who also have an almost impossible task getting to central DC most times of day. Those are close-by established urban centers and Frederick at least should be given preference over running lines to new exurbs in Virginia.

But I'm glad Baltimore's finally been noticed as existing.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 21, 2011 10:24 pm • linkreport

@Steven P.,

Not to worry. Thanks to the 4th Amendment, we DC and suburban NIMBYs are ready for any criminal thugs:

"Now you just need to get funding (1/100th of the annual Iraqistan War Budget should suffice) and convince the DC and suburban NIMBYs that hordes of economically disadvantaged thugs will not use Metro to invade their neighborhoods for the purpose of robbery, rape, and murder."

by Ralph on Jun 21, 2011 10:25 pm • linkreport


Metro's level of service is vastly superior to the LIRR - both in terms of frequency and direction.

Extending Metro to BWI is a mistake - MARC already serves BWI. How about we improve MARC to LIRR-levels of service instead? And LIRR-level of service is a pretty modest goal in the grand scheme of things.

by Alex B. on Jun 21, 2011 10:27 pm • linkreport

What I would like to see, I admit I have not even begun to think logistically how this would work in DC, is something like what Tokyo has. It has the Yamanote loop line, probably about a 20 mile circumference that goes through a number of dense hubs. From these dense hubs commuter lines go out like spokes from a central axle.

I agree with the comment that someone made above the need for more commuter rail. Personally I don't want metro to expand much further than a 35 minute ride from the end of the line to the central city. I would prefer if the rail to dulles was actually some sort of commuter rail. It seems to me that leaving from metro center, it could take close to an hour to get to Dulles via metro, but I would bet you could do it in about 40 minutes on commuter rail. This time savings (and yes I am pulling numbers out of my rear) I would bet could double then number of people willing to take the train to the airport.

by nathaniel on Jun 21, 2011 10:35 pm • linkreport

@ Alex B.:

Yes, yes - expanding service on both MARC and VRE ought to be seriously considered. I'm not that familiar with MARC; VRE, however, could do a far better job of linking the outer suburbs in to the center. Gainesville...maybe even Culpeper or Warrenton, if one were to push a point. (Warrenton's only fourteen miles further out; my only concern would be sucking it into the ever-expanding Greater DC area.) I know there are some plans on the table, but I suspect they could be doing a LOT more to encourage it.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 21, 2011 10:40 pm • linkreport

And nothing here talks about the need for a third and fourth track.

Continuing 40 years of design failure.

by Redline SOS on Jun 21, 2011 10:43 pm • linkreport

@Redline SOS

It's not going to happen. Nor should it. It would probably cost more to add express tracks than it would to add additional lines a couple blocks over - those additional lines offer a similar level of redundancy to the system while also opening up new territory.

And not building Metro with 4 track mainlines is hardly a failure - had Metro held out for that, the system never would have been built.

by Alex B. on Jun 21, 2011 10:48 pm • linkreport

@ Alex B.-

Baltimore-Washington is one metropolitan area with two rapid rail systems. Until the 3 million in Baltimore are connected with the 5 million in Washington via that missing 20 mile link, mass transit between them is dysfunctional. (And MARC isn't a substitute for reasons too numerous to get me started on.)

Instead Metro keeps projecting new lines 30 miles out to cow pastures in Loudoun and Prince WIlliam so they can become exurbs. That's not smart growth.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 21, 2011 11:16 pm • linkreport

So, your solution is to extend WMATA's green line along existing commuter rail ROW - essentially making an unnecessarily expensive and redundant investment - instead of upgrading MARC services (and all of DC's commuter rail, really) to something like the S-Bahn in Munich or Berlin for a fraction of the cost?

Linking DC with Baltimore is a fantastic idea - your thought that only Metro can do that is less so.

I think the fault is that when I say 'upgrade MARC', you seem to only hear 'existing MARC service.' What I'm talking about is (at a minimum) the LIRR level of service you mentioned - far more off-peak trains, reverse commute trains, weekend service, make it function as a true transit system rail line instead of an intercity rail line. All of that could be done for a fraction of the cost of a new Metro extension and would offer a much wider range of benefits.

So, yes, improving MARC not only is a substitute, it's a excellent opportunity.

by Alex B. on Jun 21, 2011 11:26 pm • linkreport

Echoing what David C said above about the Yellow line separation map. There is no such thing as Mass Ave & South Capitol Street.

by Mike B on Jun 21, 2011 11:28 pm • linkreport

I’m not going to get into the core stuff or the beltway. I do have some thoughts on the extensions.

The eastern Orange, Blue and southern Green lines should have stations at the points where those lines cross the CSX Popes Creek subdivision. This would allow MARC at some time in the future to be a feeder to these lines with a service that would run between LaPlata and Penn Station in Baltimore. I thought of this 11 years ago.

Before I moved to the Eastern Shore I lived in Southern Maryland. One of the things that became quite obvious to me was the fact the a lot of folks that live in southern Maryland commute to Crofton, Glen Burnie and Baltimore.

The Orange line would be in subway typical island platform configuration in the Annapolis Road corridor, the Blue line would be a combination surface and subway in the Lake Arbor Way and Central Avenue corridors, The Green line would be on the surface in the Branch Avenue and Crain Highway corridors.

I have never been that big of a fan of extending the western end of the Orange line out the median of VA I-66 to Centerville and points beyond. I happen believe the Orange line would generate more boarding on a VA I-66 to Fair Oaks Lee Jackson Memorial Highway (VA US-50) to Chantilly routing.

The line would be on the surface in the median of VA I-66 to VA US-50, along VA US-50 the line would be in a shallow subway with open top twin platform stations in the median, the left lanes and shoulder would be the canopies over the platforms.

The south side VA I-66 corridor to Centerville would be better served by utilizing the junction in the south end of the Pentagon station and building the Columbia Pike route to Annadale and follow the Little River Turn Pike corridor to Fairfax City, west of Fairfax the line would go to Centerville along Lee Highway (VA US-29).

The line between Pentagon and Fairfax City in the Columbia Pike and Little River Turn Pike corridors would be in subway typical island platform configuration. West of Fairfax City in the Lee Highway corridor the line would the same as the VA US-50 shallow subway with open top twin platform station in the median of VA US-29.

Lorton and Woodbridge would be better served by the extension of the Blue line. The Yellow line would terminated at Fort Belvior.

The Blue line would run parallel to the CSX right of way on the surface. The Yellow line would run in shallow subway preferably with twin platform stations of a design similar to the Anacostia Station.

by Sand Box John on Jun 21, 2011 11:52 pm • linkreport

I've made a couple of Metrorail expansion maps: one at the bottom of this post, and a similar one with light rail added on GMaps.

by PeakVT on Jun 21, 2011 11:58 pm • linkreport

@Alex B.-

I'll never believe MARC can be brought up to Metro standards, and that's a rare compliment to Metro from me. The NE rail corridor is too crowded already to be trying to run numerous fast trains through at all hours. MARC and VRE are meant for far-flung exurbs, not Metro. Send VRE to the cow pastures. Send Metro to the existing urban cores.

And I don't see why that short stretch would be expensive at all. It's mostly federal land for the asking and contains three existing major highways with medians and rights-of-way.

Finally linking the two huge urban cores of the metropolitan area should be a priority.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 22, 2011 12:00 am • linkreport

They should upgrade the high speed rail link between downtown Baltimore (Inner Harbor) and downtown DC (Union Station) so a trip takes 10 minutes. (~37 miles = Average Speed 237 mph)

by mcs on Jun 22, 2011 12:05 am • linkreport

The NYTimes has put together a nice flash map app of the 2010 Census data. It's great for getting a sense of population density and composition around DC.

by PeakVT on Jun 22, 2011 12:23 am • linkreport

The long range MDOT plans for MARC Penn Line service are to expand to 7 day service with greatly increased frequency- hourly IIRC with half-hourly at peak times. In order to have the capacity, the NEC between south of Baltimore to New Carrolton is to be expanded to 4 tracks, with a 3rd track to Union Station. The replacement for the B&P tunnel is probably going to have to be in place as well for 7 day increased frequency MARC DC to Balt service.

The Northeast Corridor Infrastructure Master Plan lays out the long term plans and needs to 3 or 4 track the NEC from Wilmington to DC for greater capacity, much of it for MARC long term needs. Unfortunately MD did not get it's $248 million application selected for the 4th track upgrade and BWI station rebuild for the BWI airport section from the Florida HSR funding re-allocations announced last month. If there is HSIPR funding in FY2012, MD will very likely submit the BWI station segment NEC application again.

Expanding MARC to 7 days for DC to BWI to Baltimore trips is a LOT less expensive than stretching Metro out to BWI. Faster too from Union station on a 125 mph line with fewer stops than on a 70 mph max speed Metro line with a whole bunch of station stops to BWI or Baltimore.

by AlanF on Jun 22, 2011 12:36 am • linkreport

Correction: the data in the NYT map is from the American Community Survey, not the decennial Census.

by PeakVT on Jun 22, 2011 12:39 am • linkreport

What a beautiful thing! The Brown line seems to pull in the areas most in need of transport and would provide a great spine on which to absorb more growth. The circle line seems to be the least useful as all the surrounding nodes haven't matured at an equivalent rate, and therefore would return the least dollar for the investment, although I would happily trade our war on Terror for this vision on the future.

by Thayer-D on Jun 22, 2011 6:07 am • linkreport

@Ser Amantio

Mt. Vernon District is very supportive of rail transit along Route 1, nevermind that Route 1 has the most transit-dependant population and the highest overall transit usage in the county. The problems with transit in southeast Fairfax County aren't the result of the's the results in the past of the county and VDOT diverting funding that was initially going to Route 1. An oft-cited example in Mt. Vernon council meetings: there was funding for a transit study along Route 1 in the 1990s, but VDOT diverted the funding elsewhere and the county let them get away with it. This further exasperated a problem down here in that widening of Route 1 has been promised for 20 years, but continually gets delayed. And one of the arguments I've heard as to why is because VDOT needs the transit feasibility study in order to finalize the centerline study...without either, they "can't" widen Route 1. It took Mt. Vernon until this year to finally get money again for the transit study.

@Alex B: I don't think the "core capacity problems" of a southern Yellow Line extension are as heavy as you're thinking, in part because a lot of the southern Yellow Line users are already coming from areas the extension would serve, and in part because Alexandria and Arlington are committed to the Crystal City-Potomac Yard transitway (which will most likely be converted to streetcar within 10 years). The CCPY will cover a lot of the capacity concerns you cite between Alexandria and Crystal City.

by Froggie on Jun 22, 2011 6:39 am • linkreport

Existing long-range plans for VRE and MARC already propose a through-routed, RER-like service along the US1/NEC that would run faster than Metro, seven days a week, at greatly increased frequencies. Metro heavy rail is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Paris and Tokyo (and Philadelphia, sorta) show that huge volumes of passengers can be moved by thinking about commuter rail as regional rail instead.

An orbital line along the Beltway would make little sense. Freeway median lines inhibit TOD: much of the 1/4-mile walk shed is spent just trying to get across the street, the negative externalities of the freeway half outweigh the positive externality of the rail line, and it's difficult to balance mass car and pedestrian access. Furthermore, the only successful orbital rail loops I've seen (Buenos Aires, London, Moscow, Paris, Tokyo) have all been in cities that share a historical quirk: they were imperial capitals that banned suburban railroads within the historic core, and use a rail loop to distribute passengers between numerous terminals that ended up ringing the core. (Santiago has a half-loop, linking high-density suburbs built by the Pinochet administration.) That historical quirk doesn't apply here.

by Payton on Jun 22, 2011 7:01 am • linkreport


Great point about the radial line and historical precedent.


WMATA's last round of extension modeling didn't isolate the Yellow to Belvoir, but it did bundle it with several other extensions:

See pages 49 and 50 - both extension scenarios cause more problems for core capacity at the river crossings and interlined portions of track in Downtown DC.

@Tom Coumaris

It's not a short stretch - it's about 16 miles as the crow flies from Greenbelt to BWI. Phase II of the Silver line is also in already controlled ROW and will cost 3.5-4.1 billion at the latest estimates for about 12 miles of track.

I'm not sure why you think Metro to BWI would be cheap, particularly when you can achieve much of the same benefit with the S-Bahnization of the region's commuter rail network.

by Alex B. on Jun 22, 2011 7:50 am • linkreport

@Alex B.

The total cost of the Silver line has ballooned to over $6 Billion. I will admit that a good chunk of that is related to cost of the tunnels at Dulles and the elevateds in Tysons and north of the airport.

Amtraks NEC between Landover and the Halethorpe was originally built in the 1930s by the Pennsylvania Railroad to accommodate a fourth track. The cost of adding that fourth track would be peanuts compared to extending metrorail to BWI.

by Sand Box John on Jun 22, 2011 8:31 am • linkreport

Invest in the core. Build a new tunnel in Rosslyn.

Build out MARC.

Find a way to bring transit to Rt. 1 and Fort Belvoir (and kill the quarter pentagon along the way)

Invest in streetcars in Northern Virginia instead of more WMATA.

I'll just go ahead and project that in 2040, MetroAccess will be a $5 billion dollar program and the primary transit provider in the region, as all Americans will be so fat they will require personal scooters to move around.

by charlie on Jun 22, 2011 8:52 am • linkreport

Most of these ideas are just a rail version of the beltway. Extending more lines out of the core worsens the crowding in the core, not alleviate it.

Vincent Fleming hit the nail on the head, and its the cheapest and easiest could be in place in a few years with minimal funding. Upgrading the signaling to allow ~2 minute headways. As it stands, we are lucky to get 4 minute headways, and it isn't consistant. Cut the headway in half and "boom", you've just doubled the capacity without laying one additional track.

I will admit, I like the second "seperated" blue line option...if we all had billions to burn.

by freely on Jun 22, 2011 8:55 am • linkreport

Metro could use a circle line, but a close-in one rather than one way out on the beltway. The separated blue line on M Street is good for commuters, but doesn't do much for those who want to get around the residential areas of DC.

What about shorter lines to connect existing stations and open up some underserved areas in between? My fantasy line is a Georgetown-Dupont-Adams Morgan-Columbia Heights-U St-Union Station-H St routing. Doing that and the separated Blue Line would be even better. It's fun to dream...

by Ben on Jun 22, 2011 8:58 am • linkreport

In terms of getting cars off of the roads, the northern half of the beltway line --from say Greenbelt to Tysons would have the largest economic and traffic effect. Everything else is just nibbling at the edges of a minor problem. We know from Washington Post published data that the largest traffic problem is related to getting from Baltimore (I-95) to Tysons and back. If you could scoop up 5% of those drivers who could take an express train around the beltway (not through the city like the poorly planned purple line) you'd make a significant dent in the road traffic. Maybe the "outer beltway" would become an unnecessary expense at that point.

On another note, is GGW considering going to embedded comments? I think it's time.

by eb on Jun 22, 2011 9:08 am • linkreport

My memory might be wrong but I believe Shrag and others have pointed out that there are serious engineering issues with running Metro under Georgetown due to water, rock structure (or lack thereof) and the angles from existing stations. I believe the angles alone would require very deep stations.

But, of course, any and all of these can be overcome with today's technology if people throw enough money at the problems. The question is political will and financing, really.

by H2O on Jun 22, 2011 9:09 am • linkreport

@Eb; do you have a cite for that traffic quote? Interesting data point. However, I'd also argue that anyone driving from Baltimore to Tysons is just plain stupid. However, looking at expansion soley from the perspective of getting cars off the road would be interesting.

@Freely; you've hit it. Nice.

by charlie on Jun 22, 2011 9:14 am • linkreport

Quick question (I think): would pedestrian tunnels between Metro Center and Chinatown and between the Farraguts help ease core congestion?

And in their long-range dreaming is WMATA considering these tunnels?

by rdhd on Jun 22, 2011 9:20 am • linkreport

I don't know that metro needs many outward expansions as much as VRE and MARC need their own lines so that they can run frequent service on the major freeway corridors in the area.

But there are some downtown areas where a line might make sense that isn't part of the hub and spoke system. The purple line extended (as heavy rail) to Tyson's and Fairfax. A better connection between Fairfax and Alexandria (following Route 7) and a line through the jobs centers from Mannassas up to Herdon or even Leesburg (roughly up Route 28) would be good things too.

DC is no longer a single hub city. It needs lines to connect some of the inner (and in Virginia) outer burbs together.

by Tom Atkins on Jun 22, 2011 9:30 am • linkreport

Seems to me that the Green Line spur provides a good starting point for an entirely new line. Run it from National Harbor up to where it joins the Green Line and on to Navy Yard, then up South/North Capitol to serve Bloomingdale/Eckington and points north. Perhaps the existing roadway underpasses could be used to facilitate tunnel construction (and new stations could perhaps be built more cost-effectively/less grand than the vaulted brutalist ones we currently have). Extend north to the McMillan Reservoir site to support new development there. You could terminate at McMillan, or turn west to connect Columbia Heights/Adams Morgan/Woodley Park, or turn east to connect Brookland and on to Mt. Rainier.

We get more (sorely-needed) in-town rail after years of sub/exurban focus on extension of the system, but Maryland has the National Harbor (and maybe Mt. Rainier) incentive to support it. Added bonus is two-line service to Navy Yard, which should help ease pre- and post-Nationals game traffic.

by Nate on Jun 22, 2011 9:33 am • linkreport

I should add that the extension along North Capitol should be part of a boulevardization project. That street is a disgrace.

by Nate on Jun 22, 2011 9:35 am • linkreport


I was somewhat aware of the study, but not to a deep extent. If it was in the 90s I would have been in middle and high school when it was formulated. And as I recall, my long-term plan in those days didn't involve sticking around the DC area much after graduating from college. Now I look at things with a more practiced eye I see where the problems lie. I know locals are very supportive of transit on Route 1; my complaint has always lain with the state (to some extent) and the county (to much greater extent) for not seeming to understand what it is they need.

Regarding core capacity and Route 1: While I'm sure there would be some extra piling-on onto the core, I'm not sure it would be as bad as it might be for some other suburban lines. For one thing, much of the commute will be a reverse commute to Belvoir, or a commute from Lorton/Woodbridge TO the fort. I'm sure there would be a handful of people coming into DC from Lorton or Woodbridge (or, say, Hybla Valley)...but in my case, for instance, if a station were opened at Hybla Valley I'd merely switch my allegiance; as it is, I drive to Huntington to come into the office.

Don't get me wrong: I think core capacity needs to be addressed...and I like the idea of paring down headway times (something which has come up in discussion with friends/colleagues before, as it happens). But the plan needs to be more longterm than that.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 22, 2011 9:40 am • linkreport

Unfortunately, before any suburban extensions can be seriously examined, Metro's core capacity through central DC needs to be expanded - whether by a separate blue line, new "Brown" line, etc. With the Red line from Dupont to Union Station and the Blue/Orange from Courthouse to Capitol South at or near max capacity, we simply need more tunnels downtown.

by John M on Jun 22, 2011 9:46 am • linkreport

@ Nate:

A new line beginning at National Harbor? I like the cut of your jib. :-)

@ Tom Atkins:

Yes, I think it's time to start at least considering infill lines - like among several lines in Virginia. Connecting the Yellow, Orange, Blue, and Silver Lines in Fairfax County would be nice, for one. There are a lot of potential places in the western part of the county that could stand the connecting, I think.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 22, 2011 9:53 am • linkreport

@ Tom Coumaris: Instead Metro keeps projecting new lines 30 miles out to cow pastures in Loudoun and Prince WIlliam so they can become exurbs. That's not smart growth.

True, but it is growth that will happen, smart or not. So you need to hook those areas up to the region. The question is how you want to do that. More roads, or with rail?

@ Sand Box John: I happen believe the Orange line would generate more boarding on a VA I-66 to Fair Oaks Lee Jackson Memorial Highway (VA US-50) to Chantilly routing.

You're right. I forgot my Rt 50 new line (black?), from the Mall across the Roosevelt bridge all along US-50 to South Riding or Middleburg.

@ PeakVT: How do you make such a map?

@ freely:if we all had billions to burn.

We're burning billions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Why not burn some at home?

by Jasper on Jun 22, 2011 10:07 am • linkreport

we need to start sacrificing road and higway rights of way to build more rail rights of way. In this country we basically have had very very few new major rail rights of way in over 100 years- except for a few of the transit systems built in the 20th century.New rail ROWs should be built to connect Baltimore with DC and Annapolis- as well as more lines in the cores of both cities. The DC/ baltimore Metro area is now at about 9 million and it has been one Metro are for quite some time. We also need better connections- 24-7 between the two city cores and stop building long suburban lines to nowhere.

All new core lines for DC's Metro should have at least 3 tracks. The idea of having only 2 tracks is obsolete as this system is one the heaviest in terms of usage in the USA and has reached capacity. If they can find the room in NYC to build 3 track- and even 4 track lines for their subways- there is no reason at all we can't do this.

by w on Jun 22, 2011 10:32 am • linkreport

On a side note, I think it would be cool if they ran a commuter light-rail from east-west highway all the way down beach drive to downtown. Then they could close beach drive to cars permanently as they already do on the weekends. Then it may actually feel like a National Park

by Johnny on Jun 22, 2011 10:41 am • linkreport

@charlie I tried for 30 minutes to search the post archives and the search feature isn't very good. I can see the info graphic in my head, but I can't filter well. It was sometime in 2009/2010.

The problem with calling people who live in Bmore and work in Tyson's "idiots" is that it does nothing for the discussion and it's obviously a rational economic decision for a lot of people. Ignoring it doesn't make it go away. It's equally stupid for people to insist on increasing density in DC and MoCo when there's plenty of untapped density in PG. It's just that PG is a poor choice for people who want decent schools. PG doesn't get better schools until parents who give a crap move there.

by eb on Jun 22, 2011 10:49 am • linkreport

A lot of those 4-track subways in NYC carry almost same amount of people as the entire DC Metro carries. And the express stations are spaced about the same distances as DC's stations.

by Neil Flanagan on Jun 22, 2011 10:52 am • linkreport

OT: These are nice, but I'm looking forward to BRT on Georgia Ave/Veirs Mill Road between Silver Spring and Rockville. I've ridden the Q buses a few times recently, and that thing is just a ship of pain. You've got people standing from the beginning of the line and it only gets worse as it goes along. I don't know what I'd do if that were my regular commute.

by Flora on Jun 22, 2011 10:53 am • linkreport

You're right. Crime at the BLVD is not because of issues with that section of Prince Geothey'd or the design of the center. Clearly it's Metro's fault. After all, Metro has ruined everywhere else it's gone: Bethesda, Alexandria, Rosalyn, Silver Spring, and Rockville.
by Matt Johnson

@Matt Johnson,

Thanks for showing your prejuduce and ignorance for all to see.

If you knew anything about the area in question, you would know that the neighborhood around the Blvd at Cap Center Center is middle class - new condos, townhouses, and apartments are within walking distance of the Blvd and the Largo Metro station.

The problem lies with the nearby low-income areas nearby - the inside-the-Beltway communities of Seat Pleasant and Capitol Heights and SE DC. The criminal element from those areas ride the Blue Line out to to Largo and wreck havoc at the Blvd. It's a fact that the majority of those caught comitting crimes come from those areas - not the neighborhoods nearby.

As for Bethesda, Alexandria, etc., check the demographics. Another fact is that many of the criminal element in the inside-the-Beltway Prince Georges communities areas have been pushed out of DC by gentrification. Bethesda, Alexandria, etc. are traditional upscale areas that likely would have remained that way, Metro or not.

Next time, know wtf you're talking about.

by ceefer66 on Jun 22, 2011 10:57 am • linkreport

I have been to Largo many times. I am, in fact, a Prince George's County resident.

Of course, that's all moot, because you just made the point I was trying to make. Metro isn't the problem. The problem (to quote you), "lies with the nearby low-income areas nearby - the inside-the-Beltway communities of Seat Pleasant and Capitol Heights and SE DC."

Metro provides access. Do trouble-makers ride it? Yes. Are they a majority of riders? Not by a long shot. But, of course, if even one bad person used the Largo Metro station on his way to commit a crime, it should be closed.

Well, plenty of the people who commit crimes use cars as well. So I suppose you think we should close the Beltway and Central Avenue, too?

The solution I was alluding to is not to remove access points, but to work to improve the communities where the crime is being generated. I wasn't referring specifically to Largo when I said "that section of Prince George's County", I was referring to the larger area, the same area you referenced.

by Matt Johnson on Jun 22, 2011 11:04 am • linkreport

Agreed that MARC and VRE could fill much of the needs that all the suburban Metro extensions attempt to meet.

(1) Through-route some MARC and VRE trains
(2) Implement fare integration with WMATA
(3) Add Commuter Rail infill stations where it makes sense (Fort Totten? Bladensburg/Hyattsville? Fairfax County?)
(3) Electrify the entire commuter rail network
(4) Reroute freight trains out of DC
(5) Add tracks and increase frequency on all commuter rail lines

by orulz on Jun 22, 2011 11:23 am • linkreport

Things I've thought Metro absolutely needs:
* Reroute the Blue Line through Georgetown. As for after that, both ideas were compelling, though I think downtown might be well-covered enough and maybe it should go to the south, to State.

* Connect Bethesda and Tysons. Create a silver spur or a purple spur connecting the two most vital business districts in the region. At present plans, if you want to get from Bethesda to Tysons, you have to go through downtown DC *and* Rosslyn, turning a 10 minute direct connection into a 45 minute jaunt with at least one transfer.

* Eventually, connect with Baltimore. Maybe not part of the green line, but a separate line, perhaps originating from Union Station, going to BWI. That way existing service won't be impacted by having Green extended, and we connect two systems.

Metro is at a crossroads. It needs to decide if it's going to be a commuter network or a subway. I think, with proper stewardship of lines, it can be both.

by Andrew on Jun 22, 2011 11:30 am • linkreport

@Eb; thanks. And you're right, they are not idiots. Probably desperate.

However, I have little sympathy people with 100+ miles commutes in this area. Most of them are government workers in do-nothing jobs.* Live where you work -- is that so hard?

That being said, my guess is while the commute you described (bmore to tysons) is hard (and slow) it isn't particularly used. As others to noted, rail or bus from Bethesda to Tysons is pretty low hanging fruit and would get a lot of cars off the American Legion Bridge.

by charlie on Jun 22, 2011 11:51 am • linkreport

I like Sand Box John's suggestion for the Orange and Columbia Pike lines. Connecting directly to Fairfax and Chantilly would take TONS of cars off of the road in that region. It'd be more expensive than building in the I-66 median, but actually offers a pretty attractive payoff -- Fairfax could become the lively college town that it's supposed to be.

by andrew on Jun 22, 2011 11:57 am • linkreport

@Jasper: I created the JPEG map in OpenOffice Draw, which isn't the best drawing program, but its price is hard to beat. The GMap was created in GMaps, though I exported and re-imported once to do a mass change that would have been tedious in GMaps.

by PeakVT on Jun 22, 2011 12:25 pm • linkreport

freely, ...if we all had billions to burn.

We're going to burn billions one way or another. If not with Metro expansion, then road expansion, or congestion, or pollution, or gasoline, or decreased mobility, or some combination of those. Personally I'd rather spend it on local jobs and transit then on gasoline and people not getting paid to sit in their car.

@rbhd would pedestrian tunnels between Metro Center and Chinatown and between the Farraguts help ease core congestion?


An idea I like, but is probably unworkable thanks to the Capitol is an underground people mover from Capitol South to Union Station. Sort of like an airport one - with a ped tunnel down the middle. This would make for a quicker connection between the east blue and orange lines and the east red line. But there probably isn't any space beneath 1st street.

by David C on Jun 22, 2011 12:29 pm • linkreport


All new core lines for DC's Metro should have at least 3 tracks. The idea of having only 2 tracks is obsolete as this system is one the heaviest in terms of usage in the USA and has reached capacity. If they can find the room in NYC to build 3 track- and even 4 track lines for their subways- there is no reason at all we can't do this.

They haven't found room for 4-track lines in New York with any of their modern Subway projects - all of their 4 track lines are legacy lines from the days of far lower construction costs and no concern about street-level disruption.

There's a reason why the Second Ave Subway will only have two tracks, and it's the same reason that Metro has 2 tracks.

by Alex B. on Jun 22, 2011 12:37 pm • linkreport

@David C

Re: the Capitol South-Union Station connection, isn't that precisely one of the things a re-routed Yellow Line would accomplish? Only it would also connect to the Virginia portion of the Yellow Line and, if I had my way, the eastern branch of the "Brown Line" concept (from Union Station, up North Capitol to the Hospital Center and from there up Georgia Avenue to Silver Spring, connecting at Petworth).

We'd decouple the Yellow and Green lines (a stated goal) while also adding some needed connections and redundancy to the eastern part of the CBD. To my mind something along these lines is second only to a separate Blue Line in importance, since core capacity is the biggest factor constraining the system in the medium/long term.

by The AMT on Jun 22, 2011 12:43 pm • linkreport

As Matt showed a couple years ago nearly all the capacity issues for metro are localized to the four mile segment between Rosslyn and Union Station and the four mile segment between Woodley Park and L'Enfant Plaza. Digging a bunch of extra tunnels to accommodate 2 mile trips is nuts.

There is so much potential for cheap surface-level transit expansion in this little four by four diamond of the metro area that it is hard to imagine any rational transit planner would be considering digging more tunnels for heavy rail. A few dedicated transit lanes on a few downtown streets would cheaply and alleviate core MetroRail capacity problems while providing better accessibility and more connectivity.

by egk on Jun 22, 2011 12:43 pm • linkreport

I don't understand the obsessiveness of extending the Orange line inside the median of I-66. Only VRE-style trains should go there.
If they want to extend it west, I think it would be better to extend it in I-66 to Fair Lakes, then let it follow the course of Rte 50. Then in extreme FantasyLand, it hooks up to Rte 28 and goes through the tech corridor and hooks up with the Silver Line at Dulles Airport.

by Brandon on Jun 22, 2011 12:45 pm • linkreport

@Alex B.

True, those considerations are also going into the 2nd Ave Subway in NYC, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea. In a perfect world, planners could just come up with designs without regard to cost and it would function.

Unless there is some sort of MAJOR disruption, NYC Subway travelers rarely have to deal with the track-related delays DC commuters have to, which means more people are willing to depend entirely on transit.

by John M on Jun 22, 2011 12:49 pm • linkreport

Wow, talk about transit p*rn.

by HN on Jun 22, 2011 12:54 pm • linkreport


Metro's planning process is indeed modeling various surface transportation improvements - they do not solve the system's issues with core capacity.

@John M:

In a perfect world, planners could just come up with designs without regard to cost and it would function.

Quite simply, we do not live in a perfect world.

Unless there is some sort of MAJOR disruption, NYC Subway travelers rarely have to deal with the track-related delays DC commuters have to, which means more people are willing to depend entirely on transit.

Do you have any evidence to support the bold portion? People are willing to depend on transit in New York because transit is the easiest way to get around - and that's a product less of trip time and more of the land use and density that surrounds the transport network there.

by Alex B. on Jun 22, 2011 1:15 pm • linkreport

IMHO the Beltway Line could be fully automated... it likely won't see the type of ridership lines running downtown see.

There's off the shelf technology from Bombardier called ART that could be used in this context. Also used extensively in Vancouver's Skytrain.

by John M on Jun 22, 2011 1:40 pm • linkreport

@The AMT. I suppose you're right about the yellow line filling the role of a Cap South - Union Station connection, so think of mine as a cheaper solution - and one that is more direct. It could even be a pedestrian tunnel with moving walkways. It would still be faster to walk than ride to Metro Center and back.

by David C on Jun 22, 2011 2:05 pm • linkreport

@David C, The AMT

A Capitol South/Union Station connection could also be solved by the separated line I proposed above that incorporates the Green Line spur running to National Harbor.

I imagine one major obstacle would be how to route around the Capitol.

by Nate on Jun 22, 2011 2:09 pm • linkreport

@Alex B. -- definitely spot on about the vital need to focus on capacity in the core, and the effect of expansions on the core

@all the people who mentioned the need to differentiate between railroad and heavy rail -- ABSOLUTELY. The failure of the region to have a true transportation planning process at the metropolitan level led to a presentation I did at U Delaware. It's probably somewhat mis-named, it's called Metropolitan Mass Transit Planning. The basic point is that regional planning should look at all modes, and differentiate between various scales, and set overall network breadth, depth, and LOS requirements, and the transit operator(s) should then be tasked with meeting those requirements.


This WMATA effort is important but incomplete. The circumferential heavy rail line probably doesn't make sense especially economically, although continuing with the purple line light rail project probably is okay.

Dan Malouff has really influenced me in terms of the opportunities with rail expansion, although Matt Johnson has since picked up the slack ideas wise. Dan's points about adding other railroad stations within the inner core of the region are really important. He and I argue separately about the need for a combined rail system serving DC, MD, and VA, rather than the separate systems we have now.

The basic problem in this WMATA planning effort is the differing objectives of the suburbs vs. the city, which is encapsulated in the writings of Steve Belmont in _Cities in Full_ about polycentric vs. monocentric transit systems.

As long as WMATA is run like a regional commuter railroad using heavy rail equipment, there are going to be problems over intent and practice. But that's what the suburban constituencies want.

OTOH, in the city, we use the transit system to get around for the majority of trips and it provides us with competitive advantage in terms of trip times compared to other places in the region (and nationally), except if you live in the Ballston-Rosslyn corridor in Arlington. Even so, DC's mode split for sustainable transpo. crushes Arlington--we're 50% higher.

egk -- the reason you have underground transit is for capacity. There is no way that surface rail--light rail or streetcar--especially in the "congested core" can run 26 1,2000 passenger trains/hour in each direction. (With more doors and a change in seat configuration, not to mention what others have said about signaling systems, this number can be increased). That's why the focus on streetcars by DC at the expense of prioritizing the separated blue line is a mistake, at least in terms of maintaining the city's competitive advantages within the region, as well as adding stations to important areas such as Georgetown, while adding redundancy and capacity at the core. OTOH, streetcars are great for improving the reliability of intra-city transit, and for improving build out capacity and reducing congestion.

by Richard Layman on Jun 22, 2011 2:13 pm • linkreport

Alex B -- I disagree with you about your questioning of egk's point about NYC. It's truly about reliability and regularity. Pretty much, except at night, you don't have to wait more than 5 minutes for a train. Waits of 15 minutes or more are not uncommon with WMATA. OTOH, you're right that this frequency is partly a function of density, which allows for the kind of frequency because of the demand generated by density.

For me, in DC, I prefer to bike over relying on transit. In NYC, depending on where you are, transit is definitely superior, especially in terms of crossing the river into Manhattan.

But NYC is so big, 5x the size of DC. Plus the number of people. DC itself doesn't have the density that justifies that kind of train frequency. And the suburbs further dissipate the density.

OTOH, NYC could not function at its current levels without the kind of transit system it has. Imagine if it didn't exist, or existed at WMATA type levels of service and numbers of stations. The number of cars attempting to use the city's road infrastructure would increase by many times, completely gridlocking the system.

by Richard Layman on Jun 22, 2011 2:18 pm • linkreport


Reliability is certainly key, as is regularity. None of that is directly related to NYC's 4 track main lines, however. Those lines largely serve the role of increasing capacity above all else.

For example, if you eliminated the interlined portions of DC's network, there's no technical reason why you couldn't offer service every 5 minutes in the off-peak hours. Likewise, there's no reason the existing service can't be more reliable - those two are functions of our level of investment in the system and operations, not of the design of the system itself.

As for making a lifestyle out of it, density is probably the single largest factor. Density enables more stuff within walking distance, which allows for far more pedestrian trip capture. Density also makes owning a car more of a hassle as well.

And I do think DC could justify that kind of train frequency - it's a bit of a chicken-egg problem, but there's no reason we can't do it here.

by Alex B. on Jun 22, 2011 2:29 pm • linkreport

A heavy rail line should be built that goes south from Union Station- and this could go under first street NW. Or the center leg freeway could be eliminated and replaced as rail. First Street NW was where an historic rail ROW existed before Union Station was built in the first decade of the 20th century. There is no reason this street couldnt be used again- and it is far enough from the Capitol that security should not be as much of a problem. It is also a possible route for a future high speed rail right of way if a subway line is not in the cards.

by w on Jun 22, 2011 3:03 pm • linkreport

...As far as density is concerned- many of NYC's now dense neighborhoods were built up only after the rail was there first. Much of the Bronx was built up after rail came in and along rail lines. The same can be true for DC.

by w on Jun 22, 2011 3:05 pm • linkreport

I infer from WMATA's proposed "brown line" corridor in upper Northwest DC that they'd like redundancy for that limb of the red line. Given that ward 3 residents don't seem to want the metro stations they already have, I can't see giving them any more. That said, having a backup for the red line isn't a bad idea.

To provide that, how about a spur of the purple line from Bethesda along the CCT to connect to the far end of the hypothetical blue line in Georgetown? I'm sure some CCT users would hate to have trains returned to a rail trail, but that's what it is, a rail-trail. Also to assuage upper NW nimbys, you wouldn't need to have any stops between Bethesda and Georgetown, just a 12-15 minute express trip from end to end.

by Steve S. on Jun 22, 2011 3:16 pm • linkreport

@ Richard/Alex B.

You know as well as I that the reason that surface solutions (as studied) don't address capacity problems is because aggressive surface solutions involve removing auto traffic lanes, and that is politically difficult (if entirely rational).

Were reducing auto capacity acceptable there wouldn't be an issue. There are LOTS of surface streets in the congested core, and converting MetroRail ridership for core-to-core trips to the surface would be trivial [no, I don't think the current Streetcar plan is adequate - too much length, not enough density]. There is no reason, for example, that commuters arriving at Union Station should need to transfer to the Red line to get to jobs downtown less than a mile away!

by egk on Jun 22, 2011 3:25 pm • linkreport

The metro area of Munich is a bit smaller than Baltimore's metro area in population - and yet it has a train service density & access that is far better than even that of NYC. We need to get serious about providing better rail service in this country. And it means eliminating roads and turning them into railr ights of way- regardless of the interests of a few NIMBYs who all want to drive.

by w on Jun 22, 2011 3:34 pm • linkreport


Even dedicating lanes to transit on the surface can't match the capacity of a fully grade-separated system, whether that be a highway (grade separation for cars) or a subway (grade separation for trains).

by Alex B. on Jun 22, 2011 3:39 pm • linkreport

Alex B -- I wasn't referring to 4 line tracks, but that is an issue. It's really a nonissue with the current system, because it would require a complete reconstruction, putting lines out of service for years.

On new lines, you could do the double tunnel, as was proposed by the Spaniards, in the discussions about a tunnel for Tysons. (I blogged about it in 2007 in the context of a proposal to tunnelize the Metropolitan Branch railroad services.)

But it's less of an issue for me now. If lines aren't shared, such as exists on the red line, decent capacity can be obtained. (E.g., I argued a few years ago that the Silver Line should just be continued into DC as the separated blue line, allowing the orange line to be made a single line, etc.).

The issue with express service is more of a suburban issue, particularly for far-out locations, and frankly, in the context of "transit as a way of life" the way it works in NYC, that's less of an issue for me. Sure, if you're out at the end of the transit lines in NYC, you want express service, but probably on a cost-benefit basis, it isn't worth it.

egk -- sure, you're right in terms of street priority use, but even in NYC they aren't doing this really, even though they do have priority bus lanes during rush periods.

In DC, the two streets with bus service I am most familiar with, about 300 buses move about 15,000 people/day, while motor vehicles move about 20-25,000 people/day. Clearly in terms of throughput, transit prioritization makes the most sense.

But in NYC, I would take a few E-W streets, and convert them into transit malls. We don't really have that option as much in DC.

The one thing that's missing from that presentation I did is a discussion of a "high priority" network of transit prioritized streets. It discusses the high frequency surface transit network, but fails to suggest creating a set of prioritized bus streets. I'm not sure what they should be, it might be that the bus network is so dispersed route wise, it doesn't matter. E.g., in Minneapolis or Portland or Denver, most of the key bus routes come to their "transit malls", that isn't exactly the case in DC.

egk/2 -- while Dan Malouff didn't suggest it directly, he mentioned Arlington as a place for another railroad station, ideally, the way that there are 3 key railroad stations in Center City Philadelphia that are now connected (30th St., Suburban Station, Market East) but once weren't--because they were stations for different railroads (Reading, PRR), having another railroad station downtown plus the one Dan suggests across the river in Arlington would accomplish your point about reducing the need for transferring to the subway from the railroad at Union Station.

Alon Levy had two magisterial posts in Transport Politic about creating an integrated railroad-heavy rail transit system in NYC. That ought to be considered here, although we don't have the kind of coverage of rail here that is provided by LIRR and Metro North (and NJ Transit) in Greater NYC.

No, I'm wrong those posts are more like Dan's writings. I guess Yonah wrote the post I am thinking of, which is less relevant to DC anyway, because we don't have the breadth of railroad coverage that they have.

by Richard Layman on Jun 22, 2011 3:51 pm • linkreport

Steve S. -- the first brown line proposal I know of was MV Jantzen's... I modified it to provide service down Wisconsin Ave. I think our combined brown line proposal is better than WMATA's.

See this graphical rendition which David Alpert kindly did for me a couple years ago.


Note that Dave Murphy came up with the separated yellow line concept after this one. The brown line here combines a bit of brown line and a bit of the separated yellow line, plus the service to National Harbor that MVJ thought was also important. (It is important, I just say hell to Peterson Companies...)

by Richard Layman on Jun 22, 2011 3:57 pm • linkreport

note that this map shows the purple line, the "separated silver line" and an extension of the green line to BWI. I agree btw that MARC Service better deals with this.

What I'd like to see is a pairing of this kind of fantasy map with the railroad expansion consideration, along the lines proposed by Dan Malouff a long time ago.


by Richard Layman on Jun 22, 2011 4:01 pm • linkreport

I don't live in DC so I don't know if this works. One thought is that you could combine two of the ideas here to solve both problems. Metro wants to create a separate set of tracks for either the silver or blue line and they also want a separate tunnel for the green line so the green line doesn't have to share capacity with the yellow. On the way into downtown, if a branch of the green line headed north before it connected with the yellow, it could connect to the new blue/silver and utilize those tracks out to Roslyn or Arlington, making all lines function at full capacity. This would give the system some clarity it would lack if the yellow and green split and just dead ended somewhere near the convention center.

by AlexBee on Jun 22, 2011 4:24 pm • linkreport

@Richard Layman:
DC itself doesn't have the density that justifies that kind of train frequency.

I'm not sure that's entirely the case, at least not now. The DC metro area isn't nearly as dense as NYC, but even so I think it's gotten to the point that more frequent train service would be a good thing. Besides which, it might encourage more ridership in the off-peak hours. As it stands, I don't use Metro when I need to travel on the weekends because it's inconvenient, unless I'm staying on the Yellow Line. If I have to transfer, my transfer time will be so long as to be untenable. If transfer times were shorter I'd be quite happy to use Metro to get into/around town at the weekends.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 22, 2011 4:29 pm • linkreport

Alex: Thanks for commenting! We have another "Alex B." who comments regularly here. To avoid confusion, could you please select a different name to use when commenting? For now I changed your previous comment from "AlexB" to "AlexBee".

by David Alpert on Jun 22, 2011 4:31 pm • linkreport


I only wanted to refute the idea that 4 tracks are necessary because several commenters here harp on it regularly.

by Alex B. on Jun 22, 2011 4:58 pm • linkreport

Alex B. Not for an individual line, but for a system. Stuttgart has 15 short light rail lines that have ridership of up around 400,000 a day because, hey, you can put light rail on 15 different streets at the surface for relatively low cost (compared to tunneling). Think about the capacity of ALL of DCs surface streets compared to the few highways....

The capacity/price trade off for short distance travel (remember all of Metro's capacity problems are confined to a 4mi x 4mi diamond) favors dedicated surface lines - and also the convenience.

by egk on Jun 22, 2011 6:29 pm • linkreport

@Richard Layman:


You might be interested in knowing, there is an existing abandoned railroad right of way between Kent Narrows and the Queenstown Outlets and between Vienna and Ocean City. There also is and existing abandoned railroad right of way through Easton Maryland and a partly active railroad right of way from the Maryland Avenue in Cambridge to Linkwood.

If you don’t mind not following the MD US-50 corridor from the Stevensville to Ocean City the entire route on the eastern shore could follow the abandoned right of ways of the former Chesapeake and Atlantic Railroad.

See: New Carrollton - Ocean City

The Queenstown - Denton and Easton - Vienna routes follow the abandoned right of ways of the former Chesapeake and Atlantic Railroad. The Vienna - Ocean City route also follows the abandoned right of way of the former Chesapeake and Atlantic Railroad.

by Sand Box John on Jun 22, 2011 10:52 pm • linkreport

Dear Metro,

Please, PLEASE, PUH-LEASE think east-west routes north of downtown. Something along the lines of Bladensburg - Eastern Ave - South Dakota Ave - Brookland (xfer to Red) - Hospital Center - Georgia Ave (xfer to Green) - Rock Creek Park East - Rock Creek Park West - Van Ness (xfer to Red) - American University - Sibley Hospital - Glen Echo

Thank you!

by Dina on Jun 22, 2011 11:24 pm • linkreport

What about spinning the Penn Line off from MARC entirely? Rebrand it as the "Inter-Metro Connector" or something, overhaul the cars, fully enclose the stations and add fare gates. Have only two types of trains, one that makes all stops and one that only goes to Union Station, New Carrollton, BWI, and Penn Station. I'm sure this would still be cheaper than a Metro extension, and probably provide the capacity the corridor needs for the next couple of decades.

by jakeod on Jun 22, 2011 11:27 pm • linkreport

I have to disagree that express service is geared towards suburbanites- it is actually a common feature in many European countries where train travel is king. I have heard Japanese people visiting here complain about how long it takes to get somewhere on the trains here while in Japan there are express trains all over the place for all lines. There is no reason to ignore the benefits of express trains in mass transit- especially in such a busy system as ours.
I also find it incredibly tiring to hear and read the constant comparisons to NYC - DC is NOT NYC and it is a different place entirely with its own set of advantages and problems.
Having more than one set of tracks is a huge advantage- and people need to understand this. In an emergency the metro authorities oftentimes shut down all tracks in both directions- with redundancy this can be eliminated and service can continue all trhu an emergency. Express trains and other traffic can use a third track. It is a big advantage. DC's metro is large and busy enough to justify having more than 2 tracks per line.

by w on Jun 23, 2011 7:37 am • linkreport


Trust me, I know the advantages of having a 4 track system. That doesn't mean that those advantages are worth the cost, however - and people need to understand this.

Adding 3rd and 4th tracks to the existing system is simply not possible. It's a complete non-starter. You'd essentially have to destroy the existing system and replace it with a 4 track one (which is what NYC essentially did, remember - destroying lots of old elevated lines and replacing them with subways).

Building new lines with 4 tracks might make sense, but only under the conditions that you can actually take advantage of that capacity.

3 subways in the world that I know of have 4 tracked sections - New York, Philly, and Chicago (someone can tell me if I missed any). Only NYC uses all that capacity effectively. Chicago's level junctions on the northside main line prevent them from using the full capacity of that 4-tracked El. Portions of Philly's Broad Street subway have 4 tracks, but there aren't any extensions of the line to use all that capacity (the 2-track Market-Frankford line carries more people on a daily basis). It's a great thing to have, but not really worth the investment.

by Alex B. on Jun 23, 2011 8:20 am • linkreport

OK, so I was thinking last night...

[Note: anybody that knows me will tell you, this is a good time to run]

...about potential connector lines within Virginia, and I came up with an idea for one going through central Fairfax County.

Granted, I'm making a pretty big hypothetical assumption - I'm assuming that extensions to both the Yellow and Blue Lines will be built, and that they will have a transfer point somewhere down at Fort Belvoir. For the purposes of this exercise, I've put the transfer station on the site of the new Army Museum. (I know there's no guarantee one will be built there, but it helps me visualize.)

So: the new line (Beige Line?) would start at the Army Museum, and mirror the extended Blue Line for a couple of stops (as far as Newington/Fort Belvoir North). I see a couple of options here, but the best one I can think of would be for it to veer east at that point, with a stop in Kingstowne/Franconia (which could easily support it, I think); one in Lincolnia (Edsall Rd.?); one at Landmark Mall (to support the future redevelopment of that corner of Alexandria); one at the Mark Center/NVCC campus (separate stations, perhaps?); one at Bailey's Crossroads; one at Seven Corners; and one for downtown Falls Church (maybe two or three in there, as I've seen suggested before). It would then link up with the Orange/Silver Lines at East Falls Church.

Advantages: it connects the Blue AND Yellow Lines to the Orange AND Silver Lines, and connects the south part of the County to the north, without a jog through DC and without excess transfer connections; it makes the Mark Center transit accessible; it would likely relieve some pressure on Franconia/Springfield by opening Kingstowne up as a viable station; it hits Bailey's Crossroads and Seven Corners (and there may be more viability for stations within there; I don't know the area well enough to make suggestions).

Disadvantages: It will likely cause some disruption to core capacity; it misses places like Annandale (which I would have loved to include, but it makes the route far too windy) and points in the west of the County.

How's that sound? Of course, I don't know what the feasibility of building such a route actually would be; I don't know the terrain well enough.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 23, 2011 10:28 am • linkreport

I like the look of that seperated blue line the best of all these options. That would both fill out important parts the city center and provide some much needed relief of the crowding on the soon to be blue/orange/silver line for people commuting into the city. It's a win win for both DC and suburban residents.

by Doug on Jun 23, 2011 1:01 pm • linkreport

Why not kill two birds with two stones and combine the new Blue Line with the Brown Line.

Send the Blue Line north after it crosses the Anacostia River serving many of the eastern Brown Line stops (Noma-Brightwood) then crossing Rock Creek stopping at one Red line stop and following the Brown Lines route to Georgetown and then cross into Virginia.

by kk on Jun 23, 2011 8:34 pm • linkreport

Another idea: split the silver line from the orange line downtown and send it down Constitution Avenue to hit the Mall and the Archives area before rejoining the Orange and Blue Lines at River Terrace

by Humberto Gilmer on Jun 23, 2011 10:55 pm • linkreport

Right now the most important thing Metro could do to improve service is uncover the FUCK THE POLICE tag between Brookland and Fort Totten on the red line that somebody very rudely painted over recently.

by Toonces on Jun 24, 2011 1:05 am • linkreport

The northern alignment of the Blue line is the only thing that catches my eye and seems both easy enough, cheap enough and most worthwhile.

The other proposed "dream" lines seem nice, but I'm not sure they would ease the congestion in Rosslyn (which to me, is one of the worst problems with the current system).

by LuvDusty on Jun 24, 2011 2:42 pm • linkreport

Metro should boost its capacity inside the beltway, not outside. The Silver line should end at Dulles airport, not Ashburn. People chose to live in Ashburn because they value large suburban lots more than close-in locations with existing transit services. On the VA side, there are plenty of relatively higher density neighborhoods such Shirlington, Highway 7, and Bailey's Crossroads that deserve Metro. Focusing on areas inside the beltway can also boost core capacity and encourage in-fill developments.

by hw on Jun 25, 2011 7:54 pm • linkreport

A separated Blue Line route would make the most sense, especially considering how congested the Rosslyn interchange will be once the Silver Line is extended to Dulles Airport.

Another idea, as far as commuter rail is concerned, is to build a MARC rail line through southern Maryland, extending down to Charles County -probably terminating at Leonardstown. Considering the growing population in those parts, it will be needed.

by John M on Jun 27, 2011 7:15 pm • linkreport

While a Brown Line/Separated Blue line would look beautiful, you can bet that Ward 3 ANC's would be up in arms about anything that dared to stray into their neighborhoods. Of the top of my head, ANC 3D's chair Tom Smith would advocate tearing down the Lincoln Memorial before ever supporting a station that would ostensibly serve AU students. I will say though, that Richard Layman's Brown line is also a proposal that should be taken seriously in either opposition to or in conjunction with Metro's own Brown Line design.

by HunterP on Jun 28, 2011 5:46 am • linkreport

Actually, other than ANC 3D, the other ANC's in Ward 3 are pretty open to transportation choices.

by Andrew on Jun 28, 2011 9:19 am • linkreport

+1000 to AMT. That line would provide additional capacity to under-served, rapidly developing parts of the city, relieve some of the pressure on the red line, allow additional capacity to be added to the green line, and extend service further into Eastern MoCo relieving road congestion.

But of course the blue line realignment is the most pressing and has gotten the most press as a possibility. I note that these maps make heavy use of the "pedestrian bridges" discussed as possibilities with some existing stations, and that would work well for connecting the new blue and new yellow (meeting at N. Capitol and Mass) to the Red @ Union Station.

Squee...I love imagining how easy it'll be for me to cruise around the DC area in 100 years. Hmm...perhaps I need to look into that 120 year diet. Or maybe we could make this happen in, like 20 years?

by Ms. D on Jun 28, 2011 4:38 pm • linkreport

Just to add my two cents.

I think the Paris comparison is great. In my mind it is easily one of the best metro systems and one that compares the best to DC. None of the lines share tracks and they are all color coded and named for their termini.

Their fare system is similar as well. It is based off of a graphic system that defines zones, and the entire city proper is within one of three zones. So travel to all Metro stations is one of 5 prices. The RER uses the same zone map, and extends it out an additional 3 zones to its termini. So within the city, riding the RER is the same price as a normal metro line and functions as an express system with fewer stops, while outside of the city it functions as a commuter rail. Imagine if VRE and MARC both took smartrip? And if you could take VRE from Union Station to Old town for the same price as a metro ticket? of course, the RER functions much more frequently and for a greater period of time during the day than both the MARC and the VRE.

Paris even uses a similar RFID pass system as DC - Navigo - which integrates not only with the rail and bus system but their bike share as well.

It is true that most of the "trains" are slower than DC's metro, but they also have much closer stops and have a much greater coverage of the city. In addition, at the end of the 1990's Paris added the 14 line - Meteor - which is an express line that bisects the city from NW to SE. It does so by traveling much farther underground than any of the other lines. All of its stations, except for two currently, are transfer stations with as many as 8 other lines to transfer to. This multiple strata system could be used in DC to add a duplicate express system without destroying the current system to do so.

I fully understand that we don't have the density to support a full Parisian system, yet. But their system has grown over the past 111 years, and itself didn't reach the inner suburbs until between 30 to 50 years after it opened. To compare, the DC Metro reached the inner suburbs (Arlington, Montgomery and Prince George's Counties) by 1978 and Alexandria and Farifax by 1983. Thats 10 years and 15 years after opening. So, now that we are entering the next generation of metro use, we should work reverse the Parisian model and work on developing our core.

So, to summarize:
1) We should be looking at interconnecting our commuter rail better to metro so it can act as an express and relieve some of the burden within the city.

2) We need to build up our core infrastructure instead of focusing on extending lines to the suburbs.

3) WMATA should be looking at express lines that are bored not buried lines with few stops at the major transfer points - Think a line that starts at Walter Reed and stops only at Fort Totten, Gallery Place, L'Enfant Plaza, Metro center and Rosslyn before terminating at Shirlington.

4)Capital Bikeshare should allow payment with smartTrip cards to fully integrate it into the master transit system.

by Spencer on Jun 30, 2011 6:15 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

You can use some HTML, like <blockquote>quoting another comment</blockquote>, <i>italics</i>, and <a href="http://url_here">hyperlinks</a>. More here.

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.


Support Us