Greater Greater Washington

"Metro sprawl" misses better opportunities in the core

WMATA planners have been studying possibilities for system expansion, from lines in the center to extensions at the ends of lines. While every Metro enthusiast has fantasized about dozens of Metro lines running out nearly to West Virginia, this "transit sprawl" overlooks better opportunities to strengthen the system's core.


Photo by justindc on Flickr.

Adding a line in Arlington is more useful than adding a line to Front Royal. The existing land uses closer in are more conducive to higher ridership because they have higher densities, lower rates of car ownership, and, because of their proximity to existing business districts, enjoy shorter travel distances and times.

Furthermore, closer-in lines improve transit networks, expanding service north, south, east, and west. Far-out lines only provide linear service, that is, north and south or east and west, but not all four. As such, the lines far out are less useful to the people they serve.

Ultimately, far-out extensions end up exacerbating Metro's dual and conflicting mandates to provide long-haul service and short-haul service on the same railroad. The argument for 4-minute rush-hour headways inside the Beltway is much stronger than the argument for 4-minute rush-hour headways all the way out to Frederick.

Modern rail systems like our Metro, San Francisco's BART, and Atlanta's MARTA try to combine long-haul and short-haul services into the same systems. Other cities have wisely divided the two.

New York has express subway trains, the Long Island Railroad, and Metro North for long-haul service and the regular subways for local service. These serve different markets with different service frequencies and provide better regional mobility.

Commuters from Long Island are spared the suffering of having to stop 100 times in Brooklyn and Queens just to get to business districts in Manhattan.

At the same time, residents in Brooklyn and Queens get decent service within their own boroughs and to Manhattan. This separation improves the practicality of transit for everyone.

If Metro lines were to extend to the far exurbs, the ride to the area's business districts would still be long and would discourage ridership. These areas are by definition only peripherally connected to the regional economy and residents would already have less reason to take jobs and commute 20 miles in the first place.

Our geography in Washington, however, is more like that of Paris than New York. Both Washington and Paris are interior cities that just happen to have a river or two running through them. We can expand in all directions, whereas New York, Chicago, LA, and San Francisco are bounded by harbors, bays, oceans, or lakes.

There are some interesting charts in Steve Belmont's book Cities in Full that illustrate how different cities' transit systems are spatially laid out.

Draw a circle with a 5-mile radius from Metro Center and the circle will more or less fit just inside the bounds of the DC-Arlington diamond. In that circle, we have 51 stations. Outside of that we have lines reaching as far as Shady Grove, a full 17 miles from Metro Center as the crow flies. The system will reach 26 miles to Loudoun County when the Silver Line is complete.


Map by the author.

Now draw the same 5-mile circle for Paris with the Châtelet hub as the center point and you will notice that nearly the entire Métro system fits inside the circle. The RER commuter trains, not mapped, extend far beyond. Parisians enjoy 240 stations in that circle by Belmont's count.

The distance from Châtelet to Créteil-Préfecture, the farthest station, is only 7.5 miles as the crow flies. In contrast, the Silver Line extension merely begins 8.5 miles from Metro Center.


Map by the author.

Not only that, the network they have built makes it practical to take the Métro anywhere in the circle since your travel journey will not stray too far off of a straight line drawn between two points.

Yes, Paris's densities are much higher than DC's, but our densities are rising since the population is rising. As we plan for the transit system we will need in 2040, we will need to think big.

Far out extensions provide a modicum of very high quality transit to a small population whereas strengthening transit within the existing circle, that is, to people who are more likely to use transit anyway and who are more likely to use it for non-commuting trips, should produce a greater return on the transit investment.

We have to prioritize because transportation funding, like funding for everything, is limited. Sure it would be nice to have Metro service to Gainesville. However, such extension fantasies should not come at the cost of providing service to areas closer in where people are more likely to use the service in the first place.

While enthusiasts and politicians tout outward expansion with a pioneer's zeal, they miss the better opportunities to strengthen the network and construct new lines in the core. Strengthening the core will provide a greater returns on our transportation investment.

Eric Fidler has lived in DC and suburban Maryland his entire life. He likes long walks along the Potomac and considers the L'Enfant Plan an elegant work of art. He also blogs at Left for LeDroit, LeDroit Park's (only) blog of record. 

Comments

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This is exactly right.

Invest in the core. I'd say the problem is we built metro as quasi commuter rail to begin with. Throw is the subsidy to federal workers and you waste time bringing people in from Vienna or Shady Grove.

Next generation of Metro needs to be about turning this into a real subway. Move the blue line north from Rosslyn so it runs into Bethesda? More infill stations? Better usage of existing stations by building more than one exit?

by charlie on Jun 23, 2011 10:54 am • linkreport

Resounding Yes.

by David Garber on Jun 23, 2011 10:56 am • linkreport

@Erik

Where would you suggest a new station in Arlington?

by TGEoA on Jun 23, 2011 11:01 am • linkreport

Agreed. I think the radius might be wisely extended just a tad - two or three miles further along, perhaps? Not so much that we need to focus less on building in the core, so much as perhaps we need to be absolutely certain what our definition of "core" is.

Metro to Gainesville, for instance, is an absurd proposition. Metro to Lorton, say? Woodbridge? Oakton? Less absurd. That said, VRE would certainly be useful (IS certainly useful, in some cases) at each of those points as well, and should certainly be expanded as well. (So should MARC).

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 23, 2011 11:01 am • linkreport

This has been said a few times before, but our Metro is a heck of a lot closer to the RER than the Paris Metro.

...and, honestly, it works pretty well too. DC itself could have better Metro coverage, but we manage to cover a good chunk of the city with just a few lines, and it doesn't take an hour to travel from one side of town to the other. I think it's a pretty good compromise. People often overlook the fact that our two-track "local" trains travel faster on average than most express systems.

That "Brown Line" proposal mentioned a few days ago is really interesting, because it's entirely located within DC, and connects the vast majority of neighborhoods without Metro service to the core, without actually adding very much capacity to the core for suburban commuters. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that it would completely reinvent that part of the city.

Similarly, Sand Box John's proposal for the Orange Line in that thread was pretty interesting, and would encourage "good" urban-esque growth within the suburbs, by filling in the Metro service gaps in Arlington/Fairfax County, while also providing good Metro service to Fairfax City, as well as a diagonal connection between the Blue and Orange lines via Columbia Pike. It's a remarkably good bang for the buck, and would satisfy a lot of intra-suburban commuting needs.

You could probably also say the same thing about a line to Belvoir -- there are lots of intra-suburban commuters going there, and building Metro would take lots of traffic off of US-1 and 395, without funneling many more people into the congested core. This project should have begun the planning stages as soon as BRAC was announced. There's really no excuse for why this didn't happen.

It's almost a shame that the Silver Line is being built, because I like all of these proposals a lot more. We always knew that Metro would gradually grow out of its "hub and spoke" model, and it's about time that we started thinking about how to accomplish that.

Nobody's proposing Metro to Front Royal. As far as I can tell, the fairly modest suburban Metro expansions proposed would connect job centers and foster urban growth within those regions. Like it or not, the suburbs are here to stay, and the projects proposed would go a long way to begin correcting the sprawly development of the past. There's no reason why we need to limit urban development to DC itself.

by andrew on Jun 23, 2011 11:01 am • linkreport

Hear hear! Strengthen the core!

by Steve D on Jun 23, 2011 11:05 am • linkreport

Yes, invest in the core. Invest in third and fourth tracks to provide for express lines.

Also note the circular connections in Paris. Invest in a Beltway Metro line and not a Purple light rail line.

That is all.

by Redline SOS on Jun 23, 2011 11:06 am • linkreport

Spot on. We need to strengthen commuter rail into true full-service "regional rail", for a fraction of the cost of Metro. Right now commuter rail is a balkanized peak hour service, too heavily focused on traditional commuting patterns (inbound morning, outbound evening.)

by Paul on Jun 23, 2011 11:07 am • linkreport

@andrew

Exactly. And Metro's already started that trend. There are lots of walkable, urban places outside of the District/Arlington/Alexandria that are already supported by Metro (like Silver Spring and Bethesda), others that will become more walkable and more urban with time (like Falls Church, Rockville and Hyattsville) and others still that don't have Metro and could benefit from it tremendously (like Tysons Corner and Laurel). Of course it doesn't make sense to run Metro to West Virginia, but it's worth it to consider suburban expansion as well.

BTW, it's "Gainesville," not Gainsville. Greater Greater Washington means Greater Greater Spellcheck, too.

by dan reed! on Jun 23, 2011 11:07 am • linkreport

I'd love to see ideas on how Metro can better serve urban Washington. Georgetown needs service, as does the area around Nationals Park--those are givens. But what else? Where would you put service in the city if you could?

by Steve on Jun 23, 2011 11:08 am • linkreport

Thanks, Dan. I corrected the spelling.

by Eric Fidler on Jun 23, 2011 11:12 am • linkreport

Erik, fantastic article and this should be required reading for any new folks to the GGW Community and for all Northern VA politicians.

by Shipsa01 on Jun 23, 2011 11:15 am • linkreport

@ Steve:

The memorials, definitely. I've always supported the idea of a stop for the Jefferson Memorial, right by the base of the 14th Street Bridge...assuming the land will hold it, of course (someone told me once that it wouldn't, but I'm not sure). With the same caveat, there should also be one for the Lincoln/Vietnam Veterans Memorials, and potentially one between them.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 23, 2011 11:15 am • linkreport

Great argument. Hold off on the rail lines to Ocean City & Harper's Ferry; invest in the core.

Also, excellent visualization comparing Washington Metro's core to Paris's.

by Tom F. on Jun 23, 2011 11:19 am • linkreport

If you really want to compare DC to a big city, compare it to London, not Paris! You will have the same result but the comparison is way fairer! If memory serves well london "downtown"(inside circle line) has 200000 people, vs 2 million in paris or somewhere in the neighbourhood.

My opinion: Metro should stop expanding, and focus on commuter rail. There is no reason why someone in Rockville can't take commuter rail to union station for example. Also densify areas around union station to make it more attractive.

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

Actually, i'd be curious to what the average speed difference between Paris and Washington, DC's systems in the core is. If Paris's speed is a lot slower (due to small distances between stations or other issues), then it may not mean as much that there are less stations in the 'core'.

by AA on Jun 23, 2011 11:30 am • linkreport

I suspect that the DC-metropolitan core is just not big enough or dense enough to support its own dedicated heavy-rail system. I suspect, in particular, that the major use-case for DC transit is, basically, a white-collar worker living in Gaithersburg or Arlington who needs to get to K Street every day-- and this is the case that is pretty well served by Metro. Am I wrong?

by MattF on Jun 23, 2011 11:35 am • linkreport

The RER still has much more infill than DC Metro, although to be fair much of it is concentrated in the suburbs (only about 15% of Metro stations in the city of Paris are served by RER).

I think DC has more than ample opportunity to create more infill, but more cost-effective options might be to combine Metro with other transit like light rail or street car. I think the network's funding structure, geography and politics support this hybrid system instead of more subway infill. If there is more subway infill, I would propose at least one and optimally two "beltway lines" that connect existing lines to each other at transfer points, and provide infill stations therebetween. I think this will help spread traffic throughout the system instead of forcing people to take long trips out of their way and into the three or four major transfer points in the downtown core of the system.

More infill in the immediate DC core should be encouraged because that is where the economic, political and cultural activity of the region is generated, and also the conditions for the greatest density.

by Scoot on Jun 23, 2011 11:39 am • linkreport

There are two big projects I see that will help here.

1.) Uncouple the Blue line in DC. Big win for everyone and definitely necessary when the Silver Line is up and running.
2.) Build a new freight rail bypass around DC from Fredericksburg over into Southern Maryland and up to Baltimore. That will free up tons of trackage for real 7 days a week mulitple times an hour bi-directional increased speed commuter rail service. This could easily be sold as a national security issue.

by NikolasM on Jun 23, 2011 11:43 am • linkreport

Based on other cities worldwide I definitely think that DC is capable of having a dedicated Heavy Rail system. The issue is funding and subsidy: Given that infrastructure cost and right of way purchase would be expensive, together with the need for an operating subsidy, one will need to find money somewhere on a long term basis!

by Vincent Flament on Jun 23, 2011 11:43 am • linkreport

@AA - Paris metro actually isn't a train - it runs on rubber tires. I suspect this is related to the lower speed, though i have no data on what the speed is. RER is fast as heck, though.

@Andrew - Generally I agree although note that the Brown Line proposal does include significant track in Maryland - Friendship Heights station is in Maryland and the proposal would send it out to White Oak on the east end.

I think the Blue and Yellow line separations are really exciting opportunities to improve mobility in currently underserved areas (Georgetown, Northeast). Those improvements are not going to be discretionary once the Silver Line comes in and theoretically starts sharing the Orange Line tunnel.

As much as I fully support the sentiment here, I have to wonder how the politics of DC-centric improvement will affect future service improvement/expansion. Will VA be content to support a DC-only line on the "we got the silver line, now it's somebody else's turn" theory? Or will VA demand a corresponding benefit? It seems to me the latter is more likely, so that the long range strategic plan for Metro expansion will need to include not only improvements for DC but to throw something at VA and MD as well.

by reader on Jun 23, 2011 11:44 am • linkreport

"Adding a line in Arlington is more useful"

Dream on -- there are ten times as many people who live outside of Arlington in Northern Virginia as live in Arlington. You guys are blinded by the trees you live among. Most of us are appalled by the way you all live and want no part of it.

by Arlwhenever on Jun 23, 2011 11:46 am • linkreport

Agree on the case for infill but also believe we should expand the focus just a bit beyond the 5-mile radius.

Scoot beat me to the punch on this but I think the best options going forward are finding ways to connect the middle-distant stations without requiring riders to go through the core bottlenecks. Purple line is a good example of this. The brown line sounds like a good option too.

Something I would love to see built would be a line from Tysons to Alexandria, more or less tracing route 7 through Falls Church, 7 corners, Bailey's crossroads, NVCC, etc. Light rail or a trolley along Glebe from Ballston to the Pike would be nice too.

by Barry on Jun 23, 2011 11:50 am • linkreport

At last! A proposal that makes sense. Invest in expanding and improving Metro in the core. On the other hand, invest in improving the highway infrastructure outside the core and get over the nonsesne that Metro makes that investment unnecessary.

by ceefer66 on Jun 23, 2011 12:00 pm • linkreport

@Vincent Flammet: "There is no reason why someone in Rockville can't take commuter rail to union station for example. "

Some riders whose times fit the sparse-but-fast MARC service already do this; I see them every day.  It's a win for MARC because those trips complement transfers to the Red Line or commuters to the County office buildings there.  Not sure how much of it happens from Greenbelt and New Carrollton or Alexandria on VRE.

By far a best outcome would be: MARC and VRE built out into the hinterland (and operated or coordinated as a single regional service) and Metro's expansion focused on the core.  With through ticketing across all modes and CaBi everywhere, of course.

by cabi addict on Jun 23, 2011 12:00 pm • linkreport

@arlwhenever

The question isn't the number of people who live in Nova vs. Arl.. It's the number of people who live within walking distamce of a proposed station and would use it. As you said, the folks out in the the exurbs have no interest in living in dense, walkable, transit oriented communities, hence the usefullness of putting metro out there is limited.

@everyone else

The question is less what our dream expansion would be and more what kind of expansion could raise funding. An expansion of service in the core would likely require lifting building height restrictions so the additional density would increase the tax base. Or you could fund a line to centreville by tolling 66.

by Falls Church on Jun 23, 2011 12:09 pm • linkreport

@ Cabi Addict "Some riders whose times fit the sparse-but-fast MARC service already do this;"

Exactly! What DC needs is an half an hourly service off-peak and every 15 minutes during the peak to make the service succesful. Frequency is key here.

I don't believe DC needs much more in the Core if a proper commuter rail network was put in place. Light rail (and not a streetcar!!!) would do a better job as shown by the Purple line.

Congestion in the core can be alleviated by getting rid of the longer distance commuters that currently use metro. Also though it would be desirable I don't think DC will ever have sufficient density to warrant other metro lines in the core. My feeling is that DC growth will mainly be due to young people moving in, whilst families with kids will want the suburban life, which will spur the growth in demand for commuter rail.

by Vincent Flament on Jun 23, 2011 12:13 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church

The question is less what our dream expansion would be and more what kind of expansion could raise funding.

Yes, thank you! The focus needs to be on getting WMATA a roughly 1% regional sales tax first. Expansion plans can proceed concurrently (at a much lower priority level) but should be contingent on a large and sufficient dedicated revenue stream from the jurisdictions.

By the way, I will here (and always) use "dedicated" to mean "not subject to appropriations," in case anyone was confused about that.

An expansion of service in the core would likely require lifting building height restrictions so the additional density would increase the tax base.

Regardless, this is a good idea. I'm not keen enough to read the tea leaves on the politics of this, however. I hope Metro expansion and raising the height limit will be mutually reinforcing policies but I fear it may not work out so well in practice.

by WRD on Jun 23, 2011 12:19 pm • linkreport

amen

I live at 14th and S and Metrorail is worthless to me except for DCA.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 23, 2011 12:35 pm • linkreport

I like how people are coupling Metro expansion to their own pet issues, like the height limit and road-building, despite the fact that the original system did just fine with the height limit, and resulted in fewer roads being built (even in the suburbs).

by andrew on Jun 23, 2011 12:35 pm • linkreport

"I live at 14th and S and Metrorail is worthless to me except for DCA."

14th and S NW? 3 blocks from the U Street Station? How is that worthless?

by dcd on Jun 23, 2011 12:45 pm • linkreport

Areas of DC proper that still lack Metro service--the separated Blue line and Brown line would hit a lot of these. Logan Circle, Georgetown, H St. NE, parts of Petworth. And if we can use it as leverage to lift the height limit in certain areas, all the better.

by Dan Miller on Jun 23, 2011 12:47 pm • linkreport

Considering how much population growth has taken place outside the "core" of DC/Arlington in the past decade, we'd be wise to expand a Metro web across these areas (like Fairfax County for one) that could connect major shopping and business hubs and enable far more commuters to get around by train rather than car. Of course, getting local and state governments to put even a significant fraction of their road spending money into a rail system is another challenge.

by brando on Jun 23, 2011 12:48 pm • linkreport

@ Andrew--

Guilty. But go lenient, Judge, because I also said "I fear it may not work out so well in practice."

by WRD on Jun 23, 2011 12:51 pm • linkreport

I am kind of baffled that transit activists allow themselves to think that it's an "either/or" situation. We need investment in the core and at the ends.

Despite the fact that sprawl is very bad in urbanists eyes, it is happening. DC is growing in every possible direction. There is no choice between sprawl and no sprawl, there's a choice between sprawl with and sprawl without transit. It would seem to me that sprawl with transit is better, and has a larger chance of incorporating density, than sprawl without.

Metro trains fill up consistently at the final stations during rush hour. People take buses and cars from far away to get to metro. Clearly, there is a demand for metro. What other argument do you want for extension?

And yes, with extension, we need more core capacity. True. We need it all. In fact, we've been needing it for years.

by Jasper on Jun 23, 2011 12:52 pm • linkreport

"the original system did just fine with the height limit"

I think the argument is that lifting the height restriction will help the case for more infill in the core. The original system did just fine with the height limit in place because it is just that -- the original system, without more infill. I think the fact that we're even talking about the need for more infill is testament to the notion that the current system is not meeting the needs of many core residents.

If there is one thing that the cities in Europe show us, it's that you can generate great density even with medium-height buildings if it's planned correctly. There are some parts of DC that have achieved very high density (30,000+people/sq mi) without raising the height limit; unfortunately, there are a lot of very underutilized areas of DC where density is 1/5th of that. This city could definitely support another 250,000 people even with the height restriction in place (it has in the past), but it will need progressive transit infill to meet demand.

by Scoot on Jun 23, 2011 12:54 pm • linkreport

Expansion of the core isn't just about service to DC residents. The spokes simply can't work if the hub is congested beyond functionality. Eventually, the system will likely move away from the hub-and-spoke model, as some have said, but that's the paradigm we have to work with for the moment. Given that, I think the top two priorities should be decoupling the blue/orange lines and decoupling the green/yellow lines through town. This will allow higher levels of service both within the core and on the spokes (relieving the Rosslyn and L'Enfant Plaza bottlenecks) and make downtown DC more walkable to boot. (Whoever said that building heights should be raised in conjunction with such an expansion is spot on, too. The separate blue line and the yellow line to Union Station would also facilitate the spread of downown/CBD closer to Dupont and into Noma and the Ballpark District, with or without further expansion of rail within DC such as the Brown Line concept.)

I will admit, though, that a Tysons-Alexandria route intrigues me, particularly if it's run over the Wilson Bridge into PG County.

by The AMT on Jun 23, 2011 12:55 pm • linkreport

Between this post and Matt Johnson's recent one on the various proposal, the Georgetown station keeps coming up. I just want a little clarification about the location of that hypothetical station. I think everyone knows (because of Schrag's book and the numerous posts here) that Georgetown couldn't support a station close to the river because of engineering issues. So since areas like M and Wisconsin and Wisconsin and K were out, the closest place it could be would be around Wisconsin and Q; is that still the case? I also heard somewhere that the closest a station could be (outside of the University area) would be at 34th and Wisconsin right next to the new Safeway, but still a good way away from the heart of Georgetown (think King Street station to Old Town Waterfront). Is that accurate?

by Shipsa01 on Jun 23, 2011 1:02 pm • linkreport

I have often wondered about the appeal of Metro for long trips. Once the Silver Line opens, it will easily be a 60 to 90 minute trip into central DC. (It takes me 45 minutes to get from U St. to East Falls Church once I am on the train.) Along a good portion of the I-66, I-395, I-270, and Dulles Toll Road corridors, one can typically make it into DC by car in under 90 minutes. A car commute can also be less expensive than the $10 round-trip Metro fare from the outermost stations and $4.75 station parking.(I'm assuming that suburbanites commuting to DC are likely to already own and insure a vehicle.)

@Falls Church, I agree that the issue is funding. Perhaps that's the driving force for expanding Metro to the exurbs in the first place? Though inefficient, in the near-term it's cheaper and easier than planning for several commuter train options. Also, there is a structure in place for the governments of DC, MD, and VA to share in the cost of Metro. I assume that MARC or VRE expansions would be more expensive to their respective states' governments.

by Mrs. 14th & You on Jun 23, 2011 1:09 pm • linkreport

@Shipsa

Georgetown can support a Metro station just fine - building one there was always technically feasible (it would just have to be deep, like Rosslyn). It would be expensive, yes, but serving Georgetown was never a priority of Metro's planners because the system was all about getting people into the core to get to their jobs. Back then, Georgetown wasn't anywhere near the regional destination that it is today.

by Alex B. on Jun 23, 2011 1:15 pm • linkreport

"If there is one thing that the cities in Europe show us, it's that you can generate great density even with medium-height buildings if it's planned correctly"
------------------------------

We need to get over ourselves with the myth that European cities consist of only low-medium height buildings. London, Paris, Munich, Frankfort, Moscow, Berlin and Madrid all have skyscrapers. and they've had them for awhile.

As long as you support the ridiculous - and obselete - DC height limits, don't complain about "sprawl".

by ceefer66 on Jun 23, 2011 1:17 pm • linkreport

I'd assume elevators have gotten better in the past 40 years, and perhaps a Georgetown station could (maybe!) could be elevator only.

@Mrs. 14th & You ; yep. The best case you can make is a lot of those people will be on a federal subsidy and not very price aware. You tangentially raise another issue, which is the future of WMATA as a multi-jurisidctional entity. Is that a good model? VRE or MARC investments might be better handled by their respective states.

by charlie on Jun 23, 2011 1:19 pm • linkreport

@ reader:

I agree that Virginia is unlikely to support expansion of service in the core area without receiving something in return. But I don't see that as a bad thing, necessarily; I think there are a lot of viable places in Virginia where expansion could be platted without going into DC at all. A couple of vertical lines in Fairfax County, for starters; it would be good to get Annandale, Burke, West Springfield, Oakton, Centreville, etc. on board with Metro, and can be done by connecting them to the Orange/Silver Lines. It's a commuter rail solution, but I don't think it's necessarily the wrong idea...as long as it's coupled with smarter work in the core.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 23, 2011 1:23 pm • linkreport

"I like how people are coupling Metro expansion to their own pet issues, like the height limit and road-building, despite the fact that the original system did just fine with the height limit, and resulted in fewer roads being built (even in the suburbs). "
---------------------

Yeah. "Metro made building roads unnecessary".

We can certainly see how well THAT has worked, haven't we?

(And spare me the "Metro has taken lots of cars off the road and made it easier for drivers" canard. We don't have the nation's worst traffic congesion because people aren't using transit).

by ceefer66 on Jun 23, 2011 1:24 pm • linkreport

@Mrs. 14th & You:

For me, the cutoff for a Metro trip is around an hour. I have friends who do a bit more - an hour and a quarter, I think - so that's viable as well. I live at Huntington and work near L'Enfant, but I once had to go out to Dunn Loring for off-site work. Even with two transfers, during rush it took only about an hour actually on the train to get out there, and I didn't have a problem with it.

I'm sure there are people who wouldn't enjoy spending a full hour on the train; even so, I think it's a not-unreasonable time to plan for. Anything farther than that would be best served by VRE and/or MARC.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 23, 2011 1:28 pm • linkreport

If expansion in the core means something like a new Blue line, then VA and MD do get something in return - a large increase in capacity on their existing lines that used to be forced to share track through downtown.

by Alex B. on Jun 23, 2011 1:28 pm • linkreport

Thanks Alex B. And I think you bring up a good point about the 'purpose' of Metro in its heyday. It was solely sold as a way to get people into the city to work, right? And since Georgetown didn't have many jobs for people from Shady Grove, Alexandria, Falls Church etc. working at, it was never seriously considered. Now decades later we have a system that is still primarily a "worker-mover," but wants to turn more into a Urban, every-day system. (And I think this is nothing new to everyone on this forum.) Anyway, (and these may be stupid questions, but here goes...) does Metro have a working mission statement? And if so, has it been updated to reflect this shift in the current usage? Is that what the whole 2040 document is about? (And sorry again if these are really stupid, obvious questions. I just don't think I ever heard the answers for them.)

by Shipsa01 on Jun 23, 2011 1:36 pm • linkreport

@ceefer - Metro only got built because money was available from canceling a bunch of highways in DC.

by Ben Ross on Jun 23, 2011 1:37 pm • linkreport

"Far out extensions provide a modicum of very high quality transit to a small population whereas strengthening transit within the existing circle, that is, to people who are more likely to use transit anyway and who are more likely to use it for non-commuting trips, should produce a greater return on the transit investment."

unfortunately, while the cities in the US are coming back to some degree, most people live in the 'burbs. It's not just 5.3 million people living in DC; it's 5.3 million people living in the DC region (or 8.5 million in the B-DC region.) Most of them live in the 'burbs, like 9/10ths of the population and the wealth.

by Aaron on Jun 23, 2011 1:41 pm • linkreport

I mentioned this to Eric before he posted the article, but the core capacity situation doesn't mean that selected Metro extensions wouldn't be worthwhile, especially since 4 of the existing termini have very good anchor points they could be extended to.

As a side note, a Yellow Line extension to Fort Belvoir would still make it a shorter trip to Gallery Place than the Red Line from Shady Grove (by about a mile).

Jasper's the only one here who gets it...regarding termini expansion verses core expansion, it's not an either/or situation, but a "BOTH" situation.

by Froggie on Jun 23, 2011 1:43 pm • linkreport

@Ben Ross: not exactly. The money from cancelling the DC Interstates did go to Metro, but provided less than half the money needed to build out Metro. I recall reading that Metro, more or less, cost $10B to build. The DC Interstate cancellation only covered $2B of that.

by Froggie on Jun 23, 2011 1:44 pm • linkreport

@ Shipsa01:

Don't forget tourists. They're generally decently well-served, at this point, but there are still a handful of places they can't get to by train - some of the major memorials, Georgetown, National Harbor, the Cathedral. Those are the main ones I can think of right now (also Mount Vernon, but there's no way on God's earth the Metro could cover THAT. The County might do a better job with bus service, but still...)

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 23, 2011 1:44 pm • linkreport

The priorities of the DC transit systems are twofold:

1) Better serve existing riders
2) Expand to new riders

DC Metro should serve as the backbone of intra-city service. Expansions at the edges should occur when it is more cost-effective than commuter rail. Simultaneously, the commuter rail systems should be upgraded to be the backbone of inter-city service, with buses filling in the gaps. The regional look says to me that MARC & VRE need service upgrades and Metro needs capacity upgrades.

by OctaviusIII on Jun 23, 2011 1:55 pm • linkreport

I like how people are coupling Metro expansion to their own pet issues, like the height limit

Actually, I'm not wedded to increasing the height limit. It's just one way to pay for a metro expansion. I just can't think of a better and politically feasible idea offhand.

People take buses and cars from far away to get to metro. Clearly, there is a demand for metro. What other argument do you want for extension?

I want an argument that says that building extension stations won't cause more traffic from people driving to metro stations. The only way to ensure that is to not have parking lots at the extension stations like they are doing at the Silver Line Tysons stations. However, lack of parking may not be palatable to many people in the extension areas.

I'd assume elevators have gotten better in the past 40 years, and perhaps a Georgetown station could (maybe!) could be elevator only.

Yes, they are building a bank of high speed elevators at Rosslyn. Same could be done at Georgetown.

Also, there is a structure in place for the governments of DC, MD, and VA to share in the cost of Metro.

I agree that Virginia is unlikely to support expansion of service in the core area without receiving something in return.

I hope people aren't under the illusion that one jurisdiction would contribute to an expansion in another jurisdiction. Unfortunately, the political realities don't work that way. The Silver Line is being paid for entirely by Virginia/Feds and the Purple Line is entirely MD/Feds.

We don't have the nation's worst traffic congesion because people aren't using transit

Actually, by definition the people causing the traffic congestion are not using transit. Ok, that's a cheap shot. The real response is that we have the nation's worst congestion because of land use planning that allows homes and jobs to be located far from the core. We also have bad congestion because some people would rather deal with traffic and live in a larger house farther away than live close to their job and live in a townhouse/condo. It's one of the choices we get to make in a free society.

Unfortunately, it's not possible to get both -- large/cheap houses and no traffic -- because no matter how many roads you build, there will always be people willing to live farther away and deal with traffic/long commutes for a larger/cheaper house. Of course, those people will always complain about their traffic/long commutes just like people living in the core complain about their lack of housing space or open space but that's the nature of life -- there are always tradeoffs.

by Falls Church on Jun 23, 2011 1:59 pm • linkreport

We need to get over ourselves with the myth that European cities consist of only low-medium height buildings. London, Paris, Munich, Frankfort, Moscow, Berlin and Madrid all have skyscrapers. and they've had them for awhile.

I didn't say those cities only consisted of low-rise buildings, I said that high density can be achieved in areas with such buildings. I don't have a problem lifting the height limit, but DC could easily support 200,000 or more new residents even with keeping the height limit in place.

To address the Georgetown Metro to King Street Metro comparison .... a Metro station at Wisconsin and Q would be about half the distance from the heart of Georgetown (Wisconsin and M) as the current King Street Metro is from the Alexandria Waterfront.

by Scoot on Jun 23, 2011 2:15 pm • linkreport

@ Falls Church

I hope people aren't under the illusion that one jurisdiction would contribute to an expansion in another jurisdiction. Unfortunately, the political realities don't work that way.

This is one of the big advantages to a dedicated source of funds. By giving WMATA a dedicated revenue source, it would allow WMATA to conduct its own capital expansions. This type of system would help alleviate the multi-jurisdictional expansion problems.

by WRD on Jun 23, 2011 2:15 pm • linkreport

@ dcd- To use Metro I have to walk four blocks, transfer and usually walk another four blocks where I'm going. I can usually bike door-to-door in 15 minutes.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 23, 2011 2:17 pm • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris

What you're saying is that Metro doesn't work for that particular trip of yours. That's a very different statement from saying that Metro doesn't work for you, or for someone else (with different travel patterns) who might live next door to you.

by Alex B. on Jun 23, 2011 2:29 pm • linkreport

@WRD By giving WMATA a dedicated revenue source, it would allow WMATA to conduct its own capital expansions.

I totally agree on the need for dedicated revenue (other than fares) but you've got to be creative to come up with something politically feasible. A sales tax won't get majority approval because everyone would pay for it even though only a minority would get a direct benefit. Hence, I think special tax districts (and even those are difficult to implement) are a more feasible idea because the folks in the tax district are the people who are directly benefiting.

A really elegant idea would be to create a special tax district for the air rights above the height limit downtown. So, a property owner would pay normal taxes on say floors 1-12 within the current height limit, but pay a higher tax rate on the assessed value of floors 13-18. That extra money would go toward paying for a metro core expansion.

by Falls Church on Jun 23, 2011 2:35 pm • linkreport

Great article Eric. Even better that I understand it!

by HogWash on Jun 23, 2011 2:40 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church,

You make some good points, re: the region's bad traffic. However, we must accept the reality that we simply have not built enough highway capacity.

The region built the nation's second-largest (and costliest to construct) while it simultaneously canceled over 1500 lane-miles of planned highways - more than it built and more than any other major US city. Within the region's core, particularly in DC, the mindset for justifying killing the highways was we wouldn't need highways if we built Metro instead. As we can see, that hasn't worked.

Now we can argue that our awful traffic is the result of people "choosing to live far out". That is only partly true and a quite simplistic view. Fact is, capacity within the core is limited. The core area isn't that large to begin with. DC, Alexandria, and Arlington combined (the originally laid-out Distric of Columbia) are only 100 sq. miles in area. Plus, the the DC height restrictions, along with a regional aversion to tall buildings (where else in the US is a 10-story building called a "tower"?), severely limit the capacity to build within the core. Throw in NIMBYism (who wants a 20, 30, or 40-story apartment building in THEIR neighborhood?). The result is that the majority of people are priced out of the core's desireable areas ("desireable" being defined as safe areas with good schools and functioning government). Hence people are forced to move farther out.

Also, common sense should tell us that you don't cancel 1500 lane-miles of highway, implement laws and policiles that encourage so-called "sprawl", encourage development - and people - to spread outward, indulge road opponents, expect a tranit system designed to serve only the core to substitute for a comprehensive regional road network, then act surprised we have the nation's worst traffic and say the whole mess exists because people haven't chosen to "live near their work and use transit".

Fact is, we should have built BOTH the planned freeways AND Metro. Like New York - the US city most cited by urbanists as their perfect model of of what a city should be. New York succeeds because its planners had the sense and foresight to build not only the nation's largest transit system, but also its largest highway network (yes, New York has more lane miles of highway that even Los Angeles).

If nothing else, the DC region has clearly shown that the single-facet transit-only model has failed. Miserably.

by ceefer66 on Jun 23, 2011 2:40 pm • linkreport

@ ceefer66:

Wow, I almost never seem like the optimist in any group, but I guess I'll suck it up and be that guy here.

I don't think it's fair or correct to say our transit model has "failed." By most measures, we have bad traffic. That's expensive, but not crippling. We could do better with more money to roads and more money to Metro. But we also have lower taxes than we would otherwise have, and that's something many people value.

Our region is somewhat unique. DC-VA-Baltimore is one of the largest Metro areas in the country (4th ish?). We're the only one with 2 states, a quasi-local jurisdiction, and the Federal Government with competing priorities.

Further, there is a pretty big split between Montgomery and PG, between Montgomery-PG and the State of Maryland, between Arlington and the State of Virginia, and on and on. This isn't "unique" to DC (politics are like this everywhere). But the political problems facing regional development tend to be more severe here.

Ditto for the Height Act, which I think is a huge contributor to the growth of suburbs/exurbs in the first place. That's Federal Law with a capital "F." The jurisdiction most affected by federal policy gets exactly zero votes in the Senate. And I don't know if you follow the Redskins, but it's been rough on that front, too.

So all things considered, we have difficulties. But we're doing a lot better on most metrics than most cities. We're richer. (Sometimes a LOT richer) We also have low unemployment. So transportation policy could be better. But it's pretty good. WMATA used to be the envy of other cities. Given the crazy layout of our cities, isn't a miricle traffic isn't worse?

(Also, since I'm being optimistic today, I disagree with Falls Church about the sales tax for WMATA; I think it's closer to reality than he says)

by WRD on Jun 23, 2011 2:57 pm • linkreport

New York succeeds because its planners had the sense and foresight to build not only the nation's largest transit system, but also its largest highway network (yes, New York has more lane miles of highway that even Los Angeles).

New York has 20% fewer highway line miles per inhabitant than Los Angeles, and fewer still than DC. New York had to build the largest highway network by lane miles because it has, by far, the most inhabitants. But New York would have double the size of its highway network to match the highway network of Cleveland, OH on a per-capita basis.

It's rather interesting that New York has the largest highway network in the country, but also has the lowest car ownership, highest transit commuting rate, and lowest per-capita carbon footprint of any major city. Maybe New York succeeds because its planners had the sense and foresight to limit its highway network.

by Scoot on Jun 23, 2011 3:06 pm • linkreport

ceefer,

have you seen the planned freeways Metro replaced? There wouldn't be a city left worth visiting if that was implemented. Highways should end in a ring road/beltway in most every city.

by NikolasM on Jun 23, 2011 3:07 pm • linkreport

@ Mrs 14th & You:Along a good portion of the I-66, I-395, I-270, and Dulles Toll Road corridors, one can typically make it into DC by car in under 90 minutes.

DC is not the center of the universe. There are people that need to get from Leesburg to Tysons. From Falls Church to Alexandria. From Alexandria to Andrews AFB. From Waldorf to College Park. From Woodbridge to Annandale. From College Park Bethesda. From Bethesda to Falls Church. From Rockville to Crystal City. DC is not the center of the universe.

Oh, and during rush hour, you can't get anywhere on I-66, 395, 495 and 270.

@ Falls Church: I want an argument that says that building extension stations won't cause more traffic from people driving to metro stations.

Then build the metro stations closer to their homes. And create good walking trails, bike lanes and bus feeders to new stations.

However, lack of parking may not be palatable to many people in the extension areas.

I am not sure what you're envisioning here. People need to get to the metro station one way or the other, unless they live on top of it. If it is too far to walk, there is no bike trail, and no bus, then people will drive. Whether you provide parking or not.

Yes, Court House is the best solution. But Woodbridge exists. People live there. They work at the Pentagon. The question is how to get them there. Widen I-395, extend metro to Woodbridge, or get more VRE.

A problem that many people here have is that they are dreaming of a perfect world, in which everything looks like the R-B corridor or downtown DC. Reality is however, that the vast, vast, vast majority of people that work in DC live beyond the Beltway.

If you say that you oppose building more roads, than you have to favor building more transit, unless you want to go China on them and forcefully move people from their homes. Those who are under water on their mortgage might actually prefer that over their current situation.

Everybody knows that few more roads will be built in this area. So then the question becomes how to move the increasing, growing population of the DC region. Transit is the only option. Whether it comes in the form of MARC, VRE, Amtrak or metro is irrelevant.

We don't have the nation's worst traffic congesion because people aren't using transit

Exactly. We have the nation's worst traffic because no more people can use transit. Trains are over crowded, or don't bring people where they need to.

@ Scoot:Metro station at Wisconsin and Q would be about half the distance from the heart of Georgetown (Wisconsin and M) as the current King Street Metro is from the Alexandria Waterfront.

And more relevant, a station at Wi & Q would be way closer than Rosslyn and Dupont. It would also eliminate the raison-d'etre of the hated GUTS shuttles.

by Jasper on Jun 23, 2011 3:13 pm • linkreport

you don't cancel 1500 lane-miles of highway, implement laws and policiles that encourage so-called "sprawl", encourage development - and people - to spread outward, indulge road opponents, expect a tranit system designed to serve only the core to substitute for a comprehensive regional road network, then act surprised we have the nation's worst traffic and say the whole mess exists because people haven't chosen to "live near their work and use transit".

Exactly. No one, not least the people who chose to move out to the 'burbs like myself, should be surprised by the state of our traffic. It was a conscience decision to tradeoff spending time in traffic for a larger/cheaper house. And, of course, traffic exists because people choose not to live their work and use transit. I'm not saying that's a bad choice, it's just a choice with advantages and disadvantages like any other.

Fact is, capacity within the core is limited. The core area isn't that large to begin with. DC, Alexandria, and Arlington combined (the originally laid-out Distric of Columbia) are only 100 sq. miles in area.

If that 100 square mile areas was built to the density of Manhattan we could fit 7.1 million people in it. I don't think "limited capacity" is a real concern but possibly this is...

The result is that the majority of people are priced out of the core's desireable areas

I don't think that's true in DC. Here's a 2 bedroom apartment walking distance from Silver Spring metro for $1436/month.

http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/doc/apa/2445816650.html

The core is affordable if you're willing to give up some space.

Throw in NIMBYism (who wants a 20, 30, or 40-story apartment building in THEIR neighborhood?).

I think plenty of people living in Arlington, Bethesda and Silver Spring near the metro would welcome that.

Fact is, we should have built BOTH the planned freeways AND Metro.

If resources were unlimited, I'd agree that we should have cake and ice cream. But, the reality is that there's no money to build more freeways OR transit and broad based tax increases aren't politically feasible. Whatever transpo infrastructure that's built needs to be paid by user fees, special tax districts, tolls, and/or an expansion of the tax base from more jobs.

by Falls Church on Jun 23, 2011 3:14 pm • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris "To use Metro I have to walk four blocks, transfer and usually walk another four blocks where I'm going. I can usually bike door-to-door in 15 minutes."

OK, but that's just the nature of the transportation options available to you, not an inherent problem with the system. A 4 block walk on either end of a metro trip doesn't strike me as unusual (although I have no data) or onerous. Neither do internal line transfers.

I bet you'd still have a quicker trip by bike if you lived (and your destination was) next door to the metro. No matter how much the core is built up, that's unlikely to change, unless you get lucky and there's another station inserted closer to your house that leads directly to your destinations.

by dcd on Jun 23, 2011 3:27 pm • linkreport

But Woodbridge exists. People live there. They work at the Pentagon. The question is how to get them there.

Wait up. Why is society responsible for getting the Woodbridgers to their jobs at the Pentagon? Once we solve that problem, are we then responsible for getting the Fredricksburgers to their jobs at NIH? Do we have to provide for the Richmonders who have jobs in DC (that's what the high speed railers will tell you but that's another story)? What happened to individual responsibility and accountability? Don't look to the government to provide you a bailout if you moved to Woodbridge but think you may one day end up with a job that's far away and won't want to move or live in a condo.

And, there are solutions for the Woodbridgers who work at the Pentagon. They can carpool, use flex time to travel during non-peak hours, or suck it up and sit in traffic. If they don't like any of those options, they can move to a townhouse in Alexandria.

by Falls Church on Jun 23, 2011 3:35 pm • linkreport

@ Falls Church:

Society has another responsibility: to make things better for itself. Considering the Woodbridge model: adding a Metro station at Woodbridge (and one at Lorton, and one or two farther up Route 1 towards Alexandria) will increase Metro capacity, but at the same time decrease highway capacity. So those of us who MUST use Route 1 - because our destination is not Metro-accessible - will be able to use it more efficiently.

That's where the responsibility argument lies, to me.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 23, 2011 3:44 pm • linkreport

Society has another responsibility: to make things better for itself. Considering the Woodbridge model: adding a Metro station at Woodbridge (and one at Lorton, and one or two farther up Route 1 towards Alexandria) will increase Metro capacity

Hey, I'm all for that if increased development/job growth along the Route 1 corridor will pay for that. What makes the interstate highway system, metro, NYC subway, etc. all great investments is that they have paid for themselves many times over in increased economic growth. When it comes to transpo, government should be making rock solid investments, not giving away handouts.

by Falls Church on Jun 23, 2011 3:52 pm • linkreport

ceefer,
have you seen the planned freeways Metro replaced? There wouldn't be a city left worth visiting if that was implemented. Highways should end in a ring road/beltway in most every city.
--------------------------

I've seen the plans on both the Highways and Communities and Roads to the Future websites. Those 2 sites do an excellent job of not only showing the planned freeway routes, but explaining the planning process and the forces behind getting most of the freeways canceled.

Don't believe everything you've read and/or heard about the potential damage to the city by the planned freeways. There is a lot of absolute nonsense out there - most notably Bob Levey's Washington Post Magazine article in 2000 that claims "200,000 homes..and 100 square miles of parkland" in DC would have been lost to the planned freeways.

At the time the freeways were planned, DC had about 750,000 residents - hardly enough to fill "200,000 homes". As for the parks that would have been "lost", considering the entire area of DC is only 68 square miles , there was simply no room for "100 square miles of parkland" within the District.

That said, don't get me wrong. I've never been in favor of every planned freeway. The planned downtown loop (I-266, sometimes called the Inner Loop) was a bad idea and I'm glad it was squashed. Had it been built, Du Pont Circle, the U Street Corridor, and most of Shaw would not exist today.

However, killing the planned I-95 route through NE DC and College Park was a mistake. Hardly any homes would have been taken, especially in DC, because the planned route was mainly along an existing railroad easement (where the Red Line runs through NE DC) and a Pepco easement (entirely open fields) in the Maryland portion. The hysteria that killed I-95 was just that - mindless, baseless, hysteria.

Also, plans were greatly altered after citizen input. The DC regional higway system was the most sensitively-planned in the US (as well as one of the most comprehensive). That's why I-395 runs under the Mall instead of through it.

Properly planned, freeways don't necessarily "destroy neighborhoods" and "ruin cities". For example, compare the sections of NE DC that were "saved" by killing I-95 with the sections of North Arlington that were "ruined" by the construction of I-66.

I-95 through NE DC was to be a multi-modal running concurrent with Metro, like I-66 in Arlington. I don't know about you, but I think that would have been much better than the brownfields that exist there to this day.

by ceefer66 on Jun 23, 2011 3:56 pm • linkreport

@ Falls Church:

Ah - I think we were at cross-purposes, then. Because I agree; I don't think it's wise either to build transit for the sake of building transit, or to build it out someplace in anticipation of future development. (Tysons being something of an exception, I admit...but I'm wary of plans to extend the Silver Line as far out as Loudoun County.) But there are a lot of places within spitting distance of downtown DC that are congested enough that train service would be a great boon.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 23, 2011 4:10 pm • linkreport

@NikolasM,

"Highways should end in a ring road/beltway in most every city."

For all proactical purposes, that's what we have with DC and look at the results. The traffic that belongs on a highway is on city streets. Do you think for one minute that DC's streets would have the congestion - and the attendant negative impact on its quality of life - had I-95 been built as planned?

by ceefer66 on Jun 23, 2011 4:23 pm • linkreport

Do you think for one minute that DC's streets would have the congestion - and the attendant negative impact on its quality of life - had I-95 been built as planned?

Quality of life for whom? DC residents, or commuters? I think DC's neighborhoods are quite a bit better for not having a network of elevated highways like the SE/SW freeway arching over them. We'd essentially look like Los Angeles: the sprawl would be ten times worse, the elevated highways would be traffic-choked and gridlocked, and the surface streets would still be every bit as bad as they are. The only difference would be that PG County would be more populated, and more folks who worked in DC would live even further out. No thanks.

by oboe on Jun 23, 2011 4:35 pm • linkreport

@ ceefer At the time the freeways were planned, DC had about 750,000 residents - hardly enough to fill "200,000 homes". As for the parks that would have been "lost", considering the entire area of DC is only 68 square miles , there was simply no room for "100 square miles of parkland" within the District.

In an online Q&A on 11-27-2000 in which Levey fielded comments and questions about his piece, he noted that the figures referred to the entire metropolitan area, not just the bounds of the District. Also, were the freeways built, then not only would Dupont, U Street and Shaw cease to exist, but also large parts of Capitol Hill, 16th St Heights, Woodley Park, Cleveland Park, Georgetown, Tenleytown, Atlas District, Kalorama, Foggy Bottom would also probably cease exist.

I don't know whether this assertion that the scrapped system was "the most sensitively-planned" highway in the US has any factual basis. If building a tunnel so as not to construct a superhighway right through our country's most important landmarks is considered to be an ultra-sensitive move, then perhaps the standard was not all that high to begin with. We have the benefit of seeing first-hand what happened upon the construction of the Southeast Freeway. The entire landscape of Southwest was altered, as well as vital connective routes to the central core to the north, and not in a good way.

by Scoot on Jun 23, 2011 4:47 pm • linkreport

@ Froggie: it's not an either/or situation, but a "BOTH" situation.

To problem of course being those silly state borders that put us against each other.

@ Ser Amantio di Nicolao:Mount Vernon, but there's no way on God's earth the Metro could cover THAT.

Why not? If you extend the yellow line along US 1 to Ft Belvoir, you come by there. Just detour the line along the Mt Vernon Memorial Highway.

@ WRD:We're the only one with 2 states, a quasi-local jurisdiction, and the Federal Government with competing priorities.

NYC/NY/NJ/Port Authority?
Cincinnati/OH/KY/IN?
Chicago/IL/WI/IN?
Philly/PA/NJ?
And the Bay area is equally messed up as we are.

@ Fall Church:Why is society responsible for getting the Woodbridgers to their jobs at the Pentagon?

Because society tends to pay for transportation. Transportation being the lubricant of the economy. Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but where would those 25k people that work in the Pentagon move if they wanted to live near their work? That capacity does not exist? And what if their life partners have a job in Fredericksburg, Vienna, Alexandria, Burke, Tysons and yes Bethesda? By the way, that same transportation network gets your strawberries from CA to your supermarket and your fridge.

It is a fallacy in a 2-income world to expect that everyone lives near their work.

What happened to individual responsibility and accountability?

Individual responsibility for building a transportation network? That never existed.

If they don't like any of those options, they can move to a townhouse in Alexandria.

Most likely they can not realistically do that as their home is underwater. I guess it was their lack of individual responsibility and accountability for not seeing the economic mess we're in coming.

@ Ser Amantio di Nicolao: Society has another responsibility: to make things better for itself. Considering the Woodbridge model: adding a Metro station at Woodbridge (and one at Lorton, and one or two farther up Route 1 towards Alexandria) will increase Metro capacity, but at the same time decrease highway capacity. So those of us who MUST use Route 1 - because our destination is not Metro-accessible - will be able to use it more efficiently.

+1

@ Falls Church:When it comes to transpo, government should be making rock solid investments, not giving away handouts.

Yeah... And who's responsible for the extra traffic toFt Belvoir? And to the Mark Center?

by Jasper on Jun 23, 2011 4:56 pm • linkreport

Quality of life for whom? DC residents, or commuters? I think DC's neighborhoods are quite a bit better for not having a network of elevated highways like the SE/SW freeway arching over them. We'd essentially look like Los Angeles: the sprawl would be ten times worse, the elevated highways would be traffic-choked and gridlocked, and the surface streets would still be every bit as bad as they are. The only difference would be that PG County would be more populated, and more folks who worked in DC would live even further out. No thanks.

------------------------

You should do some research on the planned freeways before you jump into the knee-jerk anti-road hysteria. "We would look like Los Angeles" and "the sprawl would be ten times worse"? Get real!.

Plans were altered to bury most of the in-town freeways. Not every road was going to look like the elevated I-395.

As for the quality of life benefitting commuters more than DC residents, it certainly does now. Commuters don't live with the polluted DC air caused by the congestion on DC streets. DC residents do.

Personally, I think traffic-choked and gridlocked freeways are lot better than traffic choked and gridlocked streets. If you disagree, fine. They're your lungs.

by ceefer66 on Jun 23, 2011 5:00 pm • linkreport

Maybe New York succeeds because its planners had the sense and foresight to limit its highway network.

You're being too charitable. New York succeeds because its residents had the sense and foresight to tell Robert Moses to get the fuck out of their city.

If you're not commuting in/to/from the 'burbs, traffic within DC is actually pretty tolerable, if you know which arteries to avoid. Lots of parallel/redundant routes (but there could be more, and I wholeheartedly agree that we should fix this).

by andrew on Jun 23, 2011 5:13 pm • linkreport

@Soot,

"In an online Q&A on 11-27-2000 in which Levey fielded comments and questions about his piece, he noted that the figures referred to the entire metropolitan area, not just the bounds of the District."

Even so, Levey exaggerating, and ridiculously so:

At the time the freeways were planned (1956-70), the entire DC metropolitan area had less than 2 million people. Let's use a little common sense. Razing "200,000 homes" would have displaced half the metro area's population. Do you honestly believe the freeways would have kicked out half the entire region's population? If you do, I know of an IPO on a famous New York bridge that should interest you.

As for the parkland that would have been "lost", the entire region doesn't have 100 square miles of total parkland. It never has.

"Also, were the freeways built, then not only would Dupont, U Street and Shaw cease to exist, but also large parts of Capitol Hill, 16th St Heights, Woodley Park, Cleveland Park, Georgetown, Tenleytown, Atlas District, Kalorama, Foggy Bottom would also probably cease exist."

Agreed. Between I-266 and I-70S, much of those areas would be gone. Not every planned freeway was a good idea (did you read the part of my post where I said I didn't agree with every planned freeway?).

"If building a tunnel so as not to construct a superhighway right through our country's most important landmarks is considered to be an ultra-sensitive move,then perhaps the standard was not all that high to begin with."

So it was OK to "set low standards" and "build a tunnel through our country's most important landmarks" to construct Metro but not to construct roads. Thanks for clearing that up. I know: "trains good, roads bad", but it's a ridiculous double standard all the same).

by ceefer66 on Jun 23, 2011 5:19 pm • linkreport

@ Jasper:

Regarding Mount Vernon: Hmm...I had a two-pronged answer at the ready; one, I think the Route 1 corridor has more pressing concerns, and two, I'm not sure ridership would warrant a line going that far out of the way just for Mount Vernon. BUT: I was thinking a bit about something I posted earlier, in another thread:

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/10965/metro-planners-contemplate-systems-second-generation/#comment-105149

Adapting that - what if the hypothetical new line began at Mount Vernon, followed the highway up to Engleside (where it would cross the extended Yellow Line); went to Kingstowne; crossed the Blue Line at Franconia somewhere (another transfer point, probably a new infill station); then continued on the route I've suggested? I'm not sure how high ridership down to Mount Vernon would be, but it woudl be easier to justify making it an endstation for a new line. And you'd pull some ridership from the surrounding neighborhoods, though not much.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 23, 2011 5:22 pm • linkreport

"You're being too charitable. New York succeeds because its residents had the sense and foresight to tell Robert Moses to get the fuck out of their city"

Yeah.

I suppose that's how New York ended up with the Northern, Southern, and Central State Parkways, The Long Island Expressway, The East River Drive, The Hutchinson River Parkway, The Bronx River Parkway, The Belt Parkway,
The Throngs Neck and Triborough Bridges, The Merrit Parkway, The Hudson River Parkway, the Jackie Robinson (formerly Interborough) Parkway, The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, The Verrazano Bridge, the Grand Central Parkway, the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, the Queens-Midtown tunnel and a whole lot else, including over 150,00 Mitchell-Lama middle income apartments and Jones Beach.

All because they made Robert Moses "get the fuck out".

Thanks for educating us. I'm sure we're grateful.

by ceefer66 on Jun 23, 2011 5:30 pm • linkreport

Again, they kicked him out before he had a chance to gut Manhattan. Unfortunately some of the other boroughs weren't as lucky.

by NikolasM on Jun 23, 2011 5:41 pm • linkreport

@ ceefer, I can't confirm nor deny the claim of 200,000 housing units (though it seems a bit high), just stating that the figure was intended to include the entire metropolitan area, not just the District. I don't know how you arrive at the figure of 1 million people displaced from 200,000 housing units.

So it was OK to "set low standards" and "build a tunnel through our country's most important landmarks" to construct Metro but not to construct roads. Thanks for clearing that up. I know: "trains good, roads bad", but it's a ridiculous double standard all the same).

I'm not following you. There is nothing wrong with building a tunnel to construct a highway or a train (although I think the former may be quite a bit more expensive). I'm saying that there is nothing particularly ultra-sensitive about building a 3/4th mile stretch of road underground so as not to construct a superhighway through the National Mall. It seems like more of a no-brainer.

by Scoot on Jun 23, 2011 5:51 pm • linkreport

@Jasper:

I'd focus on this part:

This isn't "unique" to DC (politics are like this everywhere). But the political problems facing regional development tend to be more severe here.

by WRD on Jun 23, 2011 5:59 pm • linkreport

@scoot,

"Maybe New York succeeds because its planners had the sense and foresight to limit its highway network."

The highways I mentioned in my previous post are hardly evidence of New York "limiting" its highway network.

The argument re: New York's relative low percentage of car ownership and high percentage of transit use is a non-argument when applied to DC. This region will never have the density to support anything near New York's level of of transit use.

Fact is, in spite of our level of transit use - second only to New York's - we still have the nation's worse-congested traffic. I don't know what that tells you, but it tells me that maybe, just perhaps, Metro doesn't meet everyone's needs after all.

@andrew,

"You're being too charitable. New York succeeds because its residents had the sense and foresight to tell Robert Moses to get the fuck out of their city."

No such thing ever happened.

Robert Moses and Governor Nelson Rockefeller had a falling out over the proposed bridge over the Long Island Sound, connecting Nassau and Westchester Counties. Moses wanted it badly and Rockelfeller, fearing a loss of political support from affluent northeat Westchester County, opposed it. Moses tendered his resignation as a a bluff and Rockefeller surprised him by accepting it.

It's true that Robert Moses had become unpopular for many reasons, not the least of which was his dictatorial style and his penchant for plowing over neighborhoods to build what he wanted. But there was never any "citizen uprising" to throw him out.

Just the facts.

by ceefer66 on Jun 23, 2011 6:02 pm • linkreport

And also, there used to be a rail station at the National Mall to serve the Baltimore & Potomac Railroad system. It was removed from the Mall in 1909 and the terminal for the system was diverted to Union Station. Overall, a good move, even though it was a nice building (Union Station is a lot nicer in its current state). I think part of the reason the highway was built underground (in addition to the obvious aesthetic and cultural reasons) was because building it above ground or elevated would have been difficult as the land sits above an old canal and is not a suitable foundation. Not sure about that though, just speculation.

by Scoot on Jun 23, 2011 6:02 pm • linkreport

ceefer, I don't know how you come to the conclusion that the public transit system is a failure simply because DC has a lot of congestion? New York also has a lot of congestion -- does that mean its public transit system is not working? Imagine what would happen when you take the millions of commuters in New York or DC off the train and onto the highways. Would you want to be a driver in that situation? If not, I think you have your answer.

DC's population growth has outstripped its growth in congestion, meaning that something about transit and intelligent planning provides results. No one has ever claimed that Metro meets everyone's needs. There are millions of people in the region for whom Metro is simply not feasible, or people for whom driving is preferable. It doesn't mean the Metro system is a failure.

by Scoot on Jun 23, 2011 6:36 pm • linkreport

Whoah: lot of transit vs. freeways arguing here. Kinda fun to read, actually.

A recent study showed that building freeways increases traffic, and building transit increases traffic. I'm convinced that freeways would have been a terrible answer to traffic problems. The Red Line along Connecticut Avenue alone carries the load of an eight-lane expressway at peak times. The suburbs should be considered, but we should look at how to improve them as towns and not as bedroom communities for office campuses scattered around the region. Investing in mode choice, whether bus or rail, is a wiser method, with roadway construction where imperative.

by OctaviusIII on Jun 23, 2011 6:57 pm • linkreport

When comparing Paris and DC are we also looking at the availability of housing or work. Rock Creek, the Potomac River shore and almost the entire stretch of the Anacostia River take up a good amount of land

Does Paris have as much park land within the 5 mile border ?

What are the effects of having two rivers run through the DC area ?

Perhaps the 5 mile radius should be extended to account for the amount of unusable parkland we have in the 5 mile radius.

On another note has anyone considered the train operators; some of these lines are reaching the length of the Camden Marc line.

The Red and Blue lines routes are over 30 miles long and the Orange is just below them. At what point will we need to have two operators in a train or bathroom breaks for the operators.

This goes especally for when/if Metrorail reaches BWI, Lorton, Woodbridge, Manassas, Waldorf or LaPlata by extending any current lines. If any of these happen you could have a line that travels 50 + miles in distance.

by kk on Jun 23, 2011 8:58 pm • linkreport

@Ser Amantio/Jasper:

Let's focus on getting something on Route 1 first...

by Froggie on Jun 23, 2011 9:55 pm • linkreport

@ Froggie:

C'mon - where's the fun in that? Now to put the finishing touches on my plan to connect the Eastern Shore with Annapolis via hydrofoil...

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 23, 2011 10:34 pm • linkreport

@ Ser Amantio di Nicolao: I'm not sure ridership would warrant a line going that far out of the way just for Mount Vernon.

Do you know how many buses that would take of the GW Parkway, opening space for commuters? A direct connection from DC to Mt Vernon would boom tourism at a place currently hard to get to for people that visit DC without a car.

BTW, I am not suggesting a separate line to MT Vernon. Just swinging the extended yellow line by there. Considering that Huntley Meadows keeps the number of people to the west of US-1 rather low in that area, a Mt Vernon station would also open metro up to the Fort Hunt area.

As for your alternative, I think it would be stupid for the yellow and blue lines to both go south. Only the yellow line need to go south. Potential stops should be (roughly):

* Kings Hwy & US-1
* US-1 near Gums Springs/
* Mt Vernon
* Ft Belvoir (perhaps two stops)
* Lorton
* Woodbridge
* Potomac Mills (2 stops?)
* PW Parkway * Old Bridge
* PW Parkway & Liberia
* Wellington & Grant
* Manassas VRE
* Yorkshire
* Centreville (transfer to Orange)
* VA-28 & US-50 (imaginary transfer to US-50 line)
* Dulles (transfer to Silver)
* VA-28 & VA-7

My blue line would follow 7900-7100-123 with stops (roughly) at:

* 7900/7100 & Rolling (Ft Belvoir North)
* 7100 & Hooes/Pohick
* 7100 & Old Keene Mill-Burke Lake
* 7100 & 123
* Burke
* GMU (on campus please)
* Fairfax City
* 123 & US 50 (imaginary transfer to US-50 line)
* 123 & I-66 (transfer to orange)
* Oakton (I don't know that area very well)
* Wolf trap (transfer to Silver)
* Hunter Mill & Rt-7
an end point at Great Falls NP VA would be great, but the NIMBYs there are probably too strong for that.

by Jasper on Jun 24, 2011 7:01 am • linkreport

@Jasper: opening space on GW Pkwy for commuters isn't really a good idea, nevermind that NPS doesn't like that it's being used as a commuter route to begin with. The main bottlenecks for Mount Vernon aren't on the GW Pkwy...they're on Route 1 and through Old Town. THOSE are the bottlenecks...opening up GW Pkwy will just further exasperate the bottlenecks.

Once you're more than about 1/2 mile off Route 1, Mount Vernon is almost completely residential (small commercial nodes on Fort Hunt Rd at Belle View and at Shenandoah notwithstanding). By and large, Mount Vernon District residents would like to keep it that way. Route 1 proper is where the redevelopment opportunity is, so that is rightfully where any Yellow Line extension should go.

And on that note, you're missing two more station locations on your Yellow Line list: Beacon Hill and Hybla Valley.

by Froggie on Jun 24, 2011 8:36 am • linkreport

Adding central capacity is definitely the way to go, starting with a new river crossing. That should probably first be from Rosslyn to Georgetown and then across roughly M Street to relieve crowding on the currently east-west lines.

by Dan Gamber on Jun 24, 2011 9:55 am • linkreport

I live in the Bay Area. The BART system is hell bent on continuing its push into suburbia as a glorified commuter rail system, rather than tackle the public transit needs of its major urban cores. I'd hate to see Metro adopt this foolish way of expanding service, and in the process, encourage sprawl. Unless you build up and give people reasons to not own a car, rail expansion is really no better than building highways.

by Mark on Jun 24, 2011 10:06 am • linkreport

@ Froggie:

The only reason I ever mention Mount Vernon, honestly, is tourism. I used to work for a tour company, and it was amazing how many people wanted to get down there but couldn't - they didn't have a car, they couldn't find a tour. I know there are boat tours to the house from National Harbor, but I don't know of any regularly-scheduled bus trips from downtown DC.

As for potential stops along Route 1: what about one somewhere around the South County Government Center/old Mount Vernon High School building? The Center has always struck me as being located in an odd place, and adding Metro access would be great. It might even encourage expansion of the facility, which is something I've heard the County has long been considering. As to the old MVHS building, Metro access would make it an attractive property for redevelopment as well (again, something I've heard the County is interested in) - perhaps a branch campus of NVCC? We could use one in the Route 1 Corridor, and I'm not sure where the nearest one is.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 24, 2011 10:54 am • linkreport

@Ser Amantio

Tourism is great - and transit should serve those areas, too. However, building a subway to deliver tourists to Mt Vernon is not likely a wise use of dollars.

Look at the Arlington Cemetery station. It's not a drain on resources, really - the feds paid for it and the blue line would use that route anyway - but it's hardly a popular station.

by Alex B. on Jun 24, 2011 11:10 am • linkreport

@jasper "DC is not the center of the universe."

No, but it is the hub and center of a metropolitan region of 5.5 million people. It stands to reason that transportation policy should be geared around that fact.

by Ben on Jun 24, 2011 11:23 am • linkreport

If the Metro dumped people within walking distance of the Estate, then that would probably be a poor use of resources and no better than a glorified, government subsidized tourist shuttle, but the Mt Vernon/Ft Hunt area serves a fairly substantial population (about 30,000 people in less than 10 square miles). A Metro station within a short distance of Mt Vernon could encourage visitorship there, or maybe it would result in a Metro station with daily ridership in the hundreds.... could go either way).

If you put a Metro stop somewhere along Rt 1 and allowed the private market to establish shuttle service from the Metro to the Estate, you could be onto something. But then again, as noted, you would further the idea of Metro as a commuter rail service and would probably encourage sprawl in the process.

by Scoot on Jun 24, 2011 11:42 am • linkreport

Right - if we're building Metro down Rte 1 to Belvoir, and we're also upzoning and adding TOD to the area, that's great.

If it just so happens that we can get closer to Mt Vernon, too, that's a wonderful ancillary benefit. However, it's hardly the reason (or even a major reason) to build the thing.

And Scoot - 10 square miles is a rather large area - certainly a lot larger than a reasonable walkshed from a single Metro stop.

by Alex B. on Jun 24, 2011 11:48 am • linkreport

Well, Mt Vernon is not very walkable to begin with, so what constitutes a reasonable walkshed?

A circle with a radius of 1.75 miles (about the walking distance from Dupont Circle to Columbia Heights) = 9.6 square miles. I would say that driving, cycling or taking a bus 1.75 miles to get to a Metro station is something that many people would welcome, given the real estate values within 1.75 miles of other terminal stations like Vienna or Fr-Spfld. And those are not walkable areas, either.

by Scoot on Jun 24, 2011 12:08 pm • linkreport

@Scoot (&Alex to a lesser extent): the Route 1 corridor between the Beltway and Ft. Belvoir is already developed. A Yellow Line extension wouldn't encourage sprawl here. It'd encourage dense, mixed-use nodes...redevelopment that the community supports. Ft. Belvoir alone is reason enough to extend the Yellow Line, especially with the new hospital and all the other BRAC-related expansion going in on base (to say nothing of NGA and the Proving Ground). That it would be a catalyst for redevelopment/upzoning/TOD along Route 1 is extra gravy and, as Alex puts it, an ancillary benefit. Even moreso than the tourism bit.

by Froggie on Jun 24, 2011 12:12 pm • linkreport

@Ser Amantio

I agree about South County Center and my own proposal has a metro station about a block north...a station entrance could easily be in front of the South County Center and old MVHS.

Since we're on the subject, here's my own proposal for Yellow Line extension stations, with station names and adjacent features:

- Kings Hwy. Could also be named Penn Daw. Basically right in front of the new WalMart. Kings Hwy side has a strip mall where a Shoppers recently closed. Next to WalMart is a mobile home park that was previously proposed for redevelopment, but the landowner got greedy and the deal fell apart. According to Metro, the existing Yellow Line tracks extend south of Huntington in a tunnel almost to this location, making at least a 1-station extension fairly feasible and less expensive than otherwise expected.

- Beacon Hill. At Route 1/Beacon Hill Rd. Right in front of the Beacon Hill Shopping Center, a strip-mall area including a Lowes, Giant, Office Depot, and several standalone restaurants that would be ripe for denser development.

- Hybla Valley. At Route 1/Woodlawn Trl. To the west of Route 1 is a large strip mall/big box area including a Home Depot.

- Though I didn't include it in my proposal, a station could arguably be put in at Route 1 and Sherwood Hall Rd, adjacent to the big WalMart (and next to a future Costco) and providing somewhat reasonable access to Inova's Mt. Vernon Hospital (which has plans for expansion). I'd name such a station "Gum Springs".

- Fairfield. At Route 1/Russell Rd and just northeast of the South County Center location mentioned by Ser Amantio.

- Engleside. At Route 1/Sacramento Dr. In the middle of a strip-mall-dominated commercial node.

- Ft. Belvoir East. At Route 1 near the Pence Gate. Would be the main connection point to the Ft. Belvoir Main Post (especially South Post, the part of base south of Route 1) and the new hospital.

- Ft. Belvoir West. Along Fairfax County Pkwy and adjacent to the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) complex.

by Froggie on Jun 24, 2011 12:40 pm • linkreport

@ Froggie:And on that note, you're missing two more station locations on your Yellow Line list: Beacon Hill and Hybla Valley.

Sure. Wherever you want them. I don't get between Huntington and Mt Vernon a lot, so wherever it is good.

@ Alex B:However, building a subway to deliver tourists to Mt Vernon is not likely a wise use of dollars.

That all depends on who pays for the stop and who gets the subsequent tourism tax dollars. I reckon Fairfax should be interested in sucking some tourism dollars out of DC into VA and the county itself.

@ Scoot:a glorified, government subsidized tourist shuttle

And metro is now a a glorified, government subsidized government employee shuttle. Why not give those folks in Oklahoma a stop for their federal contribution and create some extra tourism? I will say I have no clue if and how many extra tourists Mt Vernon could handle.

@ Froggie:That it would be a catalyst for redevelopment/upzoning/TOD along Route 1 is extra gravy and, as Alex puts it, an ancillary benefit.

True. US-1 is a disaster from Alexandria to Woodbridge. So much opportunity for growth. For instance by stacking apartments and condos on the infinite strip malls. You could really create a new R-B/Pentagon-Crystal City corridor there.

@ Ben:No, but it is the hub and center of a metropolitan region of 5.5 million people. It stands to reason that transportation policy should be geared around that fact.

Sure, DC is the hub. however 5 of those 5.5 million people do not live in DC. So, it seems rather inefficient to not cater to their demand. People in Ashburn, Woodbridge, Waldorf, Alexandria, Rockville and College Park that do not work in DC, barely come to DC. So why force them to travel through DC all the time? Does that not cause unnecessary congestion?

by Jasper on Jun 24, 2011 12:43 pm • linkreport

Just to be clear. The planners of Metro wanted a Georgetown station. The PEOPLE of Georgetown did not want a station.

I really don't think the designers of Metro had any grand sprawl vision.

by Tom on Jun 24, 2011 12:59 pm • linkreport

Tom: This is a myth.

The planners of Metro considered a station when the Three Sisters Bridge was under consideration. However, the station was quickly ruled out even before there was an uprising of the tony elite (that hadn't yet settled in the area).

by Neil Flanagan on Jun 24, 2011 1:22 pm • linkreport

@ Froggie: That's actually more stops than I'd considered in thinking about the extension: I hadn't thought about one at Penn Daw or at Hybla as you describe it. For purely selfish reasons, I support your "Gum Springs" station; it should be no more than a twenty-minute walk from my house, a hypothesis which I intend to test out one of these weekends. That would make it, then, ten minutes' walk from the hospital, and fifteen/twenty from the doctors' offices on Hinson Farm. Hrmm...I sense possibility for a bit healthcare "mall", for lack of a better term, centered on that area...

My own proposal would extend the Yellow Line out farther than Belvoir. I'd put one stop in Lorton, for sure, near the center; I think there's potential for another one (maybe infill, later?) out towards Ox Road. The line would cross the Occoquan north of the town of Occoquan (another infill station...population density isn't very great, but with encouragement it might become a daytrip destination) and then curve down to Woodbridge. If Woodbridge were the final stop, there's a huge commuter lot there that would be a great station site. I can, however, see an argument for taking the line down through Dale City to Potomac Mills, but I'm not convinced that's necessary. (Although some kind of link between the mall and DC would be a tremendous boon, I think - I know a lot of people who live in DC and who would shop at Potomac Mills more often if they could get to it more easily.)

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jun 24, 2011 1:41 pm • linkreport

Neil & Tom - I read very carefully the section of Zachary Schrag's book where he makes the case that Metro's planners rejected a Georgetown station for purely engineering reasons, and I am not convinced. The engineering problems were soluble, for enough money. Schrag's evidence is equally consistent, in my opinion, with the hypothesis that Metro's planners were having enough NIMBY problems in other areas that they decided taking on Georgetown just wasn't worth it.

Furthermore, people who were around then have told me that Georgetown civic leaders went quietly to Congress to keep Metro out. No paper evidence of that has turned up, but it's not the sort of thing that would leave a paper trail.

And the tony elite had definitely settled in Georgetown by then. Gentrification started even before the 1920s, Georgetown got itself a special height limit in the 1920 DC zoning act, and there was a special historic preservation law for Georgetown enacted in 1950. See Cameron Logan's GWU thesis.

by Ben Ross on Jun 24, 2011 2:12 pm • linkreport

@Jasper

No one's forcing them to travel anywhere, but there are very few rail transit systems that easily and quickly facilitate suburb-to-suburb travel. The fact remains that the single greatest migration that occurs every day is an influx of people from around the region into DC's central core, which retains by far the region's greatest concentration of jobs. It seems more inefficient to cater to the demands of a minority of people travelling from Alexandria to Tysons, or from Silver Spring to Fairfax.

by Ben on Jun 24, 2011 5:37 pm • linkreport

@Ben Ross

The reasons why Georgetown wasn't included aren't really relevant anymore - but you did hit on the final result: "they decided taking on Georgetown just wasn't worth it."

It wasn't worth it as a destination, it wasn't worth it for engineering cost, it wasn't worth it for NIMBY reasons, or all of the above - the point is that it wasn't worth it. That doesn't mean there wans't value, but that the value wans't worth the cost (given the focus of Metro at the time).

The new Blue Line changes that, as a new line requires a new route, and M Street is the obvious choice. Since the current Orange/Blue lines would have had to make a detour to serve Georgetown, that's no longer an issue. Likewise, Georgetown has both grown in regional importance and Metro's philosophy has shifted away from a pure commute focus.

by Alex B. on Jun 24, 2011 6:04 pm • linkreport

Alex B. - exactly. In the end it was probably a combination of the three, but neighborhood opposition (in and by itself) is clearly and resoundingly wrong. Yes, the neighbors can at times be easy targets for a whipping boy, but, at the end of the day, if the Feds/DC wanted to build a stop there, they would have built one there. The biggest opposition supposedly was in Woodley Park, Cleveland Park and Van Ness neighborhoods. But maybe you're right because as you can see, they never built the Red Line up Conn through those neighborhoods... Oh, wait...

by Shipsa01 on Jun 25, 2011 12:37 am • linkreport

@Ben Ross: "Furthermore, people who were around then have told me that Georgetown civic leaders went quietly to Congress to keep Metro out. No paper evidence of that has turned up, but it's not the sort of thing that would leave a paper trail."

I guess I just have one question: who? My family has lived in Georgetown since the 60's and they have never heard of anything like that. I hate to be the buster of conspiracy theories, but if you don't see a paper trail, it most likely doesn't exist. You act like the Georgetown neighborhood is some grand cabal that acts like the Illuminati or Opus Dei in a bad Dan Brown novel. So you think this happened in Georgetown - oh wait, tony Georgetown - yet didn't happen in VA, which at the time was pretty damn Republican and probably pretty damn scared of the rif-raf that would come across the river. It's just Georgetown, which yes, while more conservative than other areas of DC, is still pretty darn liberal.

by Shipsa01 on Jun 25, 2011 1:01 am • linkreport

Ben Ross - except that the opposition on Connecticut is well-documented in the papers and on public record. My parents remember it, even, and the fighting over the construction mess. Tenleytown and Chevy Chase were both options, but the options were better and easier in Tenleytown.

I'd buy that there was cocktail-party pressure against it, but unless you can show otherwise, Schrag's account is more reliable. As I learned the legend, Georgetown's opposition was focal, openly racist and classist, and over a pre-selected route that had to be scrapped. All of these characterizations are unproven, so I doubt the story. Maybe we need a folklorist.

by Neil Flanagan on Jun 25, 2011 5:29 am • linkreport

The hitch to Tenleytown was facilitated by new boring technology that made tunneling without disrupting the homes in North Cleveland Park possible. I am not sure there was ever much of a plan to serve Chevy Chase, DC in lieu of Friendship Heights and out Wisconsin Avenue.

The Cleveland Park Historic District was essentially created out of fear that the Metro would cause the Van Nessification of the commercial strip, particularly the Park-and-Shop. While there was disruption, it was nothing like the horror that took place on U Street a decade later. Similarly the tunneling and disruption in Petworth was ridiculous as compared to the stretch between Van Ness and Tenleytown. There was plenty of Washington Post coverage of this at the time.

by Andrew on Jun 25, 2011 8:06 am • linkreport

The big difference between Georgetown and Connecticut Ave is that the line was always going to go under Connecticut and then shift to Wisconsin/Rockville Pike - the only question was where the stops would be, since adding them required no deviation from the route. Serving Georgetown would have required a change in route from the current alignment, which provides the most direct connection between Foggy Bottom and Rosslyn.

As for construction methods - the Red Line is deep bore, unlike the inner Green Line (hence the variation in disruption from construction). The geology is rather different on opposite sides of Rock Creek Park. Plus, when you consider the fact that the Park Service required the Red Line to traverse Rock Creek in a tunnel rather than via a bridge (as was the original plan), that was more or less a defacto requirement that the Red Line be so deep.

An interesting casualty of that decision - the initial Red Line plans included a bridge over Rock Creek, adjacent to the Connecticut Ave bridge, and a much shallower Woodley Park station. It also would have allowed for a Kalorama/Adams Morgan station in the area of Connecticut and Wyoming/California. Instead, the current tunnel is too deep to make that station feasible, given the turns it currently makes under CT Ave.

by Alex B. on Jun 25, 2011 11:34 am • linkreport

except that the opposition on Connecticut is well-documented in the papers and on public record.

The existence of opposition in Georgetown is equally well documented. What Schrag says (p. 155) is although Georgetown residents did oppose a transit station, their attitude was essentially irrelevant, for a Georgetown station was never seriously considered.

Georgetown has both grown in regional importance and Metro's philosophy has shifted away from a pure commute focus.

I think it's the second, not the first. If anything, Georgetown's regional importance is less now than 30 or 40 years ago. As a non-commuting destination, its former niches are now occupied by Bethesda, U Street, 7th Street, etc.

by Ben Ross on Jun 25, 2011 12:05 pm • linkreport

While I do agree that Georgetown's regional importance has diminished, I still think it's important for our system to have a stop (and yes, I use that in the singular) there that serves (all) the neighbors, tourists, wanna-be preppies coming in on the weekend, and students. And even though our technology has greatly improved I still think it would be more prudent to put the station around Wisconsin and Q or by the redesigned Safeway. The Wisconsin and M intersection is just too nuts to add a station there, IMO.

by Shipsa01 on Jun 25, 2011 12:53 pm • linkreport

I live at 14th and S and Metrorail is worthless to me except for DCA."

14th and S NW? 3 blocks from the U Street Station? How is that worthless?

We shouldn't brush off this original comment. Here's the problem--there are many many many cases where it's actually a shorter metro ride from VA or MD into core DC than it is from within the city itself.

If you live in Columbia Heights, U St./14th St. Corridor and Northern Logan Circle (some of the areas with the highest population growth in recent years), and you work in the Foggy Bottom/Farragut West area (an area where much of the government work is located), your commute by Metrobus or Metrorail can be anywhere from 45m-1hr.

If you live in Clarendon, or Courthouse--outside of DC in Arlington, you can commute on the Metrorail to FB/FarWest in less than 15 min, or by bus in 30.

I've lived both in Col Heights and in Clarendon, and had to commute to FarWest for a considerable amount of time during both periods. The trip from Clarendon is infinitely easier and more pleasant (and less expensive) than from Col Heights.

It shouldn't take you longer to get to DC from within DC than it does from a suburb. That shows the bias of the system towards suburban travellers.

So I applaud this post and as Joseph Pilates would say.."Strengthen the Core!!"

The splitting of the Blue line to address lack of service in Log Circle, as well as Georgetown would be a good start.

I can't forsee ever using the Silver Line, even if I have to fly out of Dulles.

by LuvDusty on Jun 27, 2011 1:41 pm • linkreport

"ceefer, I don't know how you come to the conclusion that the public transit system is a failure..."

I never said our transit system in and of itself was a "failure"; I said the "transit-only" transportation policies implemented by our region over a more than 50 year period has resulted in failure - miserable failure.

"...simply because DC has a lot of congestion?"

You don't get to call the nation's worst traffic congestion anything but an absolute failure of our region's transportation policies.

For some 50 years, this region's answer to traffic problems has been "let's do anything but build new highways, starting with studying 'alternatives'. If we build anything, build nothing but rail". Road-haters and transit advocates have run the show (the success in getting the Intercounty Connector built is an aberration).

The result? The nation's worst traffic.

"New York also has a lot of congestion"

Not as bad as ours.

"-- does that mean its public transit system is not working?"

You really shouldn't bring up New York. New York is by no means similar to DC.

But if you want us to be like NY, that's fine with me. We can start with building a comprehensive road network to complement Metro, like metro New York started to do over 75 years ago and completed in the early 1990's.

New York grew up with its subway. The NYC subway opened in 1906 and was pretty much complete by the early 1940's. Beginning in the mid-1930's, New York built what eventually became the nation's largest parkway and expressay system.

Even with all of that transit.

I would dare say having a comprehensive road network is why New York doesn't lead the nation in traffic congestion even though it is by far the nation's largest city and metropolitan area.

As for metro DC?

You don't cancel 1500 lane-miles of highway, build practically nothing but Metro and dither about "anything but a highway" "alternatives" for half a century, end up with the nation's worst-congested traffic, then act offended when someone calls the executed plan a failure.

Because that's what it is.

by ceefer66 on Jun 27, 2011 6:35 pm • linkreport

more core developmentis good, but you must include developing the areas where the metro stops are located. 9 out of 10 stops in arlington serve 90% of it's population. [ ref:chris lineberger @ the brookings institute]Prince Georges Co has 15 metro stops under used once the commuter lots fill up. See Gov. O'Malley's T.O.D. [Transit Oriented Development] www.martinomalley.com also Dr. Jay Hellman has a plan for urban development @ the rail stations www.virtualadjacency.com

by jeff guido on Jun 28, 2011 9:15 am • linkreport

Metro should improve its current structure before even considering expanding. We need more reliable trains, running more often, and at less cost per trip. Public transport needs to be a top priority. Let's invest and improve!

by TD on Jun 28, 2011 10:52 am • linkreport

Also, regarding transit and metro..is anyone doing the math? My Metro commute costs me $5 a day (and I live close to my work).

$5 x 5=$25. That's 1/2 a tank of gas. I can drive to work and back for 2 weeks on 1/2 a tank of gas. The drive (if I leave before 7:30am), takes me roughly the same time to commute and I can sit in my own space, air conditioned, eat/drink and listen to my own music and not have to be bothered.

Why should I take metro? There is no incentive, cause gasoline is still too cheap and Metro fares too expensive.

And then what about folks who live further out? Even worse.

by LuvDusty on Jun 28, 2011 12:50 pm • linkreport

@LuvDusty

Yeah, if your employer pays for your parking but doesn't pay any of the cost of Metro, it's a bad deal for you.

I think most people who work in the city don't have free parking however.

by MLD on Jun 28, 2011 1:40 pm • linkreport

@LuvDusty, at first I thought the 14th & S example was silly, but you've shown me that it's just a rather mundane example of a more serious problem. I have a friend who lives along a Red line bus route in NE DC, over two miles from the Rhode Island metro. That's a long 20-minute, over-crowded bus ride from his house to the metro station, followed by a wait for the red line, then a 15 minute ride, then a wait for the transfer, then a longish 30-45 minute orange line ride to his tech job in Northern VA. That can often take over an hour and a half (or more). That's ludicrous. Since his employer pays his parking, there's just no incentive to take the metro except when his car is broken.

Bus service in no way makes up for the weird holes in the metro service.

by Carole on Jun 28, 2011 4:18 pm • linkreport

@Carole
At what point does it shift from "Metro doesn't work for me" to "I didn't think about transit when I picked where I lived and therefore it doesn't work for me."

The 14th & S situation looks like #1 to me - transit doesn't connect the places they want to go (even though there's lots of transit coverage). Your friend's situation sounds like #2 - they chose not to live near adequate transit service.

by MLD on Jun 28, 2011 4:23 pm • linkreport

@MLD, not really, because when he moved there, his place of business was much closer. His employer has sinced moved locations.

by Carole on Jun 28, 2011 4:44 pm • linkreport

Our MetroRail is mostly like Stuttgart's S-bahn . But of course they also have a whole other set of light rail lines (in red/purple) that serve the core (nice high capacity light rail: 250 passenger trains running as frequently as every two minutes, mostly on dedicated alignments above ground).

"Stuttgart?" you ask - oh it's an 80 sq-mile city of 600,000 (in a metro area of 2.7 million) with a per capita income around $50,000. Not unlike our own fair city.

by egk on Jun 28, 2011 7:04 pm • linkreport

Just to add my two cents. (I actually added this to the comment stream on the June 21st metro development post by accident last Friday, I just realized today that it makes more sense on this comment stream)

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 Jul 5, 2011 12:54 pm • linkreport

I always liked the 2030 vision plan for Metro that involves decoupling the Blue Line, which will become necessary upon the completion of the Silver Line. It will require building another subway tunnel through downtown DC, but it will also serve neighborhoods that currently don't have ready access to Metrorail.

If Virginia requires that it get in on the action too, I have always eyed an extension of the Yellow Line from Huntington through the Hybla Valley and Fort Belvoir (along Route 1) before terminating at an at-grade station in the middle of I-95 (not dissimilar to all the stations along the Orange Line after leaving Ballston). Given the recent move of various Pentagon facilities to Fort Belvoir as a result of BRAC, this is an extension that I think will have broad support.

by John M on Dec 2, 2011 7:55 pm • linkreport

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