Greater Greater Washington

Transit


What if Washington never built Metro?

Rail~Volution 2011 marks the first time since 2002 that this conference for all things transit and smart growth has taken place in the nation's capital. When it comes to livability, Washington and neighboring Arlington County have some great stories to share with the rest of the country.


Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

The Washington Metro system keeps hundreds of thousands of cars off the streets a day, and is responsible for hundreds of millions in tax revenues and household savings per year.

At the heart of the region's success is, of course, the Washington Metro, which has shaped development for more than three decades. In fact, so much of the land near Metro stations has been developed that ridership is projected to reach the design capacity of the current system within the next 20 years. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is currently mapping out how to respond.

At a panel on Monday, Nat Bottigheimer, an assistant general manager at WMATA, shared some results from an internal study the agency conducted as part of this process. The core question he investigated: "What is it you're actually getting from a transit investment?"

The agency's research and modeling produced some intriguing numbers demonstrating how the creation of Metroits 86 stations and 106 miles of trackhas benefited the region:

  • Since the system was created, $212 billion in real estate value has been added within a half-mile of Metro stations.
  • Land value near Metro stations generates $2.8 billion annually in property tax revenues. $195 million of that is directly attributable to transit.
  • Households in the region reap the equivalent of $705 million per year in time savings thanks to Metro.
  • Households save $305 million per year on costs related to owning and driving cars.
  • Every day, Metro riders walk 33,000 miles.
On the other side of the coin, there's everything that Metro has prevented from happening. Without Metro…
  • Commuters would have to put up with commutes that take 25 percent longer. This would effectively curtail people's access to jobs and employers' access to the workforce.
  • The region would see more than a million additional auto trips per day.
  • This traffic would require 1,000 additional lane miles to accommodate, the equivalent of two Capital Beltways' worth of asphalt.
  • Four to six more traffic lanes across the Potomac would be necessary.
  • The downtown core would be eviscerated by parking. To store all the extra cars would take 200,000 parking spots, the equivalent of 170 blocks filled with five-story parking structures.
  • All that car infrastructure would cost nearly $11 billion to build, and impose huge maintenance costs every year.
Bottigheimer's stats brought to mind this graphic of a hypothetical NYC, where the subway's been obliterated and everyone has to drive and park to get around instead. The black squares show the space that would be taken up by parking if everyone who rides the subway into Manhattan's CBD drove to work instead.


Image by Michael Frumin.

Editor's note: Bottigheimer gave an analogue for Washington, DC, saying that the parking needed to serve all the cars that would come in place of Metro could fill the entire area from 12th to 23rd Streets, Constitution to R (including the White House) with 5-story parking decks.

I'd be remiss not to mention these stats from Dennis Leach, director of the transportation division at the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services. In the 1970s, Arlington was losing population and facing a bleak future as Northern Virginia's doormat to the DC core. But local leaders "bet the ranch" on focusing growth near Metro stations, said Leach, and the county is now a thriving example of how walkable, transit-oriented development can make inner suburbs more attractive places to live and work.

Some highlights from Leach's presentation:

  • Arlington now has more than 100,000 housing units, and 40 percent of them are above transit stops.
  • Some of the arterial roads near the places that have been developed most intensely are actually seeing declines in traffic.
  • Ridership on the local bus system has tripled since 2005. It is no longer mainly a feeder system getting commuters to and from Metro, but a viable network in its own right serving a variety of trips.
  • Some of the county's biking and walking trails have higher travel volumes than some arterial roads.
  • In the areas near Arlington's transit stops, walking captures between 20 and 30 percent of all trips, compared to the regional average of 5 to 6 percent.
  • In a survey, 40 percent of local business leaders said transportation access was the number one reason Arlington was a good place to locate.
Cross-posted at Streetsblog Capitol Hill.
Ben provides the editorial vision for Streetsblog NYC, where he breaks stories that help create more livable streets. After seven years at Project for Public Spaces, Ben joined the staff of Streetsblog early in 2008, just as the push to enact congestion pricing in New York City was peaking. Ben loves the Mets, and he holds a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University. 

Comments

Add a comment »

Had Metro never been built, many of the businesses and federal agencies inside the Beltway would have been scattered across the region, or further out. Lots of people would still have even more ridiculous commutes, though.

by Ron on Oct 19, 2011 10:38 am • linkreport

What if Metro had been designed with 4 tracks instead of 2? Imagine no delays and express trains! Imagine not having to be single tracking for WMATA to conduct routine maintenance. imagine if Sarles would do his job and make a request of Congress to fix this glaring oversight...imagine the jobs it would create.

by Redline SOS on Oct 19, 2011 10:41 am • linkreport

"Four to six more traffic lanes across the Potomac would be necessary."

Still necessary.

by RiverCrossing on Oct 19, 2011 10:42 am • linkreport

I love the parking 'scenarios,' both for New York and for DC. It goes a long way to show how spatially inefficient car transport is. It's simply not sustainable once a place grows beyond a fairly low density - and I mean that in the geometric sense, not the environmental sense.

An example I remember reading in the Washington Post about Tysons Corner and it's upcoming urbanization with Metro noted how Tysons has roughly 45 million sf of office and retail now, and an additional 60+ million sf of parking. That kind of spatial inefficiency, where you need to allocate transportation terminal space at more than a 1:1 ratio with all of your actual uses one of those things people just seem to take for granted.

by Alex B. on Oct 19, 2011 10:43 am • linkreport

RiverCrossing, the bottleneck is not lanes across the Potomac, it's the city streets once you get across. Adding lanes to the 14th Street Bridge wouldn't do a damn thing if it's still spilling out onto 14th and 12th. Likewise with 66 and Constitution Ave.

by dal20402 on Oct 19, 2011 10:45 am • linkreport

Weak.

But interesting tidbit. I've heard the argument that transit suffers because it can't build out its own development near metro stops. But according to this:

"Land value near Metro stations generates $2.8 billion annually in property tax revenues. $195 million of that is directly attributable to transit. "

195M is not a small sum, but not enough to make metrorail a cash machine.

I've always thought it would be nice to dig up the National Mall, and put in a giant 5 story underground parking lot. That should take care of the parking problem.

And really - if metrorail wasn't built, nobody else would walk, take the bus, bike, or choose another transit method other than the car? Or even car-sharing?

Arlington has clearly benefit from Metrorail. DC is really starting to, but during the 1970s and 1980s that was not so clear. Alexandria? MoCO? PG county -- I jest.

by charlie on Oct 19, 2011 10:48 am • linkreport

In fact, so much of the land near Metro stations has been developed that ridership is projected to reach the design capacity of the current system within the next 20 years. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is currently mapping out how to respond.

I hear this repeated fairly frequently, but what exactly does it mean? Where are the choke points? Do we need more tracks? Shorter headways? More railcars?

Will we still hit capacity in 20 years if we max out rush-hour headways while running only 8-car trains?

On a similar note, how screwed are we if delivery of the 7000-series falls even further behind schedule?

by andrew on Oct 19, 2011 10:58 am • linkreport

If Metro had never been built, the indigenous underground crab people would never have been evicted from the land that is rightfully theirs.

by engrish_major on Oct 19, 2011 10:59 am • linkreport

dal20402 - I'm not talking about lanes to existing bridges, but rather new bridges are needed. For example, one north of the American Legion, maybe one between Key and Chain.

by RiverCrossing on Oct 19, 2011 11:02 am • linkreport

@andrew

I'm assuming that refers to WMATA's RTSP, looking at long term planning for the system. That study assumes all 8-car trains, operating at minimum headways, with just projected regional growth. So, yes, we still hit capacity under that circumstance.

The choke points of the system are obvious - the interlining between Orange/Blue, Blue/Yellow, and Green/Yellow means that the outer portions of those lines can only achieve a portion of the maximum level of service those tracks can handle. Branching divides frequency. The solution would be to build new subway lines through the core to separate the interlined portions of track.

@Charlie

DC isn't starting to benefit from Metro - the entirety of downtown would've developed very differently if not for Metro. That 195m is a very conservative estimate - without Metro, DC would've had to devote a lot more of its scarce land to low-value uses like parking.

Also, you're pooh-poohing the ROI of metro, but somehow think that a massive parking garage under the Mall would be a good use of funds? Huh?

by Alex B. on Oct 19, 2011 11:06 am • linkreport

"In fact, so much of the land near Metro stations has been developed that ridership is projected to reach the design capacity of the current system within the next 20 years. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is currently mapping out how to respond."

Having attempted to transfer to the red line during rush hour in Chinatown, I would have thought we reached capacity at least 5 years ago.

by hawkeye on Oct 19, 2011 11:13 am • linkreport

I'd imagine Washington as a dull, lifeless cityburb. Central DC would be far less dense, with many more parking lots and would be clogged with traffic from 0700-1000 in the morning and 1630-1930 in the evening (even more so than today). Buses would be useless because the congestion would just prevent any traffic from moving.

Arlington would look like the area around the Pentagon - sprawling parking lots, clogged freeway overpasses and the like.

by John M on Oct 19, 2011 11:15 am • linkreport

@AlexB; hmm. Let's see. The mall is 309 acres.

Obviously, you can't dig up 100%. Let's go with 85%, or 260 acres.

That is 11,325,599 sqaure feet.

At about 62 a square foot for underground construciton, that would be $682M a floor.

Let's say 5 levels. That is a cool 3.5 billion.

That's assuing 2010 dollars. Metro was built in 1976, no? So, that would be .be a $1b in 1976 dollars.

For about 50M square feet in parking space. I have no idea how many spaces that is, but it is a lot.

by charlie on Oct 19, 2011 11:33 am • linkreport

"Land value near Metro stations generates $2.8 billion annually in property tax revenues. $195 million of that is directly attributable to transit."

The $195M is not the only portion of real estate value that's attributable to transit proximity. This piece is just the portion of real estate value that is uniquely attributable to transit, everything else -- construction cost, baseline land cost, type of zoning, quality of surroundings, etc.

The additional value attributable to transit relates to whether you could even have built that building in that place in the first place WITHOUT transit, and all the efficiencies associated with that kind of agglomeration. That goes well above and beyond the $195 million, and gets into the costs of what the public would have had to spend had it NOT made an investment in transit.

by jnb on Oct 19, 2011 11:33 am • linkreport

Specific, quantified benefits of Metro aside, I think we can all agree the DC area is much better off with the Metrorail system.

One of the things that attracted me to DC was the young and vibrant population. I doubt many of the 20- and 30-somethings here now would have even considered living here had DC been an entirely car-dependent metropolis a la Houston or Atlanta. I know I wouldn't have.

by Rebecca on Oct 19, 2011 11:33 am • linkreport

@charlie

Of course it would be a lot of spaces. That wasn't my question - I'm asking whether it would be worth it. I doubt it.

Plus, you'd be asking people to park under the Mall for a job located downtown?

Anyway, take your 50m SF parking structure, assume about 500 sf per space (to account for the space, required auto circulation, etc) and you've got 100,000 spaces. If you're catering to workers, they're occupying that space all day, 9-5. Unless they all start carpooling 3-4 people per car, you won't be matching Metro's capacity to deliver people to a dense area.

Likewise, how are you solving that last mile issue? How would you get all of those cars in and out of the Mall?

by Alex B. on Oct 19, 2011 11:41 am • linkreport

I've often thought that without Metro, DC would be a lot like Baltimore but with even less charm. Lots of parking garages, several blocks at a time devoid of streetlife and activity.

by spookiness on Oct 19, 2011 11:42 am • linkreport

The study doesn't mention the ancillary benefits in terms of reduced carbon emissions, soot exhaust, etc. Personally, I roughly estimate that using Metro instead of spending on car costs saves me about $150 a month.

by DCster on Oct 19, 2011 11:48 am • linkreport

I assume the bottom level of this 5-story underground parking structure beneath the Mall will be for submarine parking? That would be awesome! Greater Greater Washington indeed.

by Nate on Oct 19, 2011 11:52 am • linkreport

@AlexB:

"Likewise, how are you solving that last mile issue? How would you get all of those cars in and out of the Mall?"

Magic Carpet, obviously. Federal workers could walk from there to work.

I think there are something like 200,000 people getting the federal transit benefit. So let's double the size of the Naitonal Mall garage -- 10 stories. Cost in 1976: $2 billion.

Here's my serious point: Most of the success of DC in the last 10 years in macroeconomic. We've had good, decent middle class jobs stay in place because, well, the feds pay decent. A lot of the reasons cited for DC here have far more to do with than metro.

And if anything, I'd say this discussion reveals another flaw. The map is not the terrority. Removing elements is more about building models.

by charlie on Oct 19, 2011 12:04 pm • linkreport

@RedlineSOS
What if Metro had been designed with 4 tracks instead of 2? Imagine no delays and express trains! Imagine not having to be single tracking for WMATA to conduct routine maintenance. imagine if Sarles would do his job and make a request of Congress to fix this glaring oversight...imagine the jobs it would create.

Haven't we been over this before? It's not a glaring oversight - only something like 4 transit systems in the whole world have quadruple tracking.

The problem is that maintenance wasn't done on the system. That's what creates the single-tracking situations. Spending 2X as much on the system isn't worth it.

by MLD on Oct 19, 2011 12:08 pm • linkreport

@charlie:
A lot of the reasons cited for DC here have far more to do with than metro.

Nevertheless, Metro is a large part of how the region succeeds. I'd argue, too, that another benefit has been that it provides some unity to what would otherwise be a horribly disparate collection of suburbs. And there's been development elsewhere that's not being taken into account - look at the Carlyle area in Alexandria, for instance. I've said this before, but when I was a kid my father and I would go through there on the train and laugh at the idea that they felt a station was necessary at Eisenhower Ave. No longer.

Is the system perfect? *snort* Far from it. But it's been a tremendous boon, working in tandem with other things to make this area so much better than it used to be.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Oct 19, 2011 12:16 pm • linkreport

@ Ser Amantio di Nicolao; exactly. But see my comment about models.

by charlie on Oct 19, 2011 12:28 pm • linkreport

I know everyone is being snarktastic about a parking lot under the Mall, but I actually think its a great idea (doesn't need to be 5 stories down and have 100,000 spaces though). Perhaps, simultaneously, the Mall could be re-built and the parking revenues could be used for the upgrades that the Mall requires, but no one wants to pay for.

by jindc on Oct 19, 2011 12:37 pm • linkreport

@jindc: The idea's occurred to me, too. Underground parking certainly has its advantages, and there's a lot of good use to which it might be put.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Oct 19, 2011 12:42 pm • linkreport

>> "Perhaps, simultaneously, the Mall could be re-built and the parking revenues could be used for the upgrades that the Mall requires, but no one wants to pay for."

The parking revenues of this pie in the sky underground parking at the national mall may very well not even cover the operating and the payments on the capital expenditure on such a garage. So I think you're being pretty optimistic that a garage would generate surplus revenue to refurbish the mall.

by Paul on Oct 19, 2011 12:49 pm • linkreport

@MLD - in who's opinion? yours? I'm sure taxpayers coming in from Shady Grove and Vienna would appreciate it, as would folks coming in from Dulles on the new Silver Line.

Myself at Silver Spring...even this morning...one train with a problem caused delays down the entire line. Four tracks would alleviate what is a daily problem, whether it be mechanical or a sick passenger or a jumper.

by Redline SOS on Oct 19, 2011 12:50 pm • linkreport

Paul,

I have no idea, and I'm guessing neither do you, about the financials related to such an enterprise. There is an underground parking garage in Rome under the Borghese Gardens, with a large rental car complex. I can imagine something similar under the Mall. With a direct connection to L'Enfant Plaza and the subway, maybe something vital could be created. That's a big maybe.

by jindc on Oct 19, 2011 1:13 pm • linkreport

I'm sure DC would have a useable interstate system and I-95 would cut through New York Ave and continue north as in the original plans.

If I'm not mistaken, money from that (along with another Potomac River crossing) and put into Metro.

by Michael on Oct 19, 2011 1:14 pm • linkreport

A parking garage under the mall would be a security nightmare in this day and age.

by NikolasM on Oct 19, 2011 1:15 pm • linkreport

"In the 1970s, Arlington was losing population and facing a bleak future as Northern Virginia's doormat to the DC core. But local leaders "bet the ranch" on focusing growth near Metro stations, said Leach."

Having lived here since 1971 let's get this right. The County of Arlington didn't bet the ranch on focusing growth near Metro stations. The free market and capital of those willing to take a risk took care of that. There were really no vast zoning changes and as late as the early 1980's it was not a given growth around the stations would take place. Wonderfully, the free market built a nice walkable community in many areas of Arlington...had it been left to the current Arlington county government...none of this would have taken place. Fortunately a pro-growth strategy was what county residents desired back then.

by Pelham1861 on Oct 19, 2011 1:17 pm • linkreport

There is an underground parking garage in Rome under the Borghese Gardens, with a large rental car complex. I can imagine something similar under the Mall. With a direct connection to L'Enfant Plaza and the subway, maybe something vital could be created. That's a big maybe.

So build a huge parking garage under the mall, and then connect it to Metro, so that people can clog the roads by coming into DC to park their cars and then take the Metro elsewhere in DC?

Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

by MLD on Oct 19, 2011 1:20 pm • linkreport

The parking scenarios of this article are just plain silly...based on nothing associated with reality. IF, IF such auto congestion has ever taken place in NY or DC...it would have lead to more bus routes, light rail, monorail or something. The idea that cars vs no cars just happens with no association to the market and what people will tolerate is absurd. YES, Metro has helped, in spite of itself, but it became a panacea for all commuting ills. It seems WMATA's only long range plans now are to replace the escalators and re-do the Metro map. There are lots of issues that need to be addressed for the future...and those discussions seem to be going no-where.

by Pelham1861 on Oct 19, 2011 1:23 pm • linkreport

IF such auto congestion has ever taken place in NY or DC...it would have lead to more bus routes, light rail, monorail or something

Something....like a subway?

by andrew on Oct 19, 2011 1:38 pm • linkreport

MLD,

well in my dream world, all metered street parking in downtown and around the Mall is reserved for DC tags only. The tourists and commuters need somewhere else to park...So a huge garage, accessible directly from I-395 and used as an intermodal transit center to move commuters off the downtown streets and onto the Metro makes my travels around DC easier. I don't park downtown much, but its sure a pain when I try to. And if there are fewer cars circling the streets looking for parking, then my walking and biking becomes safer with all the bike lanes and pedestrian only streets we can create.

If you don't want to make a garage friendly to suburban commuters, than make all day parking prohibitively expensive, but keep hourly rates reasonable for tourists (say less than 6 continuous hours?). I'm fine with having a place for tourists to park (and for tour busses to stage) that isn't on surface streets.

Clearly it's not a realistic vision.

by jindc on Oct 19, 2011 1:40 pm • linkreport

What would DC look like without Metro?

I know some people would like to say "like Detroit" -- a wasteland of gloom and despair that was led there by King Car -- but the reality is that we would probably look more like Dallas. DC's economic environment is structured, just like Dallas's, around an overwhelming exogenous factor that largely dictates the health of the economy. In DC it's the federal government, in Dallas it's the energy industry.

Now, you can argue day and night, which is better Dallas or DC but the reality is that it's largely a matter of personal preference. Personally, I'd take DC in a hearbeat but obviously, a lot of people like Dallas.

by Falls Church on Oct 19, 2011 2:56 pm • linkreport

One other point. Even though DC has metro (and denser, smarter growth) and Dallas has no heavy rail (and is sprawling and auto-oriented), Dallas residents have shorter commutes on average than DC residents. Obviously, that's only one factor in life quality, but it goes to show that the Dallas model clearly works for people who like that sort of thing.

by Falls Church on Oct 19, 2011 3:04 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church, but Dallas wouldn't be a big city, and maybe DC wouldn't be as big, without air conditioning. w/o AC the energy industry would have its headquarters somewhere else, like Detroit. Also, DC has sections that date to the 18th & early 19th c. that helped shape the city by inspiring people to oppose the destruction of these neighborhoods for the planned interstates when Dallas was getting interstates -were there historic neighborhoods destroyed in Dallas for the interstates? I don't know anything about Dallas except that its growth was greatly influenced by the availability of AC.

by Tina on Oct 19, 2011 3:56 pm • linkreport

@Redline SOS: If it were a four-track system, there would be no Shady Grove or Vienna stations. Instead of a 100+ mile system, we would have gotten a 50- or 60-mile system.

by c5karl on Oct 19, 2011 4:09 pm • linkreport

@charlie

I think there are something like 200,000 people getting the federal transit benefit. So let's double the size of the Naitonal Mall garage -- 10 stories. Cost in 1976: $2 billion

The cost would more that double to double the depth. The deeper you go, the more expensive it gets.

Here's my serious point: Most of the success of DC in the last 10 years in macroeconomic. We've had good, decent middle class jobs stay in place because, well, the feds pay decent. A lot of the reasons cited for DC here have far more to do with than metro.

I don't think the argument is that Metro is responsible for DC's macro success - but that metro shaped the region into what it is today. That's, frankly, undeniable. Transportation of all kinds shapes development - it always has.

Now, I'd make some arguments about dense areas being more productive and whatnot (not to mention the negative externalities of auto-centric development), but even keeping all that equal, Metro is what enables DC to be so dense.

by Alex B. on Oct 19, 2011 6:41 pm • linkreport

This is an easy one. If we didn't have Metro, we'd be just like Baltimore. The Mall would be like Baltimore's Inner Harbor, only bigger. Other than that, no difference.

by Dan on Oct 19, 2011 6:50 pm • linkreport

I often wonder about a 3-track system instead of 4. Seems like it creates enormous additional flexibility at an in-between cost. It gets around single tracking, and express trains can run in the peak direction.

by Steve O on Oct 19, 2011 8:03 pm • linkreport

Out of curiosity, why is quadruple-tracking assumed to be the next step up? Wouldn't triple-tracking be enough to allow some express trains and/or avoid such heavy maintenance-related delays?

by jakeod on Oct 19, 2011 8:11 pm • linkreport

(Darn, that's what I get for not refreshing after reading all the comments.)

by jakeod on Oct 19, 2011 8:12 pm • linkreport

Maybe DC may have got an actual subway similar to other cities and not a subway/commuter rail system.

Many parts of DC outside of Downtown, Columbia Heights, Ft Totten and along Georgia Ave and the occasional scattered new development look the same as they did before the Metro.

by kk on Oct 19, 2011 8:59 pm • linkreport

I don't think it's necessary to quadruple track the system. Rather, less interlining is necessary, especially in the core where these delays affect the most people. Say we had a separate Blue Line; the current Orange Line could be shut down entirely or in large sections, while simply rerouting passengers through a similar yet slightly offset path through Downtown. Done on a weekend, the volume would simply be similar to a weekend with little additional trip time. Further, trains could be rerouted in the event of a problem on a line, allowing the section of track in question to be cleared of an incident faster. It's like adding tracks but serving more neighbourhoods and improving connections outside of the Metro Center/Gallery Place/L'Enfant triangle.

by Phil on Oct 19, 2011 10:49 pm • linkreport

You can't quadruple (or triple) track the system. You'd essentially be demolishing the entire system and rebuilding it in the same place. That's not even close to worth it.

That's how NY got their 4 track lines - by demolishing elevateds and replacing them with subways.

by Alex B. on Oct 19, 2011 11:57 pm • linkreport

I think people also need to consider how many people live here because this area provides a walkable / transit lifestyle option. I know if I had job offers in Phoenix, Houston, or DC, I'd choose DC every time just so I wouldn't have to drive everywhere. Only in a head-to-head with other transit-based cities like NY or Chicago would I have to dig deeper for quality of life / cost of living trade offs.

by canterberry on Oct 20, 2011 12:50 am • linkreport

As for the quadruple tracking question, why do a full 4? It makes a lot more sense to just add a third track in the inner parts of the system (like on the red line between Grosvenor and Silver Spring), that way express trains can be run during rush hour in either direction AND single-tracking is only an issue for shorter trips.

by John M on Oct 20, 2011 2:47 pm • linkreport

It's not as simple as just adding a third track. You'd have to completely rebuild every single station along the way.

This is not the kind of thing that you can just retrofit onto an existing subway, nor is it as 'simple' (relatively) as adding more tracks to a mainline railway.

by Alex B. on Oct 20, 2011 2:57 pm • linkreport

@Alex B.:

Of course it's "not that simple" but implying that each station along the line would need to be rebuilt is an exaggeration. At those depths (primarily on the red line in NW), a third track could be dug along side or beneath the station without disturbing existing tracks or platforms. Of course, major stations would need to be redone, but if you're trying to build a true "Express" track, simply building within what already exists is a no-brainer.

by John M on Oct 20, 2011 4:10 pm • linkreport

@John M

I wasn't even thinking about the underground portions - that alone would be cost prohibitive.

Even if it were just the above ground portions, you'd ideally want your express track in the center - so that both directions can access it. That means rebuilding all of the stations, either by moving side platforms further aside, or shifting island platforms over - otherwise you'd need flyovers for every junction.

Which is my point - by definition, adding an express track is not and cannot be "simply building within what already exists." Adding that kind of feature to a system that was never planned for it would be extremely costly with very little benefit. You'd probably end up paying just as much as you would to build an entirely separate subway line that could parallel the Red line.

by Alex B. on Oct 20, 2011 5:27 pm • linkreport

Why did they not leave room for a extra track from the start or build switches outside of every station on both ends ?

Many of the stations have the extra room that is just wasted it could have been used for room for a future third track.

The stations were built with form over function in mind.

by kk on Oct 21, 2011 11:32 pm • linkreport

When New York built the 6 Av subway in the late 1930s, it was double track, local trains only. In the 1960's two express tracks were added, underneath the existing local tracks. It can be done. Other lines of course have the express and local tracks side by side.

by carletonm on Oct 22, 2011 11:48 am • linkreport

^ The Sixth Avenue Line had to be built around existing the existing PATH line, so the local platforms opened first; however, construction just took longer for the express tracks.

by Phil on Oct 22, 2011 3:29 pm • linkreport

@carletonm

One key difference - the 6th Ave Line was designed for 4 tracks from the start. They built those original 2 tracks specifically with the option to add more tracks later. That is not the case with Metro.

by Alex B. on Oct 22, 2011 3:30 pm • linkreport

If stops were quite limited (say, on the eastern leg of the Red Line, Silver Spring, Ft Totten, and Union Station) it seems that a single TBM-bored tube could be a lot cheaper than building a parallel double track line. And a third track of that sort, particularly with more pocket tracks and a few connections between the extra express tube and the local tracks, would certainly be of great use on the Red Line.

I agree that this is not the first priority - it makes a lot more sense to focus on the need for a second east-west tube along M St (or similar) for the Blue line. But the capacity concerns on the Red line seem real to me...

Are there any other plans being noodled around to expand capacity on the Red line, as there are for the Orange / Blue? I understand that the separated Blue line is far from any funding, but at least Metro is planning!

by DavidDuck on Oct 22, 2011 9:45 pm • linkreport

four tracks are vastly better than three--imagine the Red Line with an inbound express on both legs, where does that train go after emptying in downtown? A short term fix for the Red Line could be putting up enough money to get MARC/CSX to run say four Gaithersburg to Union Station shuttles each rush hour and honor Metro fare instruments on all of their Brunswick Line trains. Having de facto express service from both sides of the Red could provide relief at a fraction of the cost of new tunnel work. (As to CSX cooperation, they will ask for the sky, but money does talk) Beyond that full 8 car trains at minimu8m headways will help, but ultimately new tunnels will be required. This time TEN car platforms shallow bore one flight tracks to sidewalks.

by david vartanoff on Oct 23, 2011 1:05 pm • linkreport

I agree that it's too late to add 2 more tracks to the existing 2 track system. Once again, poor planning and lack of forsight, leads to--an outdated system 30 years later. The fact that nobody thought Metro would ever be used in-city, is just outrageously short-sighted.

I also agree instead, Metro should be focusing on building additional "lines" that go West-East/East-West further North of the existing Orange/Blue Line, particularly to serve the M Street, Logan Circle, etc..areas. That would seem to be the smartest at this point.

As for alleviating the Red line...wouldn't the potential new Purple line help somewhat, but providing alternatives for passengers heading from the center out to Maryland? In essence, giving them options as to what line they take (and it what direction) to get North from the city?

by LuvDusty on Oct 24, 2011 1:29 pm • linkreport

If there was no Metro, the writer missed the most obvious answer--the DOT would have gone through with the 1960's era freeway plan for interior Washington: I-266, the Three Sisters Bridge, full interstates through K Street and NY Avenue, and an I-70 spur running right through Northeast.

http://www.roadstothefuture.com/DC_Area_Map_XL.jpg

by Dane on Oct 24, 2011 8:32 pm • linkreport

sometimes I wonder should we be grateful that there is a DC Metro even if it was just hatched out of thin air and lacks express tracks

by seattle snow on Nov 2, 2011 6:41 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

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

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

Your comment:

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

or

Support Us

How can our region be greater?

DC Maryland Virginia Arlington Alexandria Montgomery Prince George's Fairfax Charles Prince William Loudoun Howard Anne Arundel Frederick Tysons Corner Baltimore Falls Church Fairfax City
CC BY-NC