Greater Greater Washington

Why is the ICC so empty? How long will it stay that way?

Travelers on Maryland's newly-opened Intercounty Connector (ICC) highway see a road that seems empty and overbuilt. Yet the Maryland Transportation Authority, which runs the road, says that traffic is slightly heavier than forecast. Can both be right?


Photo by dougtone on Flickr.

Yes, they can.

The ICC could carry 70,000 cars a day without backing up even in the busiest part of rush hour. Last month it carried 21,000 per day, and the state expects traffic volumes to stay below 50,000 each day even after drivers have a few years to learn about the road. The ICC was built to be too big for today's traffic. It was designed for 20 years of future sprawl.

According to the state's forecast for building the ICC, things will look very different in 20 years, and the road will no longer be overbuilt. 18 years from now, traffic forecasters project that the busiest segment of the ICC (between New Hampshire Avenue and I-95) will fill up in the busiest hour of the evening rush hour.

But the state's forecast also assumes that gas will cost $2.50 a gallon, adjusted for future inflation. If instead, gas costs $10 a gallon in 2030, traffic on the ICC is projected to be about 40% below the $2.50/gallon forecast.

With higher gas prices, the overall drop in driving would be smaller, but rising gas prices would take cars off all roads. With parallel routes less congested, fewer drivers would be willing to pay the high ICC tolls. The project consultants make an educated guess that a $2.50 increase in the price of gas would cause people to drive 10% less. Their model calculates that a 10% drop in miles driven on all roads would cause a 16% drop in traffic in the ICC.

Moreover, the forecast assumes more sprawl development. To their credit, forecast authors Wilbur Smith Associates adjusted the official population projections from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, putting a little more future growth in DC and less in outer suburbs. But the forecast still projects outer suburbs to add more people and jobs overall than inner areas.

The forecast also assumes that wealthy and poor neighborhoods will be in the same places in 2030 as they were in 2000. Yet today, the affluent are migrating inward, while the population farther outwhich is the ICC's potential marketis becoming less affluent and thus less likely to be willing to pay high tolls.

Over the next 2-3 years, traffic on the ICC will almost surely increase as drivers get more familiar with the road. But even then it will be half-empty. And what happens after that depends on events that no one can predict with certainty.

If the price of gasoline stays where it is now, the migration of the affluent into DC and Arlington halts, and McMansions spring up like weeds again in exurban counties, the road will indeed be filled with traffic in the evening rush hour 20 years from now. But if the demographic trends of the last five or six years continue, and gas keeps getting more expensive, the outcome will be very different. The ICC will stand forlorn, half-empty at its busiest moments; a $3 billion relic of a policy mistake.

There's nothing at all wrong with building for the future. The planners of Metro thought big, and we are all better off as a result. The question about the ICC is whether it was built for the future, or for a past age of cheap gasoline and sprawl that is gone forever.

Ben Ross was president of the Action Committee for Transit for 15 years. His new book about the politics of urbanism and transit, Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism, is published by Oxford University Press. 

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I don't see the cite for $10 gas in the attached PDF. In any case, since you're assuming 2.50 equivalents -- not including inflation -- in 2030 it might well be that $10 gasoline is the same as $2.50 gas today.

The model is also a bit skewed. With today's cars, there is some advantage to paying a premium for a highway, non congested ride -- there are tremendous efficiencies for doing so versus driving in stop and go traffic.

Electric and hybrid card don't see that.

In other words, in a world of $10 gas, I'd gladly pay $1.50 to save a few miles. My car gets about 30 MPG in freeway, maybe 15 in the city. But a hybrid car can thrive in stop and go, and an electrci car...

another way of saying this it isn't' gas prices, it is time. And trust me, when we do have $10 gasoline inflation will be ugly enough that time is even more valuable....

by charlie on Jan 3, 2012 11:16 am • linkreport

In a world where everything seems to fill up quicker than expected, I'm fine with any transportation project overbuilding that may have occurred. I'd stick with the projections of a professional over me or you any day. And I'm not a fan of induced demand theories either in case anyone wonders. Imagine if Metro had been built with 4 tracks like NYC instead of 2. More expensive and empty early on? You bet. But we'd have a much better system now.

by Fine with it on Jan 3, 2012 11:20 am • linkreport

Perhaps we can turn one lane into express bike lanes.

by ah on Jan 3, 2012 11:24 am • linkreport

I drove the ICC for the first time last week between I95 and I270 and was shocked at how empty and overbuilt it is. Now, it was the holiday week where there was less traffic everywhere but it was the first time in a long time where I could actually use my cruise control because I didn't need to be constantly changing speed because of merging traffic. It reminded me of driving in Iowa.

Not to say that this is a good thing. The billions used to build the ICC could have been put to much better use in improving MARC, building the Purple Line or just maintaining and upgrading existing roads.

by Bryan on Jan 3, 2012 11:30 am • linkreport

I was told by a senior official with the Maryland State Highway Administration that the agency got many comments about how "overbuilt" the "Between the Beltways" segment of I-95 was when it opened to traffic in the early 1970's. I don't think they get those comments any more.

I am curious if the traffic volumes on the ICC "spike" upward when there is a reported crash on I-495 - in particular on the Outer Loop in the morning commute period (there was one reported this morning (2012-01-03) near Md. 97 (Georgia Avenue)).

by C P Zilliacus on Jan 3, 2012 11:56 am • linkreport

Bryan wrote:

The billions used to build the ICC could have been put to much better use in improving MARC, building the Purple Line

Not possible, at least not using the funding sources used to build the ICC. While many believe there is merit in spending money on those projects, most of the construction funding for the ICC came from MdTA revenue bonds, which must be re-paid by tolls. I am not aware of any transit project in the United States that has covered even a small part of its capital costs from fares paid by patrons.

or just maintaining and upgrading existing roads.

That was extensively studied during the study process that led to the 1997 Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the ICC as the Upgrade Existing Roads alternative. It was not consistent with approved and adopted M-NCP&PC Master Plans in both counties and would have had negative impacts on many communities (including mine, in the Fairland Master Plan Area).

by C P Zilliacus on Jan 3, 2012 12:06 pm • linkreport

If we assume that building the ICC was a good idea in terms of linking the network of highways together (dubious, but let's go with it for now), the problem is one of financing. Tolls are great for financing stuff, but they're tolling the wrong lanes here.

The beauty of congestion pricing is that you both limit congestion and you generate revenue to add capacity when its actually needed. If we assume the only way to add capacity here is with new lanes (again, dubious), then it would make far more sense to toll the existing beltway and use that as a financing mechanism for new east-west capacity instead of asking the new road to try and pull its weight.

That kind of tolling usually only works for a key choke point in the network, like a bridge or a tunnel.

Denver has a similar situation, they've built an entire beltway of private toll roads, funded with tolls only on those roads. The finances never quite work out because they're tolling the wrong thing.

by Alex B. on Jan 3, 2012 12:14 pm • linkreport

I will never use local toll roads if I can find a way around them. Tolls are illegal taxes which impair the constitutionally guaranteed right to travel.

by Redline SOS on Jan 3, 2012 12:47 pm • linkreport

At 21,000 users a day, that's only 5 times as many users as Capital Bikeshare gets in a day - at way more than 5 times the cost.

by David C on Jan 3, 2012 12:50 pm • linkreport

aarg. can't cut and paste from PDF.

They are assuming 24K weekday trips for 2009, when the system was half built.

then 112K weekday trips for 2012, when the system is fully open.

So, yes, 21K trips is way below what it should be.

by charlie on Jan 3, 2012 12:57 pm • linkreport

charlie - The prediction for 2012 is Figure 5-7. However, this is how many cars would be on the road (if I understand correctly) if it had already been open several years ago. You need to subtract 42% to get the prediction for 2012 as the first year it is open.

The 21,000 number, according to Liz Essley of the Examiner (who very helpfully answered my questions over the weekend) is the number of cars traveling two ways on the segment between Routes 182 and 650. And since that was only open a few weeks, you have to adjust downward some more from the average of the first year - how much, no one knows for sure.

I think it's fair to say that so far, the prediction is as close to reality as anyone has a right to expect. In the future, we shall see.

by Ben Ross on Jan 3, 2012 1:06 pm • linkreport

This article doesn't seem to take into fact that Fort meade area along I95 is predicted to become one of the largest if not THE largest Cybersecurity hub in nation in the next 2 decades. Thats alot of job growth along with the continued growth of the I270 tech corridor. In fact baltimore was ranked #2 in the country for tech job growth according to forbes. This will be mostly in the suburbs along the I-95 corridor. I would guess there is going to be alot traffic going back and forth between these two job centers as they grow in the future.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/joelkotkin/2011/11/18/the-best-cities-for-technology-jobs/

by mike on Jan 3, 2012 1:08 pm • linkreport

The problem with the ICC remains it is a road from nowhere to nowhere -- and it holds out the prospect of skirting one traffic jam, but still running into another on the other end. If there were people commuting between Laurel and Gaithersburg, or points in between, the road might serve a useful purpose. Even if there were good connections into DC, it might also serve to give a good alternative to the Beltway, but one wonders how many will choose to drive the toll road and then head down Georgia or Connecticut miles above where the Beltway would drip them. For those coming from points farther to the northeast and hoping to skirt jams on 95 and the Beltway, 32 does the trick, taking them to 29 South, for free. Not sure how many would use the ICC and Connecticut as an alternative to I270 and the Beltway from the northwest going into DC.

For the ICC to get enough traffic to make sense and probably to pay for the road, it will take more than just a concentration of McMansions (sorry for the oxymoronic construction) to the north. It's not enough to get the wealthy residents willing and able to afford a toll road commute. They will need to have a destination that makes the ICC a useful commute. If Rockville and Laurel become larger centers of business and commerce, and attractive workplaces for exurban McMansion owners, then the road has a chance -- but that's so far off in the future that it's hard to rationalize the investment. It smacks of Field of Dreams magical thinking. "Build it. They will come."

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Jan 3, 2012 1:12 pm • linkreport

There may be a constitionally protected right to travel freely, but that does not mean a right to free travel. Toll roads or some variant of charge for useage will be the norm on all highways within a generation, and rightly so. First, it's an indefensible subsidy of those who travel longer distances. Second, we have the technology to do it without slowing traffic. And third, the budgetary pressures of road contruction and increasingly maintenance demand it.

by Crickey7 on Jan 3, 2012 1:16 pm • linkreport

@Mike -- The ICC doesn't go to Ft. Meade or Baltimore. Traffic to Ft. Meade ill have to take 32 east of 95. So, one wonders why they would pay to take the ICC, when they could avoid it, going north on free roads (mostly 29) to 32 west of 95. It might shave some commuting time to take 95 instead, but not that much. Depending o n the hour, that stretch of 95 can be expected to be backed up. If you're headed past 32 to Baltimore then the likelihood of hitting a traffic jam increases exponentially. If you can avoid it, you will. I'm really not sure the ICC will help there.

As I wrote above, I think the road can only make sense if the endpoints become destinations themselves. If Rockville and/or Laurel become much bigger hubs of commerce -- places where people will commute to work -- then the road will succeed. If not, it's going to remain a road to nowhere.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Jan 3, 2012 1:22 pm • linkreport

"The question about the ICC is whether it was built for the future, or for a past age of cheap gasoline and sprawl that is gone forever."

Call me cynical but it wasn't built for the future or past but for the landowners and developers who lined the pockets of the politicians.

Hopefully one day society as a whole will realize the terrible mistake that was made in building the ICC.

by Cynical on Jan 3, 2012 1:27 pm • linkreport

RE fuel prices ...

While fuel prices could rise so could fuel efficiency.

RE use projections ...

Also dependent upon economic/population growth forecasts. Economic growth has been pretty good in the DC area over the past 10-20 years (just from memory) relative to the rest of the country. If federal spending is cut that growth rate could be hampered significantly.

by Geof Gee on Jan 3, 2012 1:49 pm • linkreport

Redline SOS is right. Charging people money to use facilities is a socialist practice and should be discontinued at once. The only constitutional way to handle travel is for it to be freely provided by the government.

by Andrew on Jan 3, 2012 1:51 pm • linkreport

I have been taken to task for this observation before, but I've always thought the ICC was really only a piece. It was originally conceived as part of a larger outer beltway, no? In that regard, the road made more sense. It offered a second suburban crossing of the Potomac. Folks here have tried to disabuse of the notion that a second crossing would be useful, but I think it was a big part of the thinking behind the original planning -- and those arguing for that vision eventually scaled down their ambition, even if the road makes a lot less sense without the second crossing.

While I can't recall this, I imagine the original conception also involved a more southerly track, to Rockville, instead of Gaithersburg, but that would have become logistically and economically impossible over the years because Rockville became too built-up. So, the decision was made to take it to 370 and Gaithersburg, which makes the road seriously inconvenient for North Bethesda, Rockville and Potomac travel. I travel between North Bethesda and Columbia fairly frequently. If the ICC was more convenient, I might take it to avoid the Beltway congestion, but it's too far out of the way to justify that route.

Not that this about my convenience -- but there are a lot more people living in the NoBe/Rockville area than in Gaithersburg and Germantown. As for traffic in the other direction, if Science City ever gets built there might be more call for this road up to Gaithersburg. We'll see.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Jan 3, 2012 1:51 pm • linkreport

Cynical is right -- developers must have had a decisive part in planning the ICC. I wouldn't be surprised if Hopkins played a big role with their plans for Science City.

Andrew has a beautifully sarcastic comment about Redline SOS comment regarding a constitutional prohibition against charging for travel. The original comment was so absurd that I wonder if ti wasn't sarcastic, too, If not, can we look forward to Redline SOS' lawsuits attacking Metro, Amtrak and the airlines for charging their customers?

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Jan 3, 2012 2:00 pm • linkreport

@Redline SOS: The government guarantees freedom of the press, but printing presses cost money. Should the government buy me a press?

by Tim on Jan 3, 2012 2:11 pm • linkreport

Redline SOS, Thomas Paine - author of "The Rights of Man" and "Common Sense" - once designed a bridge to be built over the Schulkill River. This was to be a business that made money off of..egads...tolls. But everyone knows that the original T. Paine hated freedom.

by David C on Jan 3, 2012 2:16 pm • linkreport

@David C: What did T. Paine think of auto-tune?

by Tim on Jan 3, 2012 2:19 pm • linkreport

He thought it was Ok as long as you were on a boat. Because a boat voyage back then was a miserable experience during which 1 in 20 people would die, so you kind of needed auto-tune to make it tolerable. He requested that The Crisis be read to Washington's troops with auto-tune for this reason.

by David C on Jan 3, 2012 2:21 pm • linkreport

One can reasonably argue that the ICC is a bad project because it will induce sprawling development (like Konterra in Laurel). But, it seems unlikely that the ICC will be a bad project from lack of use. Can anyone think of any example of a major highway built in this area that's a failure from lack of use?

it would make far more sense to toll the existing beltway and use that as a financing mechanism for new east-west capacity instead of asking the new road to try and pull its weight.

It's politically impossible to ask people in one part of the county to begin paying tolls on the beltway so that people in another part of the county can have a new highway. The only way toll-financing has a chance of working is when the toll-payers are in the same location as the new infrastructure (like Dulles Toll Road financing for Silver Line). Along similar lines, tolling the Beltway to expand the Beltway (like VA HOT lanes) is another idea that could work.

by Falls Church on Jan 3, 2012 2:22 pm • linkreport

Why should we assume the author is correct in his belief that the tolls are high? They are being used, in part, to manage demand so if the state wants to increase use of the ICC one option will be to lower the toll rates. Similarly, if traffic becomes too heavy tolls can be adjusted upward at peak periods to reduce demand and continue to guarantee commuting at the speed limit.

by Steve on Jan 3, 2012 2:34 pm • linkreport

Yes, Eisenhower built the interstate highway system because he was a socialist who wanted to defend the USA from the USSR. Wait, what? Your logic blows.

Infrastructure is meant for the public good. If you want to buy land and build a private road with private dollars go right ahead and try to make a profit. But when the state assembles rights of way to build a road, it is for the public to use, not those wealthy enough to be able to afford the charge to use it.

Public dollars + Public land = Free public access.

by Redline SOS on Jan 3, 2012 2:42 pm • linkreport

@FallsChurch; the ICC is a unique animal. I'd say the best comparsion is the Dulles Greenway. IfI remember correctly, it was also under utilized and faced a lot of financial problems as a result. A failure? Well, it's still there.

@BenRoss; I'd say the projections are inherently broken -- if they were based on the ICC opening 5 years ago. The underlying model may be good. I agree you have to give the ICC a bit more time, but there is a big gap between that 21K figure you are citing and the projected 151. Knowledge and information is one aspect. Overly high tolls and lack of demand is another.

by charlie on Jan 3, 2012 2:47 pm • linkreport

@Redline SOS:
What are your feelings on the gas tax? It's used to purchase private land (making it public) and build public infrastructure for transportation, so it shouldn't be charged either, right?

by Matt Johnson on Jan 3, 2012 2:59 pm • linkreport

Imagine if Metro had been built with 4 tracks like NYC instead of 2. More expensive and empty early on? You bet. But we'd have a much better system now.

Offtopic: This is a handwaving gesture that people around here make all the time, and it's been pretty heavily debunked by the professional planning community, as well as the planners who originally designed Metro. DC does not have New York's population density, and unlike New York, we have fast trains, fairly straight tracks, and room to build (separate) new lines downtown. 4-track subways can cost more than double what a two-track system does, and it's simply not worth the extra investment unless you're on a tiny island of 5 million people.

by andrew on Jan 3, 2012 3:04 pm • linkreport

"Yes, Eisenhower built the interstate highway system because he was a socialist who wanted to defend the USA from the USSR. Wait, what? Your logic blows. "

actually LOTS of socialists (including the man who wrote the book that inspired my handle) wanted to defend the USA against the USSR. And of course in western europe social democratic parties often headed govts that were enthusiastic supporters of NATO.

This isnt really aboue Ike, much less highways, but this meme that somehow being a socialist made one pro-soviet is dismally ignorant.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 3, 2012 3:04 pm • linkreport

Too much of the ICC debate was about whether the road was needed or not. Too little was about whether the road was a wise use of funds. In my opinion, at $3 billion, the opportunity cost of the ICC was far too high. Even a small share of that money could have rebuilt a lot of Maryland's disastrous suburban arterial roads into complete streets that actually enhance, rather than detract from, community value, and entice, rather than repel, most businesses.

by Greenbelt on Jan 3, 2012 3:05 pm • linkreport

"Public dollars + Public land = Free public access."

by Redline SOS

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

Indeed. And the same logic would apply to publicly-owned rails and public airspace. So, let's get cracking on that.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Jan 3, 2012 3:51 pm • linkreport

I'm anxious to start running my train on the Metro lines....

I'm glad I have the right to do this...at no charge.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Jan 3, 2012 3:53 pm • linkreport

@Redline SOS -- Your argument might almost make sense, if gov'ts didn't improve that land, with things like roads and highways. Free access to public land doesn't mean free access to public improvements. Note federal parks and lodging provided there. Not free, nor do you have an absolute to stay thee, especially if someone else is already staying in and paying for the room/cabin.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Jan 3, 2012 3:58 pm • linkreport

andrew-

I know it's off topic, but I'd be curious know more about why that is.

I mean 3 (if not 4) tracks would seem - in my admittedly amateur estimation - like a better number for parts of Metro, even at current ridership levels. In addition to running express/limited service in the peak direction of travel, it seems like there could be substantial maintenance cost and service advantages (e.g., track/tunnel inspection/maintenance/replacement can be done without shutting down segments or double tracking = done more easily and more proactively, with less overtime, delays, shuttling, etc.).

I was also under the impression that station construction costs were a pretty significant factor, at least in the underground/urban portions of the system. But I'd presume station costs would be more or less fixed with respect to additional parallel track miles, so costs for those tunnels would have to scale very rapidly to make the overall scaling greater than linear. And, again from a possibly naive perspective, that seems unlikely. Aren't tunneling costs mostly linear, dominated by fill removal, supports, track, etc.? Other costs, like vent shafts, tunneling machines, geological surveys, and general engineering expertise should scale even better than linearly, perhaps much better.

(I could see how, if it's relatively easy to bore a new tunnel later, then pre-building extra tracks at the very start - when they would have been idle for a long period, and maintenance would not yet be a big issue - would be foolish. Instead additional tracks could be added gradually as the load starts to make them make sense (which they may or may not be the case today on some lines). That's different from extra tracks not making sense ever though.)

by jack lecou on Jan 3, 2012 5:06 pm • linkreport

jack, those are excellent questions.

I can see the trade off between redundant tracking on the one hand and expanding the system on the other. It's basically a reliability vs. access trade-off. The same as CaBi station placement. But I don't get how a third/fourth track is so much more expensive. This is more a statement of my ignorance than andrew's accuracy.

by David C on Jan 3, 2012 5:13 pm • linkreport

Yeah, there's definitely a question of priorities and tradeoffs, and I don't really even have a position on what would be preferable if both options were on the table.

But on the question of costs, a four-track line being more than double the cost of a two-track line implies that adding two new tracks alongside the red line, say, would be MORE expensive than a new two-track line of equal length, AND an equal number/complexity of totally new stations.

I'm having trouble imagining what factors might be lurking out there that could make that true. It could well be - I'm just curious how.

by jack lecou on Jan 3, 2012 5:46 pm • linkreport

jack lecou: Off the top of my head, I suspect a 4-track line is more expensive because it's less likely to fit entirely under the street. Not so many streets are wide enough for 4 tracks side by side.

If it can't fit, you either have to go under private property, which requires paying for rights and underpinning the buildings, or else stacking the tracks, which is expensive because you have to build supports for the upper tracks.

Even if the street is wide enough, if you dig close to the buildings then you have to do more engineering to keep from messing up the foundation than if you are digging farther away.

by David Alpert on Jan 3, 2012 6:00 pm • linkreport

The empty is due to the toll rqtes are just way too high!

by hmc19 on Jan 3, 2012 6:02 pm • linkreport

Hmm. That makes some sense.

I was under the impression that deep bored tunnels (e.g, the DC Metro, as opposed to the cut-and-cover type construction of most of the NY subway) didn't have to worry overly about what was near the surface. But perhaps that's mistaken. I've certainly observed that some of the lines downtown are pretty shallow, probably not much (if any) under foundation level, so maybe it's more of an issue there than it might be in, say, Bethesda or Wheaton where the lines are quite deep.

Still, even if you'd ideally want to line up with surface streets, it appears that, in practice, actual real-world lines largely don't*. If you're already going under or near buildings for most of the route for various other reasons (and incurring those costs either way), won't the non-linear impact of additional tunnels still be pretty limited?

---
* AFAICT, most of the lines in downtown DC curve and zig zag without excessive concern for surface street alignment - even when moving a station over a block or three might have kept things grid aligned. The only major exception appears to be Red up Connecticut to Van Ness and a bit of the Green on 7th st, both of which may be as much about having a bunch of destinations lined up as about a desire to follow the streets per se.

by jack lecou on Jan 3, 2012 7:00 pm • linkreport

What was the point of building 3 lanes each way TODAY?

Why not 2, leaving room for the third?

by JJJJJ on Jan 3, 2012 8:00 pm • linkreport

What other rapid transit systems use four track lines besides New York? Why do we keep coming back to this talking point?

by Frank IBC on Jan 3, 2012 8:02 pm • linkreport

Four track tunnels only work in New York because 1) it was cheap to build them back in the early 1900s and 2) trunk lines run below avenues wider than almost any street in DC. The only thoroughfare in the District that's wide enough to handle such infrastructure is Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol. Otherwise you have to stack and that's an insane engineering proposition at this point.

Quite frankly, DC isn't set up in a way that a four track system would work. It's important to remember as well that the majority of the NYC Subway is NOT in Manhattan and therefore usually only two (or perhaps three) tracks in total. The main exceptions - the Eastern Parkway, Queens Boulevard, 4th Avenue, and Brighton Lines - are all major routes in the outer boroughs that also branch off into two-track lines. This is consistent with the subway's passenger distribution mechanism, whereby express routes in Manhattan eventually become local lines in the outer boroughs, almost a commuter-type system. Local lines in turn end in or directly outside Manhattan, with express trains continuing as local afterwards. If this is the case, then express lines in DC would have to run even farther out and that would be almost insane from a transportation planning perspective.

by Phil on Jan 3, 2012 8:42 pm • linkreport

Is that a "talking point" for someone?

To answer your question, a cursory glance at wikipedia suggests a partial list would include Philadelphia, Chicago, London, Berlin, and a short length in Hong Kong. Triple or quadruple track is much more common on commuter or intercity rail.

by jack lecou on Jan 3, 2012 9:07 pm • linkreport

David Alpert@- "Even if the street is wide enough, if you dig close to the buildings then you have to do more engineering to keep from messing up the foundation than if you are digging farther away."

Depends greatly upon the type of buildings- old townhouses, yes, modern office type buildings, no, because the latter have far more substantial foundations.

by Douglas Willinger on Jan 3, 2012 9:15 pm • linkreport

Does anyone have any numbers yet upon the between I-270 and I-95 segment of the Capital Beltway, and any other roads the ICC would logically take some of the traffic?

by Douglas Willinger on Jan 3, 2012 9:16 pm • linkreport

"Imagine if Metro had been built with 4 tracks like NYC instead of 2. More expensive and empty early on? You bet. But we'd have a much better system now."

What about a 3 track, with the middle a reversible express?

by Douglas Willinger on Jan 3, 2012 9:19 pm • linkreport

A 4 track, bilevel system (as opposed to side by side) could have been implemented relatively cheaply (far less than twice the cost), but ridership projections just didn't merit it. Metro designers were also obsessed with the vaulted, monumental design you see today. A retrofit is just not an option, operationally or financially.

These days, not only is such a system technically feasible for a new core-crossing line, but I would argue it's advisable given four changes from the 70s: 1) Expected transportation and energy conditions in this century, 2) Great success in expanding the ridership so far, 3) Dramatic increases in core urbanization and costs for near-surface construction, with lower tolerance for construction disturbances, and 4) Advances in the size and adaptibility of deep tunnel boring machines make it plausible to have a small center platform station with no additional excavation other than elevator, stairwell, and ventilation shafts. A tunnel wide enough for underground stations could run three or four tracks abreast (leaving room for interchanges) on each level between stations, and would either have a big empty tube above it, or a second track/station level. I would really like to see WMATA at least evaluate this option for their next line. A huge TBM project is expensive, but even undersea tunnels aren't coming up as pricy per-mile as near-surface tunnels and stations through local cities, and it is preventing new lines from being considered.

PS: *any* new tunnel system designed today should leave engineering room for alternate power options, like streetcar/Acela overhead cables, for potential future cross-system operation. A grade-separated tunnel like this might even make some operation feasible without fixing FRA rules.

by Squalish on Jan 3, 2012 9:48 pm • linkreport

jack lecou wrote: "A cursory glance at wikipedia suggests a partial list would include Philadelphia, Chicago, London, Berlin, and a short length in Hong Kong."

I see multiple tracks listed for only for part of Philadelphia's Broad Street line (7 miles) and part of Chicago's Purple line (9 miles), and part of Hong Kong's West line (2.5 miles).

For Berlin and London, there are multiple tracks at major terminal stations or junctions (some of these are pocket tracks like at DC's National Airport station), but not continuous through any line.

The only subway system in which the majority of lines have more than two tracks is New York's.

by Frank IBC on Jan 3, 2012 10:07 pm • linkreport

Also, the "local" stations in New York's subway are spaced as closely as 1/4 mile apart, with express stations approximately 1 1/2 miles apart, the latter being much closer to the typical distance between DC metro stations.

by Frank IBC on Jan 3, 2012 10:16 pm • linkreport

David A, great answer thanks.

Regardless, the ship has sailed on redundant tracking Metro. Right now. If we want greater reliability, the best option is to decouple the orange and blue lines. Am I the only one driven borderline insane by the fact that no one is talking about this? Not even in a 10 or 25 year time frame.

by David C on Jan 3, 2012 10:36 pm • linkreport

For Berlin and London, there are multiple tracks at major terminal stations or junctions (some of these are pocket tracks like at DC's National Airport station), but not continuous through any line.

WP says non-negligible sections of both the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines are quadruple tracked in London. The 12km Berlin Stadtbahn line is also quadruple tracked. (It carries a mixture of rapid transit and regional/long distance trains.)

The only subway system in which the majority of lines have more than two tracks is New York's.

Nobody's actually proposing going back in time to 1968 and convincing Congress to fund quadruple tracking on the original lines, so I'm not sure why you've made "majority" the criteria here. The comparison is presumably to actual DC Metro proposals covering a small portion of the system (such as a separate downtown Blue line, or including quadruple tracks in any completely new core lines). "Majority" doesn't seem like a valid exclusion.

Also, the "local" stations in New York's subway are spaced as closely as 1/4 mile apart, with express stations approximately 1 1/2 miles apart, the latter being much closer to the typical distance between DC metro stations.

Note that multiple tracks in DC wouldn't necessarily be used exactly the way they are in NYC. Especially since they obviously wouldn't cover a majority of the system. The additional operational flexibility particular segments could provide may or may not be worth it, but pointing out that the DC Metro isn't exactly like the NYC subway isn't really making the case either way.

by jack lecou on Jan 4, 2012 12:31 am • linkreport

@Redline SOS has a point (sort of), but I doubt he (or she) knows why.

I'm rusty on my history-- so, constitutional historians please correct me if I'm wrong-- but I'm under the impression that tolls played a major role in the creation of the US Constitution. One of the original "exigencies of union" was related to the states' common practice of charging tolls merely to cross state lines (and yes, I'm award of the Delaware Turnpike).

This practice affected interstate commerce: particularly the commerce of interstate turnpike and canal companies, including those envisioned by George Washington himself. Many canals and turnpikes not only crossed state lines but, like the imminent canalization of the Potomac, crossed state lines multiple times. Their costumers (who were already charged tolls by the companies that owned the canal/turnpike) also payed a toll every time they crossed a state border.

I suspect (and again, constitutional historians may disagree) that these tolls probably did not go towards the maintenance or capital construction costs of canals and turnpikes, but were probably just a form of interstate tariff. Clearly, interstate tariffs are unconstitutional.

And, of course, there are all kinds of state and Federal constitutional issues that may come in to play if the state was actively blocking, or forcing citizens to pay for, a pre-existing pathway. Untold numbers of prehistoric, nomadic Marylanders may have had their rights violated by the ICC... surely there is at least one prehistoric, nomadic Marylander that has had his or her rights violated by the ICC...

That said Redline, as long as you can shunpike, odds are the state hasn't violated your constitutional rights.

My point isn't that Redline SOS is right-- he isn't-- but that one should never underestimate the ability of an American to find a novel use for (or even a rehashed, old use for) the US Constitution. And really, let's all thank God for that.

by Steven Harrell on Jan 4, 2012 12:33 am • linkreport

@jack lecou:
Your comment about Berlin's Stadtbahn* is inaccurate. If you consider the Stadtbahn 4-tracked, then Washington also has 4-track sections.

The Stadtbahn is a 4-track railway viaduct running east-west through central Berlin. The northern-most 2 tracks carry rapid transit making local stops. These (S-bahn) trains are powered by third rail and are analogous to Metro trains. (Berlin's other rapid transit network, the U-bahn is more analogous to the NYC subway).

The southernmost 2 tracks on the Stadtbahn carry regional and inter-city trains. While the tracks are the same gauge as the rapid transit tracks, these tracks are powered with overhead wire. The regional/inter-city tracks only have platforms at major stations.

The best example of a setup similar to the Stadtbahn is the Red Line from Brookland to Silver Spring, where the railroad cross-section is also 4 tracks. In our case, rapid transit trains run in the center making local stops. Regional (MARC), inter-city (Amtrak), and freight services run on the outer tracks, and only stop at major stations.

But there are other examples as well. The Red Line from Twinbrook to Shady Grove runs in a 4-track cross-section, as well. Two tracks are used for Metro (local stops), and two are used for regional and inter-city. The same setup exists in several other locations: Franconia to National Airport, Cheverly to New Carrollton, and College Park to Greenbelt.

So, the Stadtbahn is not a good example to use.

*In German, "Stadtbahn" (lit. city train) is the term for what we call "light rail" in the United States. Berlin's Stadtbahn predates this naming convention and is rapid rail, not light rail.

You do correctly point out London's 4-track sections.

The Metropolitan Line has some 4-track sections on the suburban sections. Express trains only operate during peak periods. Additionally, there is a section where the Jubilee Line is nested within the Metropolitan Line tracks, where Jubliee trains make local stops, and Metropolitan trains don't stop.

There is also a section where the District and Picadilly Lines use the same alignment. This part of the system is 4-tracked, though most (if not all) stations have platforms on all 4 tracks. Picadilly trains generally run express, while District Line trains make local stops.

The general point is that very few cities have 4-track rapid transit lines. Only one has a network where 4-track is the norm rather than an exception: New York.

That's not to say that 4-track sections of rapid transit aren't good. They're rare for a reason (well, several really). Whether they're a realistic solution for Washington really depends on what problem you're trying to solve, and how much you're willing to spend to fix that problem.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 4, 2012 9:16 am • linkreport

@jack lecou:
Also, I meant to link to this post from a few years ago, which might give you some context about the discussion that is happening here:
http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/3760/

by Matt Johnson on Jan 4, 2012 9:17 am • linkreport

"Travelers on Maryland's newly-opened Intercounty Connector (ICC) highway see a road that seems empty and overbuilt."

So because the often-lamented "induced demand" hasn't materialized, the complaint is now that the ICC is "empty and overbuilt".

by ceefer66 on Jan 4, 2012 9:52 am • linkreport

ceefer666,

This isn't a classic induced demand situation because the road isn't free. Tolling should prevent some of that. Also, it's a bit early for the road to cause sprawl that will increase demand. But it's coming.

The real problem here is the lack of demand. I'm not sure how many users they need every day to cover the maintenance and capital costs of the road, but I'd be stunned if 21,000 was hitting it.

So the initial demand is too low to sustain the cost of the road. The only way to get enough users to pay for the road is through sprawl, which is also probably unsustainable without subsidy. So it will likely be a loser all around.

by David C on Jan 4, 2012 10:15 am • linkreport

Alex B. wrote:

The beauty of congestion pricing is that you both limit congestion and you generate revenue to add capacity when its actually needed. If we assume the only way to add capacity here is with new lanes (again, dubious), then it would make far more sense to toll the existing beltway and use that as a financing mechanism for new east-west capacity instead of asking the new road to try and pull its weight.

The only way to fund construction of a highway like the ICC, given the current state of Maryland's Transportation Trust Fund, was with a packages of bonds, mostly MdTA (toll) revenue bonds.

That kind of tolling usually only works for a key choke point in the network, like a bridge or a tunnel.

Seems to have worked out decently for Ontario's Highway 407 toll road. Like the ICC, 407 parallels an existing "free" (and frequently congested) road, Highway 401 (the Macdonald–Cartier Freeway).

by C P Zilliacus on Jan 4, 2012 10:51 am • linkreport

'So because the often-lamented "induced demand" hasn't materialized, the complaint is now that the ICC is "empty and overbuilt".'

Only time will tell which of these two undesirable outcomes will prevail.

by Bruce on Jan 4, 2012 11:12 am • linkreport

David C wrote:

This isn't a classic induced demand situation because the road isn't free. Tolling should prevent some of that.

I agree.

Also, it's a bit early for the road to cause sprawl that will increase demand. But it's coming.

I vigorously disagree with the above. The ICC, just by being on the M-NCP&PC Master Plan of Highways, has "caused" much suburban development by its mere presence on those maps.

Longmeade Crossing, a 1980's large development in Aspen Hill, was approved only with the understanding that the developers would deed-over land needed for the ICC, which they did (and curiously, was the site of much recent opposition to the ICC, even though none of the homes there were built before the road was placed on the master plan).

The Montgomery County Planning Board has been happily approving development along the ICC (especially in Olney, Aspen Hill, White Oak and Fairland) since the 1970's with the understanding that the road would eventually get built. That's one of the reasons that when the County Council told the Planning Board and planning staff to look at removing the highway from the maps in about 2000, the response was that it would take many years of planning staff time to complete the task.

The real problem here is the lack of demand. I'm not sure how many users they need every day to cover the maintenance and capital costs of the road, but I'd be stunned if 21,000 was hitting it.

Most of the ICC opened just before Thanksgiving 2011. Let's give it a year or two before drawing conclusions about traffic volumes. Would you have drawn conclusions about Metrorail Red Line patronage based passenger volumes in, say, 1979?

So the initial demand is too low to sustain the cost of the road. The only way to get enough users to pay for the road is through sprawl, which is also probably unsustainable without subsidy. So it will likely be a loser all around.

The one (large) suburban development that's been waiting for the ICC is Konterra in Prince George's County. Unlike development along the ICC in Montgomery County, the owners of Konterra were told by Prince George's County planners that the development had to wait for the ICC (in other words, the county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance did what it was supposed to do). Consider also that the Prince George's County Council, in writing at least two resolutions against the ICC, carefully included the words "a link between U.S. 1 and U.S. 29" in them (in other words, the County Council was voicing support for the entire ICC in their county).

by C P Zilliacus on Jan 4, 2012 11:16 am • linkreport

Fair enough, let me edit myself then. "it's a bit early for the road to cause sprawl that will increase demand" becomes "The road has only started to cause sprawl and will cause more that will increase demand."

As for drawing conclusions, I wasn't. I stated a fact. It's now getting 21000 trips. That probably isn't enough to pay the bills. I will be equally shocked if the road maxes out at 21,000 trips a day.

by David C on Jan 4, 2012 11:21 am • linkreport

So, the Stadtbahn is not a good example to use.

It is a bit of a stretch, certainly. But to the extent that the regional trains share platforms etc. (not sure how much they do) and mimic the function of suburban "express" trains, there's an analogy to be drawn.

I'm not sure any of the existing DC stretches are integrated well enough to qualify. But imagine if DC had commuter rail lines with low fares, headways of only a few minutes, tracks that paralleled one or more Metro lines, and a number of shared stations - at least 2 or 3 of them high volume stations within the center city (i.e., not just Union Station).

It wouldn't be as convenient maintenance wise as a true 4-tracked Metro line, but the load spreading effects, for example, would be similar to some of the other ways you might use a 4-tracked line.

The general point is that very few cities have 4-track rapid transit lines. Only one has a network where 4-track is the norm rather than an exception: New York.

Agreed, so far as it goes. It's just that I find this point rather meaningless. The fact is there are also relatively few cities in the world with any significant heavy-rail rapid transit at all (a few dozen?) and even fewer with volumes similar to DC's. The sample size is tiny. And all of them have their own particular design/funding/operational constraints and other idiosyncrasies. None are particularly similar or generally comparable - it's possible to make various limited, specific comparisons, but generalizations are not really useful*.

There are no doubt plenty of convincing arguments for why 4-track lines weren't and aren't the best option for Metro (which is one reason I thought Andrew's "more than double" assertion was provocative). I really don't think "nobody else does it that way" is one of them, however.

----
* For example, if you imagine that there are several distinct sets of attributes that might make 4-track lines a sensible thing to have, say set A, set Q and set T. Maybe the NYC subway has set A. We can say that DC isn't much like NYC and conclude that DC Metro probably does not have exactly set A, but we still don't know about Q or T, which wouldn't look much like NY either.

Let's say we go on to observe that none of the other few dozen comparable systems in the world have significant 4-tracking (not even quite true, as noted above). Can we generalize and conclude that DC must not have attributes Q or T either? Not really. We can't actually even say for sure whether or not some of those cities might benefit from quadruple tracking but simply haven't noticed/bothered/been able to. (Maybe because someone there successfully argued that "nobody else is doing it"!)

We can conclude that quadruple tracking is much less common than double tracking, but we'd also have to note that it's not crazy or unheard of either. So we still have to actually do the work to figure out specifically where and when it does and doesn't make sense.

by jack lecou on Jan 4, 2012 11:57 am • linkreport

@jack lecou:
I agree with most of your comment.

I just want to talk a little more about the Stadtbahn. While the S-bahn and U-bahn (both rapid transit) are a part of the same fare system, regional and inter-city trains are not. So it's not possible to be at Westkreuz bound for Alexanderplatz with an S-bahn ticket and jump on a Regio.

Even if you could use the same ticket, the S-bahn does not share platforms with regional and inter-city trains (though they do share stations).

So if you're at Silver Spring and you want to go to Union Station in the morning, you have two options. One option is to take the Red Line. The other is to take MARC. But the trains do not share fare media or a platform.

While the trains run on the same gauge track, one uses electric power (third rail) while the other has rolling stock that is not compatible with track geometry (tunnel clearances) on the other.

The barriers aren't the same with the Stadtbahn, but it's very similar to the setup of the MARC/Red Line here.

I agree that the frequency (and lack of bi-directional traffic) on MARC is a hindrance, but my opinion is that if you count the Stadtbahn as a 4-track rapid transit line, you also have to count a portion of the Red Line in the same fashion.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 4, 2012 12:23 pm • linkreport

I agree that the frequency (and lack of bi-directional traffic) on MARC is a hindrance, but my opinion is that if you count the Stadtbahn as a 4-track rapid transit line, you also have to count a portion of the Red Line in the same fashion.

I think it's a spectrum. I'd rate the MARC much lower myself, mostly because of service frequency and number of downtown stops, but it's possible I shouldn't be uprating the Stadtbahn either - I admit I don't know much about it.

Interesting about the fare systems. That seems like a missed opportunity. On MARC as well: technically it would be relatively easy to accept, e.g., Smartrip cards for fare - just have a post on the platform with a reader and/or handheld units for conductors. (Platforms could probably be more closely connected too - like, why couldn't there be small bridge between the platforms at Silver Spring?)

by jack lecou on Jan 4, 2012 12:43 pm • linkreport

"The fact is there are also relatively few cities in the world with any significant heavy-rail rapid transit at all (a few dozen?) and even fewer with volumes similar to DC's."

Wikipedia lists 132 metro systems across the world. Of those, 42 have annual ridership greater than that of the Washington DC metro system. Of those, 25 have ridership more than double that of DC's, 11 have ridership more than five times that of DC's, and the top two have ridership between 10 and 15 that of DC's.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metro_systems_by_annual_passenger_rides

by Frank IBC on Jan 4, 2012 12:48 pm • linkreport

Wikipedia lists 132 metro systems across the world. Of those, 42 have annual ridership greater than that of the Washington DC metro system. Of those, 25 have ridership more than double that of DC's, 11 have ridership more than five times that of DC's, and the top two have ridership between 10 and 15 that of DC's.

Alright. So about 10-11 dozen then.

And all of them pretty idiosyncratic. For example, picking at random, Chicago's L is 4 places below DC on that list, but is in a much larger city, and has some 4-tracking going on. Minsk, 3 spots above DC, has only has 2 lines with 25km of track between them (DC has 171km) - clearly not really an urban/suburban system like DC's.

(Also, here's another 4-track for the list: Yūrakuchō line in Tokyo. It's also worth noting that the Tokyo subway accounts for less than 22% of the daily rail ridership, and the fare system is mostly unified between area commuter and rapid transit. Maybe not 4-tracking per se, but it's analogous in many ways. See above discussion.)

by jack lecou on Jan 4, 2012 1:15 pm • linkreport

(Corrections dept: meant 30km in Minsk - read the wrong box. And that was supposed to be "less than a quarter" not "less than 22%" for Tokyo. It is in fact 22%.)

by jack lecou on Jan 4, 2012 1:31 pm • linkreport

I take it from Capitol Hill to Rockville every day. It's cut 30 minutes off my commute time. Red line reliability has become a bag of sh-- so I can't take that anymore --and the RideOn connection for the last mile was always the thing that put me back in my car. Now that peak of peak fares are in full force, it's a stupid (expensive + slow) option.

However there was always a tug of war with all the VA side Tyson's construction and the horrific delays getting back to the GW Parkway. If I left at a normal work departure time, say 5pm, I'd be stuck for 45 minutes trying to get from the spur to GW. Add a wreck or some rain and I'd be snaking through Potomac or just having dinner at the mall.

With the ICC I can fly home. There's a short section on 495 that is a parking lot in the afternoon, so I do hope the ICC gets pushed all the way to the BWPkwy, but I can live with the ~2miles on 495 in the afternoon. Best $4 I've ever spent.

I actually think the entire beltway needs to be switched to congestion pricing. I know the Federal problems with implementation, but it would be a fantastic solution. Push the people with economically unjustifiable commutes (Howard to Tysons) to move.

by eb on Jan 4, 2012 2:46 pm • linkreport

Time now to turn our highway building attentions to within the Beltway:

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2007/09/washington-dc-big-dig.html

by Douglas Willinger on Jan 4, 2012 2:54 pm • linkreport

@Douglass Willenger:

This is the downside to political and economic segregation that has benefited the suburbs to DCs disadvantage for all these years. Since the obvious benefits would fall mainly to non- DC voters, and the inconvenience would fall mainly on DC voters, the likelihood of such a project coming to fruition is negligible.

We're much, much more likely see the removal of existing highways than the costly construction of new ones.

by oboe on Jan 4, 2012 3:06 pm • linkreport

"Consider also that the Prince George's County Council, in writing at least two resolutions against the ICC, carefully included the words "a link between U.S. 1 and U.S. 29" in them (in other words, the County Council was voicing support for the entire ICC in their county)."

How are two resolutions against the ICC voicing support for the ICC? Maybe it's just me, but I don't follow your logic.

by Bruce on Jan 4, 2012 3:24 pm • linkreport

"I take it from Capitol Hill to Rockville every day. "

"I actually think the entire beltway needs to be switched to congestion pricing. I know the Federal problems with implementation, but it would be a fantastic solution. Push the people with economically unjustifiable commutes (Howard to Tysons) to move."

Be careful what you wish for, some people would say Capitol Hill to Rockville is economically unjustifiable.

by Bruce on Jan 4, 2012 4:20 pm • linkreport

Ben,

You state that:

"The 21,000 number, according to Liz Essley of the Examiner (who very helpfully answered my questions over the weekend) is the number of cars traveling two ways on the segment between Routes 182 and 650."

Just so this is clear, are you (and Liz) saying that there were actually more than 21,000 total ICC users on the average day? If so, why on earth did she not just report the total number of vehicles that used the road, on ANY segment, in either direction? That information, along with the average toll paid per vehicle, would make it much easier to understand whether or not the MDTA can cover expenses and/or the bond payments. Knowing how many traveled on just one particular segment is nearly useless.

by Bruce on Jan 4, 2012 4:47 pm • linkreport

@ Matt Johnson I just want to talk a little more about the Stadtbahn. While the S-bahn and U-bahn (both rapid transit) are a part of the same fare system, regional and inter-city trains are not. So it's not possible to be at Westkreuz bound for Alexanderplatz with an S-bahn ticket and jump on a Regio.

Yes it is! (at least as far as the "regional" trains are concerned) There is integrated regional fare across the entire public transportation system in Berlin, including regional trains. And doing what you describe is EXACTLY what people do - particularly if you are going somewhere far - like to the airport.

You are right, of course, that the regionals and the Sbahns don't share tracks. But they share stations , and there is barrier free access.

by egk on Jan 4, 2012 5:47 pm • linkreport

Bruce wrote:

How are two resolutions against the ICC voicing support for the ICC? Maybe it's just me, but I don't follow your logic.

Much has been made of the two resolutions passed unanimously by the Prince George's County Council against the ICC.

Fair enough.

But those resolutions, upon closer inspection, contained language endorsing the ICC in Prince George's County - in other words, they only opposed the ICC in Montgomery County west of U.S. 29, where the Prince George's County Council should have no say in transportation or land use decisions. As a resident of Montgomery County near the then-proposed U.S. 29/ICC interchange, I very much resented a body of elected officials unaccountable to me and my neighbors attempting to have major highway terminate in the middle of our community.

CR-32-2003 stated, in part (with emphasis added):

WHEREAS, on December 14, 2001, the Prince George’s County Council, County Executive and Chairman of the Prince George’s County Transportation Oversight Committee submitted the Joint Signature letter on State Transportation Priorities to the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation, supporting project planning for alternatives to the construction of the ICC between I-95 and I-270, including an East-West Link between US 29 and US 1 and transit service improvements;

CR-59-2007 stated, in part (also with emphasis added):

WHEREAS, on December 14, 2001, the Prince George’s County Council, County Executive and Chairman of the Prince George’s County Transportation Oversight Committee submitted a Joint Signature letter on State Transportation Priorities to the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation, supporting project planning for alternatives to the construction of the ICC between I-95 and I-270, including an East-West Link between US 29 and US 1 and transit service improvements;

by C P Zilliacus on Jan 4, 2012 9:12 pm • linkreport

egk wrote:

Yes it is! (at least as far as the "regional" trains are concerned) There is integrated regional fare across the entire public transportation system in Berlin, including regional trains. And doing what you describe is EXACTLY what people do - particularly if you are going somewhere far - like to the airport.

Same in many (most? all?) EU cities and metropolitan areas.

Stockholm, considering it is a metropolitan region of less than 2 million people, has an excellent Metrorail (Tunnelbana) system (three main lines, Green, Red and Blue, built in the 1930's through 1950's; 1960's through 1970's; and 1970's through 1980's respectively). But it also has an extensive regional rail system (pendeltåg), which extends out to the exurbs of the region, and two smaller suburban railroad systems (one of which is narrow-gauge). All of these rail systems, and the bus network, operate on one integrated fare system regionwide.

These (subsidized) train systems do not serve the region's airports, however. Those are served by (un-subsidized) bus service. The main international airport (Arlanda) is also served by (un-subsidized) high-speed rail service which runs directly to downtown Stockholm with zero stops.

by C P Zilliacus on Jan 4, 2012 9:22 pm • linkreport

"Since the obvious benefits would fall mainly to non- DC voters, and the inconvenience would fall mainly on DC voters, the likelihood of such a project coming to fruition is negligible."

Not quite true given the Grand Arc Mall. Why should only the richer areas to the west have so much parkland-corridor?

When we speak of segregation, one must at least mention CUA's segregation from eras east by the above ground MBRR-CSX/MARC Red Line RR, which AFAIK opposes even a deck over the RR.

Is not it long overdue that we free ourselves from this foreign domination- tail wagging the dog type of corrupt politics?

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2011/12/within-beltway.html

by Douglas Willinger on Jan 4, 2012 10:27 pm • linkreport

News and Observer article about the Triangle Expressway, an ICC-like highway in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina:

First-day numbers for first NC toll road: 4,400 paying customers

by C P Zilliacus on Jan 4, 2012 11:06 pm • linkreport

Douglas Willinger: Do you have any links to show that someone else is considering these roads, besides you?

by goldfish on Jan 5, 2012 10:33 am • linkreport

Not yet.

I have been told that there is much mid level support for Grand Arc 95 and a Canal Rd Parkway, but that any such progress is absolutely opposed at the very top.

So I say, considering our ongoing political crisis (election after election of phoney after phoney), promoting Washington, D.C. freeways (particularly the botching of 1963 and the disturbing time line/array of facts- see "Within The Beltway") is patriotic duty for exposing the terrible political hegemony that rules from within the Beltway.

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2011/12/within-beltway.html

Damn shame that the ECTC's energies were so mothballed after 1973... so much substantial that they could have protested rather than promote the myth that the US was too poor to afford both WMATA and a continuous reduced freeway system as promoted by JFK- all to the benefit of the wasteful wars.

by Douglas Willinger on Jan 5, 2012 1:42 pm • linkreport

@Douglas Willinger: what about outside of government, like the Chamber of Commerce, Committee of 100, Washington Post (which supported Barney Circle iirc), etc.?

by goldfish on Jan 5, 2012 2:04 pm • linkreport

Committee of 100 was ok around 1962 (pro JFK B&O NCF- PSC suggesting 2nd and 3rd street tunnels as a Center Leg), but went along with the botching, with no apparent discussion, debate etc, thus playing a part of the charade.

The Washington Post? They lie about the numbers and routes and refuse to issue corrections- they too are in the back pocket of the ruling class.

That they would so lie, is particularly telling:

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2007/01/washington-post-lies-about-inside.html

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2009/12/washington-post-continues-lying-about.html

A stance that has to rest upon so many falsehoods is a falsehood itself.

A 60 minutes type episode on this could reveal so much about the political manipulations that emanate from within the Beltway.

by Douglas Willinger on Jan 5, 2012 2:12 pm • linkreport

Douglas Willinger: be careful who you accuse of lying, especially if they are buying their ink by the ton. This does not help your cause.

by goldfish on Jan 5, 2012 3:32 pm • linkreport

See the provided links- The Washington Post lies through its teeth- no way around that without lying to others or oneself.

by Douglas Willinger on Jan 5, 2012 3:34 pm • linkreport

Douglas Willinger: I am familiar with your assertion, but I have no comment about it, because to debate it would be arguing over something long past and can do nothing about. Yes the Post has wrongly supported causes that are wrong, with innuendo and poorly vetted research, and will do so again in the future; so what? I have seen first hand how this game is played by those with the vested interest, with hired "experts" farmed out to sympathetic journalists and strategic press releases... Your resentment against the basically unimpeachable authority of the Post is hopeless; you might as well be barking at the moon. Worse, the energy it costs you detracts from your main agenda, of which there may be some support.

Again: do you have any links (government or private) that review new road options for DC, similar to what you have?

by goldfish on Jan 5, 2012 3:53 pm • linkreport

The Washington Post lies about the facts (aka impacts, displacement figures and about the best route), and they have refused publishing any corrections. What is there to debate about that? They have stated things that are untrue, and I have posted research with scans of original documents showing so.

I and others have shown them to be lying repeatedly:

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2007/03/bob-and-jane-levey-refuted.html

I see no reason to not repeat that.

As for your first and last question, I have already answered that as no.

by Douglas Willinger on Jan 5, 2012 4:02 pm • linkreport

Douglas Willinger: you forget that the Post is in business to deliver an audience to its advertisers. Not successfully -- you may take some comfort that it has been losing gobs of money lately. It does this by printing news, not always accurately.

You have put a lot of work into it, and I think people appreciate that. You would be taken more seriously if you could show someone else supporting road construction. Could you focus your considerable energy into getting some support?

by goldfish on Jan 5, 2012 4:27 pm • linkreport

Ben and others, I should have brought this up much earlier, but please don't forget that the ICC is also a transit corridor (yes, I said transit corridor), with two new Maryland Transit Administration lines up and running now (the 201 (all-day service 7 days per week from Gaithersburg to BWI) and the 202 (peak commute period service between Gaithersburg and Fort Meade)), with several new ICC bus routes starting as of early January 2012.

My only personal gripe is that one or two of the new routes bypass the Shady Grove Metrorail station (in my opinion that is a mistake, even though it takes some time for the bus to turn off of I-370 and come in to the station, the extra time does not seem unreasonable), given the easy vehicular access to and from I-370 and Md. 200 (except 203, which does not come near Shady Grove)

by C P Zilliacus on Jan 6, 2012 4:30 pm • linkreport

I'm a huge proponent of transit, but I believe highways definitely have their place, and the ICC is a very useful (if not critically important) highway. Knowing the extreme anti-road bias of many (though not all) of the contributors on ggw, this piece was probably planned months before the ICC even opened. You can sense the disappointment that the road is actually meeting (and slightly exceeding projections), and that Ben was deprived of writing the negative "I told-you-so " piece he clearly wanted to write.

The ICC saves 15min along whenever I travel between Germantown and Catonsville in Balt. County (which I do bi-monthly), not to mention Baltimore, New York, or any other Northern destination. I'm especially glad to see the many new commuter bus routes (including the 24/7 BWI route) that were funded along with the highway. On my trip to BC today I probably saw around 10.

Don't get me wrong I'll choose rail funding over roads any day, but it's not an either or deal. It's impossible to make transit accessible (or appealing) to everyone, so road investment is necessary. Idiotic projects like the rest of the "Outer Beltway" are not though. Right now the state needs to focus on planning/funding the following transit projects:

- continued MARC improvements: equipment, LED signs, *WEEKEND/MIDDAY SERVICE*, Penn service to Delaware
- continued MTA Commuter Bus expansion
- Purple Line: absolutely *CRITICAL*
- CCT: hopefully done right, with LIGHT RAIL and not BRT
- Baltimore Red Line: also critical
- Southern MD Light Rail from Branch Ave: constantly being pushed onto the back burner

by King Terrapin on Jan 8, 2012 5:20 pm • linkreport

The argument that toll roads are unconstitutional is absurd and history shows just the opposite.

The first major toll road, between Philadelphia and Lancaster, opened in 1790, before the Constitution was ratified by the original 13 states. Nearly all major roads in the early days of the republic had stretches where local landowners improved the surface with wooden planks (macadam) to improve travel, especially in rainy weather. They charged tolls.

Little River Turnpike, in Virginia, was the first toll road in this area. My family's farm/ranch in California is just off Tollhouse Road, which was the major road from Fresno to the foothills and mountains south of Yosemite. In fact, our property came with an easement from 1909, which states that the Butterfield Stage Coach Line can travel over our property on their way to the town of San Joaquin.

Court decisions as recent as Edwards v California have restricted state's efforts to charge people for the right to enter their state or to bar freedom of travel (Edwards essentially stopped California from barring poor Oakies and Arkies), but neither the high court nor any other court has barred states, localities, or special governing authorities (Port Authority, etc) from charging tolls or other user fees to use highways, bridges, or tunnels.

Somebody has to pay for infrastructure. The issue of whether everyone should pay, or whether user fees should pay most (or all) is a legit issue. It is a political issue, but not a legal issue....because the people - through their elected representatives, have the right to decide whether highways will be freeways or toll roads.

by Mike S. on Jan 8, 2012 9:03 pm • linkreport

Douglas Willinger: Do you have any links to show that someone else is considering these roads, besides you?

Thought this was interesting and relevant.

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2011/11/death-row-urban-highways/411/#slide8

There's a political problem with proposing new urban highways: specifically that the folks who want them generally don't live where they're going to be built, and the people who do live there realize they only degrade the city. Or as the article puts it "highways beget corruption of the city core: they make it less pleasant to live downtown, at the very same time they make it easier to live farther away."

by oboe on Jan 9, 2012 11:36 am • linkreport

That from a publication that confuses a tunnel with an elevated, such as the fiction of an elevated atop Mt Vernon Square, or the Congress for New Urbanism that falsely claims the Rt 34 freeway ends as an elevated (it ends underground beneath an Air Rights garage- do they even look at what they write about?

The lack of a continuous highway at New York Avenue makes that area less pleasant. But to admit that goes against the ideology so it can't be said, because truth is irrelevant- as with the WP's numerious examples of lying about basic statistics:

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/search/label/Washington%20Post%20Lying

http://cos-mobile.blogspot.com/2007/10/beholden-doctrine.html

BTW- your link includes many highway relocation rather than outright removals.

by Douglas Willinger on Jan 9, 2012 12:06 pm • linkreport

@Douglas Willinger:

While you make a good point about the distinction between burial versus removal outright, burial is extremely expensive. There's a remote possibility that if it were funded purely by Federal money, or by a combination of Federal, or with a considerable amount of suburban dollars, you might win approval. I'm curious what percentage of the Big Dig was funded by Boston city funds, versus state money.

DC voters simply don't have enough of a compelling interest in ponying up some vast sum of money for such projects. Granted that's a quirk of our region's political segregation, but it is what it is.

by oboe on Jan 9, 2012 2:40 pm • linkreport

Mike S. wrote:

The argument that toll roads are unconstitutional is absurd and history shows just the opposite.

The first major toll road, between Philadelphia and Lancaster, opened in 1790, before the Constitution was ratified by the original 13 states. Nearly all major roads in the early days of the republic had stretches where local landowners improved the surface with wooden planks (macadam) to improve travel, especially in rainy weather. They charged tolls.

I believe the National Road (much of U.S. 40 today between Cumberland, Maryland and Vandalia, Illinois) may have been the first (but not the last) federally-financed toll road in the United States.

by C P Zilliacus on Jan 9, 2012 2:43 pm • linkreport

@oboe: the big dig is instructive: in its planning, everybody -- both the suburban commuters and city dwellers -- understood the carnage to the city that was the result of the elevated highway. But there was also unanimity that the old 93 downtown was not working, that its problems were negatively impacting residents and commuters alike. It had to go.

I think DW's point that NY ave is a traffic sewer that has destroyed what could be a very beautiful neighborhood. Problem is that nobody is willing to pay to properly fix it, and bury it.

by goldfish on Jan 10, 2012 10:20 am • linkreport

@goldfish

Unanimity on the problem doesn't mean unanimity on the solution.

The Big Dig could've linked North and South Stations and instantly transformed Boston's commuter rail network into a through-running regional rail network at a fraction of the cost of the Big Dig.

by Alex B. on Jan 10, 2012 10:31 am • linkreport

Alex: linking North and South Stations was extensively discussed. It doing this, there was also unanimity. The engineers nixed it because they said there wasn't enough land to fit it in.

Given that, you are framing it as a choice between the highway and the rail link. Since it was the road network that was driving the whole project, the reality is that rail is the secondary priority.

by goldfish on Jan 10, 2012 10:37 am • linkreport

Does anyone have a schematic- drawing of the Boston Big Dig's missing rail link?

I was under the impression that the space was there to add it later.

by Douglas Willinger on Jan 10, 2012 2:54 pm • linkreport

@goldfish

And cramming a massive freeway though the core of a dense city, whether elevated or underground, is a stupid idea. The rail link and associated improvements to Boston's regional rail system would be just as beneficial.

The unanimity on the big dig only works within the context of the institutional bias towards the automobile. Indeed, the road network was driving the thing - my point is that it shouldn't have been.

@Doug

There might be the vertical clearance to do it, but the time to make it happen would've been when all of central Boston was torn up in the first place.

by Alex B. on Jan 10, 2012 3:03 pm • linkreport

@Alex B "And cramming a massive freeway though the core of a dense city, whether elevated or underground, is a stupid idea."

What about cramming housing next to a city's sole rail corridor in violation of safety logic, with peoples' living rooms and bedrooms within the footprint of a rail derailment and at a lower elevation than the RR - particularly with heavy freight trains and wood framed construction.

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2011/11/takoma-dc-death-trap-residential.html

Here we have the space for the underground highway and rail, but for this weird post 2001 push to cram housing on about every bit of land along that transport corridor for the sake of a few extra townhouses.

If we really wanted to promote transit oriented development, do a New York Avenue project to the RR's east with French Beaux Arts style and scale apartment buildings next to a new promenade atop an new WMATA line and tunneled and cantilevered I-66 at the edge of that corridor's RR- far more potential thee than what they did to Takoma and are doing to Brookland.

by Douglas Willinger on Jan 10, 2012 3:17 pm • linkreport

Im pretty sure in NYC there are lots of residents close to rail lines. Has there EVER been a death of a resident due to the direct impact of a railroad derailment?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 10, 2012 4:18 pm • linkreport

One difference between the case of Boston's Big Dig and any such project in DC is that obviously a project in Boston is going to be a compromise between the city of Boston, the state of Massachusetts, and the Federal government.

In the case of DC, the equation is largely different: it's between the voters of DC and the Feds. Unless such a project is paid for completely by the Feds, or with equal monies coughed up by MD/VA/DC, I just don't see it getting much traction. You'll be hard-pressed to get DC voters to approve funding for a hugely expensive project whose primary benefits go towards MD and VA commuters. Much more likely they'd take the "cheap" way out and just remove some lanes, or in the case of something like the Whitehurst, just remove the thing.

But the larger point is, in Boston, the suburbs and the city are more tightly coupled in the state jurisdiction. In the case of DC, that's not necessarily the case. Obviously, some sort of strong-arming by Congressional interests isn't out of the question.

by oboe on Jan 10, 2012 4:35 pm • linkreport

The Federal Government ought to pay for it, as it is the Nation's Capital, and not some parochial enclave if we have those care to stand up politically.

Grand Arc 95-270 provides the additional hardly insignificant benefit of the new northern mall covering the railroad corridor down to Union Station, which would have a teardrop shaped canopy over the platforms (rather than that clutter they now have planned).

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2008/02/extending-legacy-with-grand-arc.html

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2012/01/grand-arc-95-270.html

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2007/07/volvos-subliminal-message-for-takoma.html

According to this the Pentagon budget was $683 billion a year.

Take say 2 billion a year for 10 years to build the Grand Arc and the rest of it- a few drops in the bucket for the Pentagon.

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2007/09/washington-dc-big-dig.html

Pitting rail transit and highways against each other, the hoodwinking of the 'progressives' to support jails over say NYC's unjustly maligned Westway Project, *should* be seen as so yesterday.

by Douglas Willinger on Jan 10, 2012 9:30 pm • linkreport

@Alex B: I don't think you appreciate how stopped up Boston was, how the traffic was impinging on everything. A midnight drive from Kenmore Square to Logan would take around 15 minutes; at rush hour, 2 hours. Moreover, I think people in that city are less militant about how they get around, probably because the traffic was so bad. You use whatever is best given your needs -- alone in summertime with nothing to haul, biking was quickest by far. I didn't hear this tension between drivers and T-users as much as I do here in this blog.

cramming a massive freeway though the core of a dense city, whether elevated or underground, is a stupid idea. The damage was done in the 50s: the gash was already there. The new road was confined to the footprint of the old.

The rail link and associated improvements to Boston's regional rail system would be just as beneficial. Don't know how old North and South Stations are, but they were there many decades before the Central Artery was built in the 50s. The last "urban removal" projects stopped when people where horrified by the razing of Scullay Square, in the early 60s. The chance to connect them was probably squandered (unknowingly) around this time, when there were fewer reservations to demolishing vast areas of the core. Was anybody considering this connection in 1962, when cars were ascendant? I doubt it. I see no point crying over an opportunity that was passed 50 years ago, some 30 years before the planning for the Big Dig took place.

by goldfish on Jan 10, 2012 10:14 pm • linkreport

oboe: But the larger point is, in Boston, the suburbs and the city are more tightly coupled in the state jurisdiction. Yes I noticed that too. And otoh I think the various political bodies, especially in DC, cultivate polarization: e.g., the oft-mentioned commuter tax; speed cameras that are basically a commuter tax; and the resent many DC residents express to the outsiders. There are fewer examples of these kinds mutual disregard in Boston.

You'll be hard-pressed to get DC voters to approve funding for a hugely expensive project whose primary benefits go towards MD and VA commuters. I think this is wrong, because DC residents would also gain, by increasing property values and decreasing the traffic, if the new road was done right. Take NY Ave: this neighborhood would gentrify very quickly if the commuter NY Ave were buried and a nice boulevard returned on the surface. Problem is getting the suburban day-visitors to fund their fair share.

by goldfish on Jan 10, 2012 10:39 pm • linkreport

@goldfish "Was anybody considering this connection in 1962, when cars were ascendant? I doubt it. I see no point crying over an opportunity that was passed 50 years ago, some 30 years before the planning for the Big Dig took place."

IMHO we should not necessarily be held hostage to a bad decision- how feasible would it be to add now or in the future?

by Douglas Willinger on Jan 11, 2012 12:48 am • linkreport

@goldfish "Take NY Ave: this neighborhood would gentrify very quickly if the commuter NY Ave were buried and a nice boulevard returned on the surface. Problem is getting the suburban day-visitors to fund their fair share."

The Problem are the Feds. They refuse to fund it (too expensive??? like a day or two of the annual Pentagon budget); and they refuse to consider an option that meets FHWA geometric criteria for curved tunnels, as if the displacement must be zero rather than a 95% reduction from 600+ to as few as 33:

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2007/11/i-395-extension-superior-option.html

by Douglas Willinger on Jan 11, 2012 12:52 am • linkreport

DW: What, you considering something other than road construction? Will wonders never cease.

After refreshing my memory, the link as a part of the big dig was killed because it was too expensive, as the costs were already infamously spiraling.

Plans to connect North and South Station are still being kicked around. There are significant technical issues -- the grades are too steep for the current locomotives, and diesels cannot be used. The proposed tunnels are just above hell, 130 feet deep. Cost is $2-4 billion, a lot of money for 55,000 passengers/day. There is no funding last I looked.

by goldfish on Jan 11, 2012 10:06 am • linkreport

@goldfish

Of course, it would be a lot easier to connect North and South station via a tunnel if there weren't already a damn highway tunnel in the way.

Build that link, invest in Boston's commuter rail network, and you could have an instant S-Bahn (which would be fun to say with a New England accent).

by Alex B. on Jan 11, 2012 10:34 am • linkreport

@Alex B: yes, but it could also be easier if there weren't so many buildings. You have to work with what its there, unless you can figure out how to turn back the clock.

Actually, the riders/cost ratio ($54500/daily passenger) is comparable to the ICC. But the ICC does not require cars to change engines to use it; the North-South train link does (and always would have, regardless of the presence of the central artery).

by goldfish on Jan 11, 2012 10:54 am • linkreport

@goldfish

Requiring electrification is a feature, not a bug. MBTA then electrifies their entire commuter network, which allows it to operate faster services more frequently, and in a more transit-like fashion. During the conversion, diesel services can continue to terminate at North and South stations.

by Alex B. on Jan 11, 2012 11:17 am • linkreport

Alex B: The commuter rail runs entirely on diesels; it is not electrified. So you propose electrifying the entire network as as part of the project? This will add something like $2B to the price.

by goldfish on Jan 11, 2012 11:23 am • linkreport

Sure, why not? That's peanuts compared to the Big Dig cost. And it would offer substantial benefits.

We think of commuter rail as diesel trains, peak only, unidirectional. There's no real reason to think like this other than this being the status quo.

by Alex B. on Jan 11, 2012 11:36 am • linkreport

Goldfish has a point about having to change engine types (electric to diesel). As for Alex's comment, if I recall my Boston geography correctly, it's not just the highway tunnel in the way, but also the MBTA Green and Orange Line tunnels too.

by Froggie on Jan 11, 2012 11:38 am • linkreport

Using electrification as a reason to not connect north and south station is short-term thinking.

Electrify the network, which lowers operational costs and increases train performance. Offer through-running and full integration with the transit system so that the commuter rail network is seen just as useful as transit. Increase frequencies, lengthen hours, provide through-running service, shift payment methods to transit-like ones rather than intercity rail-like ones, etc.

Combine those efforts with the N/S rail link and you'd have a combined impact on the Boston region that's far more positive than the Big Dig.

DC should pursue similar projects as well for its regional rail network - through running, transit style operations, fare integration, etc.

by Alex B. on Jan 11, 2012 11:47 am • linkreport

@Alex B: Rough estimate of the cost of electrification: electrifying the New Haven-Boston Acela cost $4M/mile (see remarks on audited cost here). There are 394 miles in the system; total cost $1.6B. That $2B figure I pulled out of thin air wasn't too shabby.

Total cost for the North-South rail link, including electrifying the entire system, around $5B. There are 70000 daily commuter rail passengers: cost per passenger is $72k.

The final cost of the big dig is estimated to be $22B and has 200000 vehicles/day, a cost of $110k/vehicle. Comparing the two project is problematic because a vehicle != passenger. As you know, much of the traffic is freight and many of the vehicles have more than one passenger. Also, the big dig cost includes the silver line, an hybrid BRT that is not included in the daily vehicle count. Given that, I'd say that the big dig has a bigger bang for the buck than the rail link.

by goldfish on Jan 11, 2012 12:19 pm • linkreport

@Goldfish

If you do all of that rail work and didn't increase service, it would be a crime. That improved rail system would attract far more than 70,000 pax/day. Buy some EMUs, build high platforms, level boarding, faster decel and accel will improve speed and performance, and through running will open up new trip combinations not seen before.

Also, other portions of the Big Dig made sense. The new tunnel under the Bay was needed. Likewise, the replacement bridge across the Charles was also needed - the central highway connection, however, was not needed. They would've been better off to tear down the central artery and just have the freeways end outside the core of the city, and build the rail infrastructure there instead.

You note that much of the traffic is freight - why is through-routed freight traffic going through the center of town?

by Alex B. on Jan 11, 2012 12:32 pm • linkreport

Alex B: Boston still has substantial industry; much of the freight is either ending up or coming from there. Didn't say the freight was a pass-through.

Yes the commuter rail could and should attract more, but to really add passengers will require more stations and added lines, to reach more people. So the project you are proposing will add a few more passengers, but it won't double them.

You obviously did not wait for an hour at the Callahan tunnel funnel. Rebuilding the central artery was essential.

Dumb qeustion: I thought the goals of "urbanism" and "smart growth" was to attract people to live in denser neighborhoods. But commuter rail serves the suburbs. How will improving commuter rail encourage people to live in denser communities?

by goldfish on Jan 11, 2012 12:51 pm • linkreport

Yes the commuter rail could and should attract more, but to really add passengers will require more stations and added lines, to reach more people. So the project you are proposing will add a few more passengers, but it won't double them.

Why not? If you had off-peak, Metro-like service on the entire network, wouldn't that be a huge boon to ridership?

Dumb qeustion: I thought the goals of "urbanism" and "smart growth" was to attract people to live in denser neighborhoods. But commuter rail serves the suburbs. How will improving commuter rail encourage people to live in denser communities?

Increased levels of service add value to the areas around stations and increases the demand for the accessibility those station areas provide. Increased value warrants increased density. Add infill development around stations to meet that demand. Boom.

by Alex B. on Jan 11, 2012 1:08 pm • linkreport

Alex/Goldfish: your recent discussion still doesn't take into account the fact that the MBTA Green and Orange Line tunnels are potentially (likely?) in the way of a direct connection between North and South Stations.

by Froggie on Jan 11, 2012 1:25 pm • linkreport

Froggie, I'm confident that those engineering challenges can be overcome. All of the preliminary work says it can. I happen to think that it would be even easier if the CA/T wasn't there, but that's somewhat tangential.

by Alex B. on Jan 11, 2012 1:32 pm • linkreport

@Alex B: but the commuter rail stations are in places like Natick, Beverly and Hingham, where houses sit on 1/2 acre lots, where people drive everywhere (except when they are commuting to work, if you have your way). This is suburban not urban living, and it is not "smart growth."

If you really want to encourage urban growth, the money would be much better spent on extending the green line into Somerville, which has housing density comparable to Cambridge and Boston, far greater than what is in the bedroom suburbs that commuter rail serves. The state is legally obliged to do this project, as a part of the big dig mitigation, but it has been waiting for funding (like everything else). The cost is $1B, far less than the commuter project you like.

by goldfish on Jan 11, 2012 2:31 pm • linkreport

"Public transit is one of the keys to sustainability" see new SSPP blog Post:The Future Belongs to Transit http://ssppjournal.blogspot.com/2012/01/future-belongs-to-transit.html

by sustainability: science, practice, & policy on Jan 18, 2012 7:53 am • linkreport

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