Greater Greater Washington

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Breakfast links: Big steps

One small step for Virginia, one giant leap for the FTA: Perhaps they saw the writing on the wall, that the Federal Transit Administration is soon to be transformed into an agency that actually promotes transit. Or perhaps Virginia really did allay their concerns. Yesterday, the FTA approved federal funding for the Silver Line, after months of analysis and frenetic lobbying.


Rendering of potential future Tysons Corner Center development. Yeah, I know... skybridges.

Don't forget the walkability: In a statement, the Coalition for Smarter Growth praised the FTA's decision but reminded us that Fairfax hasn't yet formally adopted the (pretty good) Tysons Corner vision. With rail approved, developers may want to start building now, but the current zoning still forces a suburban sprawl form.

Taxi fuel surcharge go bye-bye: WTOP takes credit for reminding the DC Taxi Cab Commission that gas prices are over a dollar lower now than when they instituted the $1/trip fuel surcharge a year ago. As of today, the surcharge is gone. Will many drivers continue to try to collect it in hopes that consumers don't know?

It must be because of the transit: Crime has spiked in Tysons Corner. It's also up around 15th Street between Dupont and Logan, which the neighbors call Borderstan due to its straddling two police districts, and in North Dupont. Crime always rises in the holiday season, and coupled with the declining economy, please be careful.

You pollute what you eat: Ditching a car by moving to New York didn't shrink one writer's carbon footprint as much as she expected; food is a huge factor as well. Transportation is still a bigger impact, but air travel is a huge chunk of that.

Missing the point: Navy Yard workers were illegally parking all day on nearby local streets. Instead of installing meters to get some money out of it as Michael Perkins suggested, DC just prohibited parking altogether at rush hours, which deprives the commuters of a space and DC of some money.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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The more I think about it, the stupider a Silver Line begins to seem. For local transit from Dulles to Tysons, maybe, but for integration with the Washington Metro system, it just seems impossible.

by mark on Dec 4, 2008 10:31 am • linkreport

Any thoughts on whether the tunnel debate will be revived?

by Nick on Dec 4, 2008 10:56 am • linkreport

What's impossible about the Silver line?

Combine it with the Blue Line split, and basically it's an Orange line extension, just labeled with a different color.

by Alex B. on Dec 4, 2008 10:59 am • linkreport

The Silver Line is absolutely the most important project in DC for the next 15 years. It needs to get done ASAP. For better or worse (worse, probably), a huge and growing percentage of the areas job and populations centers are along this corridor. This line will allow people to get there without driving. I would guesstimate that 30-50% of people will take metro instead of drive to Tyson, Reston, etc, which will alleviate a huge portion of the traffic now plaguing the roadways. Yes, there are pitfalls (namely the increased orange line traffic), but this is an absolutely necessary first step for our region. The Purple line is great too, but not nearly as vital for the future of our region.

by SG on Dec 4, 2008 12:09 pm • linkreport

To say that it's stupid and impossible to integrate with the DC Metro is ridiculous. If anything, it should be cut off at Tysons. Let's remember that Tysons is the main part of this project right now and overall, not Dulles. Dulles was the original motive and is still a very important component, but we've all heard the stats and seen the growth of Tysons. It's right on the beltway and is an important part of the metro area whether you like it or not. It needs the metro more than plenty of other places that already have it. Long term, economic and resource constraints will make areas like Tysons a lot denser and the political climate will be there.

by Vik on Dec 4, 2008 12:28 pm • linkreport

Tysons Corner is, I think, the largest job center in the United States that is not on a rail transit line.

Let that sink in for a minute and then tell me it's a stupid project.

... The second phase... OK. Debatable.

by BeyondDC on Dec 4, 2008 12:40 pm • linkreport

BeyondDC, I don't suppose this has anything to do with your thoughts? :)

by Adam on Dec 4, 2008 1:43 pm • linkreport

As someone who commutes into Tysons daily, I certainly don't oppose mass transit solutions for the Dulles corridor. I don't even oppose a rail line to Dulles per se. It just doesn't sound like they're doing it intelligently. Dumping a whole bunch of new local trains onto the Orange line, or feeding a whole bunch of new riders onto existing trains, doesn't sound like a good solution. I would like Metro to (finally) do something creative with express trains. But if Metro's capacity can't handle any more people out there, I would rather see them purchase buses for the Dulles corridor.

by mark on Dec 4, 2008 1:44 pm • linkreport

Wow, I had no idea the surcharge was gone. WTOP may take credit, but riders and other media have been reminding drivers that the price of gas is half of what it was this summer, for weeks now.

I read somewhere that the basic rate might go up. Some commission recommended the increase.

by Jazzy on Dec 4, 2008 2:06 pm • linkreport

There already are buses in the Dulles Corridor, mark. I take the Fairfax Connector everyday for my reverse commute from DC to Tysons. And it looks like hundreds or maybe a thousand or two take them the other direction from what I can tell in the morning. The Fairfax Connector 980 bus runs every 6 minutes from the Herndon-Monroe park n ride to West Falls Chruch and and it's always packed.

by inlogan on Dec 4, 2008 2:07 pm • linkreport

Remember that the Silver Line will carry lots of reverse commuters. People going to work in Tysons and Dulles will mostly be reverse commuters. The number of boardings at Ballston in the morning rush hour has actually been going down slightly in recent years, while the number of weekend boardings there has skyrocketed. I suspect that the Arlington TOD corridor is being filled up with people who work in Tysons, the Dulles corridor, etc. and want to live in a walkable urban environment (that means you, beyonddc). People who commuted to work in DC and lived as suburbanites on the weekends are being squeezed out. The new residents are forced to drive to work but use the Metro much more on evenings and weekends.

Using buses rather than rail on the Dulles Corridor will do absolutely nothing for the downtown overcapacity problem, except to the extent that the buses attract fewer riders. The bus riders all transfer at West Falls Church anyway.

Meanwhile the new reverse commuters attracted to the Silver Line will be traveling (for all of their trip if coming from Arlington, and for the most congested portion if coming from SE or NE DC) in the reverse direction, where there is plenty of capacity.

by Ben Ross on Dec 4, 2008 2:10 pm • linkreport

Adam: More like the other way around.

It's not that I think X about Tysons because its in the transit vision. X is in the transit vision because I think it's correct.

by BeyondDC on Dec 4, 2008 2:20 pm • linkreport

A better option would have been to route express buses down the Dulles Toll Road to the Tyson's station (that way you could do local AND express service - there is plenty of capacity for it). You can't do that with the Metro service coming in.

For instance, taking an express bus from the new Herndon Monroe station to West Falls Church metro will STILL be faster on a Fairfax Connector bus, not the new Silver Line. That was the bulk of the federal issue with it, not the part to Tysons (which is SORELY SORELY needed)

As for Rosslyn tunnel issues - this is why they are talking about routing blue line trains over the 14th st bridge - to save additional space for the Silver line trains

by J S on Dec 4, 2008 5:51 pm • linkreport

I would be a reverse commuter if this thing existed today. If I still work where I do in the likely 15 years it would take to get out to Dulles I would take it then. I refuse to live in the sterile hellhole that is suburbia. Unfortunately my paycheck resides out there. Getting the Silver Line done will precipitate the next step in making the Metro system truly great, the need for a separate blue line from Rosslyn that will go into Georgetown and create a new line through DC before connecting on the other side of the city again.

by NikolasM on Dec 5, 2008 11:47 am • linkreport

I reverse commute from Col Heights to Tysons, and even with an (excellent, cheap, reliable) FCC bus from West Falls Church, it's still an 80 minute trip. This is mainly a function of the number of stops involved (6 Green incl. Gallery Place, 13 Orange incl. Metro Ctr). It's just very hard to imagine going farther out to Dulles in the same manner, especially if there's a Silver Line interchange. Even without the crowds, it's a long trip.

by mark on Dec 5, 2008 4:07 pm • linkreport

Mark thats where you need the Purple to Silver connection. How sweet would that be stops at River Road, Georgetown pike, then it would basically hit the silver line right at the access road. What are the odds of that happening in the next 20 years? Any chance?

by C on Dec 6, 2008 2:55 am • linkreport

The actual Purple Line would run from New Carrollton to Bethesda. Probably wouldn't do much for me. Also, I think there's virtually no chance of any extra Potomac River crossings between Key Bridge and Harpers Ferry.

But as I've been saying, express trains would do the trick. It's just that they didn't build the enough rail beds to run them, and they probably won't do so on the Silver Line either.

At this point I'm reduced to hoping for an express Cirulator bus to Farragut West.

by mark on Dec 6, 2008 10:43 am • linkreport

It's not that rail to Tyson's is a bad idea, [for Dulles a different type of rail makes more sense, or BRT, but I digress] it's that it isn't the best idea. Honestly, if you were transit god for a day and could place 23-miles (or even whatever Phase I is) of continuous rail transit anywhere in the region would you choose East Falls Church to Tyson's? Anywhere in Northern Virginia, is this where you'd put it? Not me.

by David on Dec 10, 2008 3:56 pm • linkreport

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