Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Changes at WMATA


Photo by NCinDC on Flickr.
Silver Line extension explained: The pocket track near Stadium-Armory can't fit NTSB-recommended switches to prevent derailments and is too short for 8-car trains to turn around quickly. Therefore, Metro will send Silver Line trains to Largo. (Post)

More Silver, less Blue: To make room for Silver Line trains, Metro will likely further reduce Blue Line trains to a headway of 12 minutes. To compensate, there will be more of the Yellow Line service first introduced in Rush Plus. (Post)

Ridership down: Metro ridership is failing to meet projections leading to $5 million in lost revenue so far. Metro is blaming the lower ridership on higher fares and the decreased federal transit benefit. (Examiner)

WMATA Board gets new rules: Local legislatures are changing the rules for WMATA's board of directors including term limits and requirements that board members ride the rail or bus. (Examiner)

Not so free air: DC has sold the air rights for the Center Leg Freeway for $120 million, clearing the way for a large office and residential development and reconnecting F and G Streets across the highway. (WBJ)

Taxis discriminate: Undercover reporters found taxis discriminating against black passengers. They had a black man try to go to a destination east of the river, the driver refused, but then picked up a white man going to the same place. (WUSA9)

It wasn't prices: The recently closed Anacostia Warehouse Supermarket wasn't any cheaper than the soon-to-close Yes! Organic Market. Can future East of the River grocery stores learn from this? (THE ART of WARd 8)

A Post columnist making sense on bicycles?: John Kelly tackles the contentious issue of drivers vs bicycles vs pedestrians. His conclusion? Everyone's a jerk on the road, and everyone needs to work on getting along. Also, who put a utility pole in the MacArthur Boulevard path? Nobody would put one in the road. (Post)

Big boxes not created equal: The District's new Costco shouldn't be confused with Walmart, particularly when it comes to labor relations. But unlike some of the DC's planned Walmarts, you need a car to get to it. (City Paper)

And...: The Post might erect a pay wall for its online content. (DCist) ... LEED certification will reward walkability and transit access next year. (DCmud) ... DC won't get a velodrome at Buzzard Point. (DCist) ... Montgomery Councilmember Phil Andrews wants to lower ICC tolls even though the road is meeting projections. (Post)

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Steven Yates grew up in Indiana before moving to DC in 2002 to attend college at American University. He currently lives in Southwest DC.  

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At least WMATA is no longer blamng the "economy" for decreased ridership.

"Metro estimates that two out of three rail riders use them [transit benefit] during the morning rush."

(I think before they've said more than half the riders on rush hour trains are on the federal benefit. Now 2/3 are getting some sort of deal)

"Metro had forecast that ridership would fall less than 1 percent this fiscal year, with rail ridership remaining relatively steady and bus ridership dropping about 1.8 percent."

"But the agency brought in $182.3 million from [rail] ridership during last year's first quarter, meaning the latest loss likely translates to more than a 2 percent drop."

Left unstated:

1) Bikeshare's contribution to WMATA's rail drop

2) WMATA seems unable to admit that terrible customer experiences are taking a toll

3) Does anyone know if they projections include single tracking - or is that being reflected in the new numbers.

by charlie on Dec 6, 2012 8:52 am • linkreport

"you need a car to get to it."

Don't the B8, B9, and H6 operate near the new Costco?

by Adam on Dec 6, 2012 8:57 am • linkreport

That Costco is not Wal-Mart is prima facie. They're both retail located in large wearhouse-type facilities but they're also different business models which serve different clientele and sell different products. There is very little overlap between the two.

by Fitz on Dec 6, 2012 9:06 am • linkreport

Thanks to the combination of bikeshare & a metro transit app on my phone combined with terrible headways I almost never take metro on the weekends or even outside of rush service anymore.

Also another underrated point now that cabs don't charge for additional passengers in DC depending on the trip I'm taking if I'm going with 2 to 3 friends it probably won't be more that much expensive and WAY quicker to get a cab.

by jj on Dec 6, 2012 9:08 am • linkreport

Can they really reconnect F St.? On the west side there's a church in the way and on the east GU Law's quad is in the way.

by TM on Dec 6, 2012 9:09 am • linkreport

It's unbelievable to me that no one at WMATA bothered to verify their Silver Line turnaround plan before now. The WaPo article states that the plan was last reviewed in 2004!!! How is it possible that, as Silver Line construction actually began, no one thought to make sure the plan was actually feasible? If this is the kind of "planning" we can expect from WMATA, then it's no wonder that ridership is declining.

by Rebecca on Dec 6, 2012 9:14 am • linkreport

RE: A Post columnist making sense on bicycles?
The link is broken for me. Are others experience the same? I think this is the right link:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/two-legs-bad-two-wheels-bad-four-wheels-bad/2012/12/05/067730b4-3ef8-11e2-ae43-cf491b837f7b_story.html

by dc denizen on Dec 6, 2012 9:20 am • linkreport

@TM; I think they were going to make F st pedestrian only.

More yellow line service isn't going to help riders in N. Arlington and Fairfax get to the Pentagon and National Airport. And 12 minute headways -- which really means 15-18 -- aren't going to help either.

@JJ; yep, nextbus is also taking a chunk out of metrorail ridership. That being said, my point still stand-- did they project such declines over weekends, or is it part of the unexpected?

by charlie on Dec 6, 2012 9:20 am • linkreport

1) Bikeshare's contribution to WMATA's rail drop

Can't imagine this amounts to anything more than a rounding error. Seems like Bikeshare replaces bus trips more than anything.

by Corey on Dec 6, 2012 9:28 am • linkreport

Costco may be accessible by bus, but good luck carrying the things you buy there onto the bus. Costco doesn't bag anything for you, and everything is enormous. You can get packing boxes to put stuff in, but it's going to be tough to take your 2 loaves of bread, 128 oz of peanut butter, 24 bananas, and 2 gallons of vodka onto the bus.

by Nick on Dec 6, 2012 9:36 am • linkreport

McCartney advocates moving FBI's 11K employees to PG close to a Metro:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/put-the-fbi-headquarters-in-prince-georges/2012/12/05/75545826-3f17-11e2-a2d9-822f58ac9fd5_story.html

DC should be pushing for an East of the River location. EOTR is much more desperate than PG and DC has to do something to funnel development there.

by Tom Coumaris on Dec 6, 2012 9:44 am • linkreport

DC should be pushing for an East of the River location. EOTR is much more desperate than PG and DC has to do something to funnel development there.

True, but on the other hand the FBI fortress-bunker is the photographic negative of the sort of development we need EotR. I say let PG county have it.

by goldfish on Dec 6, 2012 9:51 am • linkreport

WMATA needs to pick up the pace on future planning. The blue line needs to be separated to lessen the capacity problems at Rosslyn. Instead we'll probably have 10 more years of planning, 10 more years of searching for funding, and 10 more years of phased construction. If we're lucky, we'll have a separated blue line in 30 years.

by Aaron on Dec 6, 2012 9:54 am • linkreport

@Rebecca

The use of the D&G pocket track to turn Silver line trains was decided before the NTSB recommendations were made.

I think the reasoning used that will be presented to the Board today is a CYA smoke screen.

Silver Line Operating Plan (568 KB PDF file)

The 3 reasons why from the document linked above:

* The pocket track uses #6 switches and due to an aerial construction design, #8 switches cannot be installed.
* The entire pocket track is on an aerial structure and will require a high level of maintenance to maintain a high level of operational performance.
* The length of the pocket track is not adequate for reliable 8-car train operation.

On the first one I am going to say this is BS. The 2 #6 Y (equilateral) turnouts are equivalent to a left or right hand #12 turnouts. 3 other pocket track in the system also have #6 turnouts in them, Governor, Mount Vernon Square and Farragut North. The number of trains presently being turned at Governor or Mount Vernon Square are roughly equivalent to the number of Silver line trains that will be turned in D&G junction.

Was an annalists done to compare the cost of the additional maintenance of the pocket track to the cost running the trains to Largo?

The length of the D&G pocket track is the same as the length of the Governor, Mount Vernon Square and Farragut North pocket tracks.

Prior to the introduction of "Rush Plus" select Orange line train were turned in D&G junction, though not in same numbers that would have been Silver line trains.

I think WMATA is scared excrementless that a derailment might happen when one of the Silver line trains is being turned there resulting in a public relation nightmare the WMATA does not want to deal with. I also think memories of the 01 20 2003 National Airport derailment might also have also been in minds of the folks that prepared this recommendation.

Oh and it should also be noted thet all of the turnouts in D&G junction were upgraded to guarded turnout as recommended by the NTSB.

by Sand Box John on Dec 6, 2012 10:07 am • linkreport

@Aaron

I am tired of hearing this continuous drumbeat for the M Street subway. How about we fully utilize what we have now before we start thinking about digging more tunnels and building more stations. The reason why the west end of the Orange line is so crowded is because WMATA doesn't have enough rolling stock to run 100 percent 8 car trains during peak. WMATA is planning to run 26 trains per hour between Rosslyn and Stadium-Armory during peak after the Silver line opens. The signaling and train control system is designed to accommodate 40 trains per hour. WMATA need more rolling stock.

by Sand Box John on Dec 6, 2012 10:10 am • linkreport

@sandbox

My understanding is tht the 40 trains per hour is only possible of trains do not stop at Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom - with the stopping time, its not possible to safely run more than 26 trains per hour.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 6, 2012 10:26 am • linkreport

The day the Post puts up a paywall is the day I just go ahead and subscribe to the NYT. Their local coverage has been cut to almost nothing and NYT has better coverage of everything else.

by Phil on Dec 6, 2012 10:31 am • linkreport

If 11% of FBI HQ employees are DC residents, that's still about 1200 probably mostly clerical and support DC jobs that are in jeopardy if FBI moves to the suburbs.

I would think a good argument could be made that Homeland Security and FBI should be next to each other and that FBI should be quickly accessible to DOJ.

The new Costco highlights that PG has gotten all the other retail tax plums: IKEA & Wegman's, as well as several Targets, Costcos and WalMarts leapfrogging undeveloped eastern DC.

by Tom Coumaris on Dec 6, 2012 10:34 am • linkreport

I am tired of hearing this continuous drumbeat for the M Street subway. How about we fully utilize what we have now before we start thinking about digging more tunnels and building more stations.

These are not mutually exclusive priorities.

Given the very long lead time in planning and constructing something of this scale, we have to start looking at core capacity expansion now.

by Alex B. on Dec 6, 2012 10:48 am • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris: If 11% of FBI HQ employees are DC residents, that's still about 1200 probably mostly clerical and support DC jobs that are in jeopardy if FBI moves to the suburbs.

I say something like this whenever it comes up too, but nobody else cares. Many of them actually buy in to the goofy notion that the FBI's much-ballyhooed security "requirements" are actually to be taken seriously, as though things were so much safer back in the '60s when they located downtown even though that was the middle of the Cold War when everybody was expecting downtown DC to be nuked off the planet.

by iaom on Dec 6, 2012 10:59 am • linkreport

@Alex B
These are not mutually exclusive priorities. [M St Subway/100% 8-car ops]

Given the very long lead time in planning and constructing something of this scale, we have to start looking at core capacity expansion now.

You're right, they are not mutually exclusive, but there are commentators on this website and elsewhere who seem to be saying that Metro capacity is "maxed out" until we build more tunnels, and therefore we can't have any more density. This is false - all 8-car operations would increase capacity by a lot.

by MLD on Dec 6, 2012 11:12 am • linkreport

This is false - all 8-car operations would increase capacity by a lot.

True, but the key is the timeframe.

http://planitmetro.com/2012/11/26/chart-of-the-week-tbd/

So, in 2040 (based on COG's projections) and with 100% 8-car operations, we still have some severe crowding issues.

Now, the key is not just 'expansion,' but where that expansion will happen. If we're focused on core capacity expansion (e.g. separating the sections of track that are shared with other lines) then you can not only add that new capacity but you also increase the capacity of the existing track network.

The larger point is that things like new subway lines will take a very long time to plan and execute.

by Alex B. on Dec 6, 2012 11:21 am • linkreport

@iaom
I say something like this whenever it comes up too, but nobody else cares. Many of them actually buy in to the goofy notion that the FBI's much-ballyhooed security "requirements" are actually to be taken seriously, as though things were so much safer back in the '60s when they located downtown even though that was the middle of the Cold War when everybody was expecting downtown DC to be nuked off the planet.

Why shouldn't they be "taken seriously"? The feds own this town, if they decide to build an FBI HQ downtown, it will include their ridiculous security requirements. It was a battle to get the most minor of street activating uses (sbux) into the DOT building, you think the FBI HQ is going to be any easier?

If the choices are "build it in DC with soul-sucking security reqs" or "build it outside the city but Metro-accessible" I think DC should choose the latter.

by MLD on Dec 6, 2012 11:22 am • linkreport

The feds own this town, if they decide to build an FBI HQ downtown, it will include their ridiculous security requirements.

This.

They want a 100 acre campus with large setbacks. This isn't just to protect against bombs, but also to protect against electronic surveillance (something that I doubt anyone on here knows enough about to properly judge whether the threat is exaggerated or not). Regardless, like MLD said, the FBI will get whatever they want in terms of physical security. Sending massive anti-urban projects out to the suburbs is smart urbanism.

And why can't the DC workers use metro to get to a PG site? Lots of people commute, there is no reason why clerical workers can't too (although in my experience, most DC clerical workers live in PG).

by JW on Dec 6, 2012 11:29 am • linkreport

More Rush Plus? Sweet. Those of us who live down at Huntington have more space to stretch out of an evening when we go home.

@charlie: 2) WMATA seems unable to admit that terrible customer experiences are taking a toll

I've said before that I avoid Metro on weekends, unless I'm taking a straight shot trip along the Yellow Line. I refuse to wait an absurd amount of time for a transfer if I can avoid it. Yes, I pay more in gas money and in wear on the car, but the peace of mind I get from being totally in control of my route is worth it.

And I live on the Yellow Line. Nice to know Blue Line folks are getting the shaft. It's absolutely disgusting.

And don't get me started on the Silver Line. Not a bad idea, all told, but the execution has been beyond execrable. Absolutely pathetic. Frankly, I'm not surprised they're losing ridership.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Dec 6, 2012 11:30 am • linkreport

Nothing's surprising about the report about taxis not picking us up to go EOTR. Having experiences this since living EOTR, blah blah blah. Frankly, I was more surprised to find out that while taxis certainly discriminate by race and location, I've also realized here that even nonblack folk have issues getting taxi service. And much like some, we'll use UBER.

@JKelly's article was pretty kewl. I've said the exact thing for a while now.

by HogWash on Dec 6, 2012 11:38 am • linkreport

Oh and WRT metro's declining numbers.

It's been much easier for me to take the 94 to Anacostia, hop on the B2 and end up at Harris Teeter (or the 92 to Eastern Market) than it is to use metro rail..which is why I don't. Since the past few years of weekend trackwork, I have taken metrorail only on an emergency basis.

Or when I have so much leisure time that I don't care

by HogWash on Dec 6, 2012 11:42 am • linkreport

If only the height limit were raised, I'm sure that the FBI would stay in DC. Isn't that omni-elixir for everything?

by Alf on Dec 6, 2012 11:50 am • linkreport

@Sand Box John

I feel that the newfound/sudden concern with safety at the D&G pocket track is a cover for someone at WMATA just now realizing another reason for needing to extend Silver Line service to Largo: there will be even less Blue Line service and they need to keep the headways between Benning Road and Largo Town Center stations at the six minute threshold, recently adopted by the WMATA Board as a peak service minimum (except at Arlington Cemetery Station).

When Blue Line service is further reduced to 12 minute headways at all weekday times and Rush+ goes away on the Orange Line, there would be headways too wide to meet WMATA's rush hour standards (except at Arlington Cem). Yellow Line Rush+ will still keep the Van Dorn Street and Franconia-Springfield stations covered with trains at least every six minutes -- they will just see more Yellow Line trains during peak service. Without the extended Silver service, and with the loss of Orange Line Rush+, there would be insufficient service east of Benning Road Station toward Largo.

I'm not sure why WMATA just doesn't come out and say this. Perhaps because they don't want Virginia and the Washington pols to argue about too much service off-peak (both Blue and Silver combined every 12 minutes each) service the line east of Benning Road Station-- who would pay for that special off-peak service... If I recall right, didn't the District pay for the extended Yellow Line service between Mt. Vernon Square and Ft. Totten -- a benefit mostly to Washington vs. that cost being absorbed into the overall compact-wide rail operating budget?

by Transport. on Dec 6, 2012 11:57 am • linkreport

If St. E's is secure enough for Homeland Security, it should be secure enough for FBI too.

by Tom Coumaris on Dec 6, 2012 12:22 pm • linkreport

I think Sand Box John exactly right with this...

I think WMATA is scared excrementless that a derailment might happen when one of the Silver line trains is being turned there resulting in a public relation nightmare the WMATA does not want to deal with. I also think memories of the 01 20 2003 National Airport derailment might also have also been in minds of the folks that prepared this recommendation.

...although Transport's idea above is intriguing also.

I wonder to what extent the lack of automatic operation influences this (or are all interlockings handled under manual control?). Clearly, management does not trust their operators to do this maneuver properly on an aerial guideway on a regular basis.

by Dizzy on Dec 6, 2012 12:45 pm • linkreport

In line with the current plans, WMATA might as well just kill the Blue Line, and shuttle a two-car train between the Pentagon and Rosslyn as a service to Arlington Cemetery.

12 minute service will give hope to people that they can get from Rosslyn to the Pentagon, but they won't be able to at rush hour. This is just depressing.

The cheapest solution to this problem is to make a switch in Rosslyn that would allow trains from Vienna to King St. However, a new tunnel or bridge would be more desirable.

by Jasper on Dec 6, 2012 1:22 pm • linkreport

I would think a good argument could be made that Homeland Security and FBI should be next to each other and that FBI should be quickly accessible to DOJ.

Actually, clustering all of your security agencies in one location would be a pretty bad idea for a lot of reasons.

by dcdriver on Dec 6, 2012 1:35 pm • linkreport

Yeah, a separated blue line needs to be advanced and properly planned for soon. Find and purchase some TBM's and lets get digging. Alexandria and Arlington will be practically cut off from each other with these new service levels.

by NikolasM on Dec 6, 2012 1:51 pm • linkreport

@Dizzy

Trains are routed automatically into the pocket track when the destination codes are set to 36 (Orange) or 66 (Blue), don't know what the Silver line destination code is for Stadium-Armory.

When trains are being operated under automatic control, the operator has to change to manual mode at some point because pocket track track circuit will not be transmitting a speed commands as the signal at the far end of the pocket track is displaying a red signal.

Also a train under automatic control doesn't know how far it need to travel in order to bring itself to a stop fully within the pocket track.

by Sand Box John on Dec 6, 2012 2:07 pm • linkreport

I'm sick of Metro saying that more Yellow Line service will compensate for reductions in Blue Line service. No it won't if you live/work anywhere between Vienna and Farragut West and want to travel to the Pentagon, Pentagon City, Crystal City, or DCA.

by Rosslyn Rose on Dec 6, 2012 3:00 pm • linkreport

Maybe I'm missing something, but trains don't actually "turn around" do they? Can't they be driven from either direction? If so, why can't they reverse direction at any station they want?

by Harry Weese on Dec 6, 2012 3:11 pm • linkreport

Harry,

It's not so much that they're turning around, but they have to switch tracks so they're going in the right direction.

by Colleen on Dec 6, 2012 3:28 pm • linkreport

Regarding the earlier comment on whether Bikeshare is biting into Metrorail revenues, at least in my case it is. I'm a fed and had gotten used to carrying over unused sums of my SmartBenefits every month, more or less ensuring that I would never pay for a ride, work-related or not. That changed at the beginning of this year. I joined Bikeshare shortly after that so that I could use my $125 monthly benefit for the morning and evening commutes alone. Now, when I have a meeting or lunch in the middle of the day, I just use Bikeshare.

I started this because I was cheap. I now realize Bikeshare is a much quicker way to get around town than Metro ever could be. I'm hooked.

by jjose on Dec 6, 2012 5:32 pm • linkreport

@charlie wrote: "Left unstated:
  1. "Bikeshare's contribution to WMATA's rail drop
  2. "WMATA seems unable to admit that terrible customer experiences are taking a toll"

I can't speak for others, but for trips in town I rarely use the Metro any more.  Bikeshare is faster/cheaper/better

On those occasions when I do need to take it, the user experience consistently reinforces an already-strong perception of the subway as transport provider of last resort

  • Nothing seems to work: escalators either stopped, or emitting sounds indicative of imminent failure;
  • Surly, unhelpful staff;
  • Off-peak headways ensure missed connections and interminable waits, during which one is subject to annoying and useless recorded blather over the PA system;
  • Stations and trains are grubby and littered with trash, and the older cars reek of mildew;
  • Rough train handling, with inexplicable stops between stations and while attempting to pull into stations.
All this for new highest-ever fares - why should anybody have to put up with it?

by just gave up on it on Dec 7, 2012 12:37 am • linkreport

@JW:

Sending massive anti-urban projects out to the suburbs is smart urbanism.

Well put, and not said often enough.

by Oboe on Dec 7, 2012 3:21 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

The only reason why they can't run more then 26 trains per hour is because WMATA insisted having ridiculously long dwell times at various stations. Add more trains per hour. More train per hour equals less crowding on each train equals faster unloading and loading equals no need to have the ridiculously long dwell times.

There is only one problem, WMATA does not have enough rolling stock to run more trains per hour and they have no plans to procure enough rolling stock to increase the number of trans per hour.

by Sand Box John on Dec 8, 2012 12:48 pm • linkreport

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