Greater Greater Washington

WMATA wants longer trains, more tunnels, better service

WMATA hopes to lengthen all its trains to 8 cars, add pedestrian connections at downtown stations, and maybe build new rail tunnels for the Blue and Yellow Lines in the region's core. That's part of a strategic plan which its media relations team showed only to the Washington Post this week, and which board members will see at a meeting today.


The potential for new downtown tunnels (left) and connections between existing lines (right).

More broadly, the agency will focus on safety, service quality, better regional mobility, and its own financial stability in the strategic plan. Besides a set of still somewhat amorphous connections and service improvements, the plan calls for building a system where riders can more easily "plan, pay, and ride" in a smoother customer experience.

The big money, up to $20 billion, in the plan would be for tunnels to separate the Blue Line at Rosslyn and the Yellow Line at L'Enfant Plaza, the two major chokepoints, as part of a vision for Metro by 2040. Silver Line trains from Dulles Airport could also turn at Rosslyn to go toward Arlington Cemetery, then stop at Pentagon before crossing the Yellow Line bridge into DC.


Map by the author, from 2009.

By 2025, Metro wants to have the railcars and power stations to run all trains with the full 8 cars. It would like to build pedestrian tunnels to link Farragut North with West and Metro Center with Gallery Place, and a train tunnel so that some Dulles trains can go down to Franconia-Springfield, which would relieve some of the immediate Blue Line problems of Rush Plus, which will only get worse once the Silver Line opens.


Potential connections between existing lines (left) and stations (right).

WMATA Media Relations team makes transit supporters' task harder

This plan covers a lot of ground, and is at times very detailed yet at others quite vague. I wasn't able to get all of the details, because WMATA decided to give an exclusive look at the plan to the Washington Post.

This has been the agency's practice every since Barbara Richardson, Lyn Bowersox, and Dan Stessel took over at WMATA communications and media relations. This isn't a matter of blogs versus traditional media, though that's been an ongoing problem as well; WMATA also does not tell the Washington Examiner about its major initiatives.

This seems inappropriate, and really disrespects the journalists and bloggers who care about transit in the region. It's also pretty foolish, because it forces others to write about the plan in a more hurried way than they otherwise would.

WMATA planning head Shyam Kannan spent an hour talking to me after midnight last night, and this post was still not done by 4:30 am as a result. Still, there are plenty of questions I did not have time get answered.

What will happen with Union Station and commuter rail?

While the plan goes into a fair amount of detail about how there could be a second Pentagon station for the trains making the new track connection, the plan does not talk about whether the new lines would serve Union Station, the system's biggest point of overcrowding. It seems obvious for any separated Blue Line to go there.

One of the biggest opportunities to improve regional travel would be to let MARC trains reach L'Enfant Plaza, where riders can transfer to all four lines that don't serve Union Station, and onward to Virginia. Unfortunately, perhaps bowing to political realities, the plan just calls for WMATA to play a role of supporter and advocate.

Finally, the plan shows some diagrams with vague arrows depicting potential extensions to the ends of lines, regional transit in the suburbs, and streetcars crossing the river:


Vague arrows showing possible line extensions (left) and surface transit connections (right).

All of these ideas and more were part of a study WMATA has been working on for a few years, called the Regional Transit System Plan. That also included proposals to send the Yellow Line through the rapidly-growing Capitol Riverfront and up to Union Station.

According to Kannan, the RTSP study is still going on, and even many decisions about which routes WMATA wants to pursue in the future are not fully set.

Customer service, trip planning are even more central to the plan

Kannan emphasized that the rail expansions and connections are not the "real meat" of the plan, despite what was in the Post article; instead, it really focuses on "an improved customer service experience today" that will let riders plan, pay, and take transit more smoothly than today. The vision for 2025, which is not far away, is fundamentally about "the completion of a journey to a self-service system. He explained:

Imagine, for a moment, walking into a Metrorail station or a Metrobus platform and not needing to ask for assistance in either route planning, fare payment, and even walking to or from your bus or train. There would be improved lighting so you can read your book, mobile payment options so you can use your smartphone to pay your fare.
With these added services, Kannan said, station agents will not need to sit in their booths all day to handle everyday needs. Instead, Metro could dedicate its staff to "customer-facing ambassadors" who could roam around and help people, and choose people for those jobs best suited to a customer service role, which as we all know is not always the case with today's station agents.

Another big element of this self-service world is better trip planning. Kannan talked about having a "unified regional trip planning technology" so a rider can use a desktop computer, smartphone, or other device, pick where he or she wants to go, and get transit suggestions that could use Metro, commuter rail like VRE or MARC, or regional buses like Ride On and DASH.

The plan describes that as "Provide transit riders with a regional trip planning system that is mobile-device friendly." Hopefully this language does not lead the agency to decide it should issue a procurement for a big IT project to build one single integrated trip planner that works on today's mobile devices, and that's all. WMATA is not in a position to be a good customer-facing software company, and a big contracted software project will build something that will likely be obsolete as soon as it launches.

Rather, the agency needs to offer open data and support open source projects to create the building blocks of trip planning. VDOT funded a grant, which I wrote for Arlington County, to make progress on some open source technology for trip planning. If WMATA can support the efforts of the people who are going to do this work, and other developers who contribute and create other tools of their own, it will do far more to "provide" this kind of "unified regional trip planning technology."

The plan is not very detailed about how to reach this or most other goals, from "Educate the customer about transit coverage and usage in regional emergencies" to "Work with partners to ensure seamless connections between Metro and other transit systems in the region." Those are fodder for future plans. Meanwhile, though, if top management buys in and directs the organization to follow this plan, it can get the 13,000-person organization moving all together in some important directions.

The WMATA board will discuss the document at a meeting today. As usual with WMATA's process, since staff don't release anything until the very last minute before a board meeting, that means board members won't have the opportunity to hear any considered feedback from riders, to the extent they are interested in riders' views, as some are, while others are not.

Matt Johnson and I have also been working on some posts about the core capacity Metrorail proposals, and will try to better illuminate what kinds of tradeoffs Metro faces as it tries to deal with its bottlenecks and overcrowded segments.

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. 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 now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

Comments

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Does anyone think that WMATA's mix of commuter-rail & subway is a functional transit option? While we can't truncate the existing lines and are too far along to alter the Silver Line plans, WMATA shouldn't be expanding further on this flawed idea? This plan's apparent focus on the region's core is cosmetic and scattered.

I would like a line traveling through Arlington County terminating (or traveling through the Pentagon Station).

by bmv818 on Jan 24, 2013 8:15 am • linkreport

I was really encouraged to find this story in today's post. It seems like what's needed in our country is a Marshall plan of sorts in respect to transportation to ease the transition away from an automobile centered model that most of the country is still engaged in. While this plan seems ambitious, it's no different than the path most great cities across the globe have taken as they rose to preeminence.

by Thayer-D on Jan 24, 2013 8:17 am • linkreport

It's great to finally see a long-term plan with some meat to it, even if by 2040 this won't be nearly enough. The idea of separating the Blue and Yellow Lines without running either to Union Station is just crazy. And the timeline on 100% 8-car ops is pretty outrageous. From what I've read, it would cost something like $100 million, which compared to other projects is just pennies for an immediate benefit.

As is my main complaint too, I see nothing about improving headways throughout the system, especially on weekends and off-peak. This is conceptually a decent start, but as you suggested, doesn't go nearly far enough.

by MetroDerp on Jan 24, 2013 9:02 am • linkreport

I think the Metro Center/Gallery Place pedestrian tunnel is huge. If done right there are retail commercial opportunities there and I'm sure a lot of buildings in the corridor would love to have below ground, direct connections to Metro. Farragut North to Farragut West is similar and that would do more to ease travel across probably the busiest pedestrian intersection in the city. Also maybe they could throw in some underground bike parking?

The additional crossing for Orange/Blue/Yellow/Silver is clearly needed given how full Orange line trains are every morning in that direction and for future capacity.

I think using existing capacity is also important. In terms of expanding metro, I think infill is the way to go at the moment. I think there really needs to be a Brightwood Park stop by Rock Creek Cemetary a la NoMa. I also think zoning around the Fort Totten area needs to be looked at to see how they increase mixed use and density. Navy Yard East might also merit a stop soon (if the tunnel geometry doesn't make that impossible). There is definitely infill potential along the redline in the NE as well.

by Alan B. on Jan 24, 2013 9:06 am • linkreport

Timeline for 8-car trains is not about time to ACQUIRE railcars -- it's also the time to find railyard space to store and maintain those cars, as well as to improve the power infrastructure so there's enough juice for all 8-car trains to run.

WMATA is currently evaluating yard space options and assessing the same kinds of things you have to assess for a bus garage siting: how far is the storage from where the rail cars will be used? does the space available support efficient yard operations? are there conflicts between the character of the yard use and the surrounding area? etc.

by jnb on Jan 24, 2013 9:17 am • linkreport

@bmv818

The hybrid commuter rail-mass transit system is complicated, but you don't necessarily need to truncate radial lines, but you do need to have things like pocket tracks so that you can easily turn trains before going all the way out to the end, and you need the core infrastructure so that you can run the levels of transit service in the core that are needed to meet the regional core's transit needs. In other words, you need to invest -- as the strategic plan is starting to lay out -- so that the infrastructure needed for the commuter rail needs of the far suburbs doesn't limit the transit service that can be provided to meet the transit needs of the urban core.

by jnb on Jan 24, 2013 9:21 am • linkreport

As long as we're dreaming, I would actually prefer that Metro become more like BART - that is, a dedicated commuter rail system rather than trying also to be an inner-city subway. The infrastructure and personnel costs of running a system with so many stations is killing it. And of course with only two tracks the system is poorly engineered to recover from stopped trains. All of this has been discussed before on this forum.

Instead I'd like to see WMATA close about 2/3 of the DC stations, just leaving the main commuting destinations and transfer links. DC's contribution to Metro could be reduced accordingly

In its place DC could implement a real BRT system on surface streets, with a relatively dense network of 'bus and bike only' roads. That would satisfy the need for cheap, rapid transit within the District.

Ah well... dream over.

by Pworth on Jan 24, 2013 9:24 am • linkreport

@jnb

Re: the 8-car timeline, this stuff should be "shovel-ready" at this point (and the cost was referring to the power system upgrades rather than any rolling stock). They've been planning for it since 2001 - how do we not have this ready to go now?

by MetroDerp on Jan 24, 2013 9:27 am • linkreport

Those Y-switches at Rosslyn and Pentagon will give them a lot of flexibility. I would recommend another one at l’Enfant Plaza. (I made a KML animation of the Silver line using these switches - see bottom link at http://www.mvjantzen.com/blog/?p=1252)

Farragut North-West tunnel is also long overdue.

Anyways, thanks for putting in the late-night hours on this.

by MV Jantzen on Jan 24, 2013 9:28 am • linkreport

@Pworth

I've heard some bad ideas, but this is by far the worst, most asinine thing I've ever read. The only reason DC has developed as it has, and the only reason people continue to move to the urban core is because of the existence of high-capacity mass transit.

The only thing holding that back are the ridiculous extensions to the suburbs, which unnecessarily jeopardize and compromise decent service levels in the core. If anything, we should stop running trains further than Alexandria and Arlington and replace those with VRE and MARC. That's how an actual urban metropolis would work.

You know what else has been discussed on this forum? The absolute inefficiency of BRT, the "gold standard" of which is a myth to begin with, and even running at maximum capacity comes nowhere NEAR replacing the capacity of heavy rail.

I'm sure it's just a "modest proposal," but it really is preposterous and deserves to be ridiculed as such. Without Metro - much as I might complain about it - DC would be nothing, and I certainly wouldn't live here without it.

by MetroDerp on Jan 24, 2013 9:31 am • linkreport

@MetroDerp

I'd say they've known it would be an issue since 2001, but doing engineering and design for a lot of things -- station capacity, pedestrian connections, interlining options, yards -- was never funded. I'm not defending that (though it's easy to speculate that funds were prioritized for meeting current needs over investments for the future), just saying that looking forward from today, that's the situation. Metro's still limited on the percent of 8-car trains they run on certain lines -- not even 100% 8-car trains -- because the power infrastructure isn't adequate to the need.

by jnb on Jan 24, 2013 9:37 am • linkreport

Pworth,

This is the literally the craziest thing I've ever heard. Is it supposed to be a poor attempt at satire?

by Alan B. on Jan 24, 2013 9:38 am • linkreport

I like all the ideas, except that it's the Yellow Line that needs to go to Potomac Mills, not the Blue Line. The Blue Line needs to swing west along VA-289, VA-286 and then north along VA-123 and then cross an extended Orange Line at Oakton, and terminate at the Silver Line at Wolf Trap.

Fairfax would be incredible stupid to send both the Yellow and Blue lines south out of the county in stead of keeping one for good intercounty connections.

by Jasper on Jan 24, 2013 9:40 am • linkreport

@ MetroDerp:If anything, we should stop running trains further than Alexandria and Arlington and replace those with VRE and MARC. That's how an actual urban metropolis would work.

Yeah, let's prevent people from getting to work. Great idea.

by Jasper on Jan 24, 2013 9:43 am • linkreport

@Jasper

Hey, a modest proposal begets another (though as long as the service is replaced with commuter rail I don't see how it would stop anyone from getting to work).

But in all seriousness, the way we do it here is just bizarre. It would be like New York extending the subway into New Jersey and Westchester - i.e., insane. There's a reason that NJ Transit, Metro-North, and the LIRR exist instead.

by MetroDerp on Jan 24, 2013 9:47 am • linkreport

The Post's summary of the proposed ideas made them sound like a good start, but there was at least one glaring omission -- as MetroDerp noted, nothing was said about off-peak headways. (Or, if there was, I missed it.)

The other thing I wanted to see and didn't, except possibly for a vague reference to new mezzanines in stations, was improving the ability of the core transfer stations to handle de-trained passengers Gallery Place has already passed from "congested" to "a hazard to life and limb" during rush hour, and Metro Center and L'Enfant Plaza aren't far behind. At the very least, something needs to be done to let the Red Line platforms at Gallery Place handle the passengers there now, never mind future growth. I would recommend widening the platforms and/or digging new tunnels so that it'd be possible to walk between the Green/Yellow Line platform and the 9th Street exit without going via the Red Line platform.

by cminus on Jan 24, 2013 9:53 am • linkreport

MetroDerp, parts of Jersey are way closer to Manhattan than the majority of Queens and Brooklyn. If we are talking about getting people to jobs it totally makes sense. I really don't see how using rather arbitrary political boundaries to define what areas transit should serve makes sense.

by Alan B. on Jan 24, 2013 9:55 am • linkreport

@MetroDerp
But in all seriousness, the way we do it here is just bizarre. It would be like New York extending the subway into New Jersey and Westchester - i.e., insane. There's a reason that NJ Transit, Metro-North, and the LIRR exist instead.

It's not like that at all. Metro is a different tech that can run much faster over long distances than NYCT can. It's not like extending the subway that far at all.

As for current plans to extend the system to Centreville/Bowie/Potomac Mills, I think we will have to do some serious counting of whether those extensions really will lead to increased ridership and transit-oriented commuting, or whether it's about making some people's trips to a park-n-ride lot slightly shorter.

by MLD on Jan 24, 2013 9:55 am • linkreport

Radial expansion of the system is not needed. Sure, it might bring more revenue by attracting more riders, but it will encourage further exurban sprawl. It will also increase core crowding. Obviously, radial expansion is cheaper when running over green/brownfields or in highway medians, but it is not what metro needs.

Metro needs, in order of importance:
1) Separation of Blue/orange/silver lines.
2) Better connection between Union Station and the rest of the system (through an extended blue line)

The Rosslyn/Pentagon Y switches would be great for this, but the separated blue/silver line from Rosslyn-Union Station would really be the catch-all cure, I think. Sure, it will cost billions, but the potential long term benefits have to be astronomical.

by Nick on Jan 24, 2013 9:58 am • linkreport

Not nearly good enough. If you're putting in a tunnel through Georgetown, why not put in a Georgetown station. And while you're at it, run a line connecting that Georgetown station underneath Wisconsin Ave. up to Tenleytown.

by Brian on Jan 24, 2013 10:00 am • linkreport

@cminus

You're absolutely right about Gallery Place. Metro's been doing design work for the last year and a half on designs that would work for Gallery Place. They've looked at new mid Red Line platform exits, a hallway to bypass the horrible "corner" on the Red Line platform, a suspended walkway over the tracks, platform barriers, etc. Also better connections from Green Line platform to the Red Line platform. I don't know what they've concluded should be put forward for capital funding, though.

One issue on the south side of the Red Line that makes it harder to design solutions is the piers that the Portrait Gallery rests on. They're hard by the tunnel, and not easy to get around.

by jnb on Jan 24, 2013 10:01 am • linkreport

"There's a reason that NJ Transit, Metro-North, and the LIRR exist instead."

They exist because those lines were built in the 19th century, when rail provided local service to the rural towns of the area.

They would not have been built in modern conditions.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 24, 2013 10:06 am • linkreport

It would be like New York extending the subway into New Jersey and Westchester - i.e., insane.

No, that would be a great idea. I have never understood why they can't get that done. NY and NJ work fine together in the port authority. What is insane in NY is that there are no proper rail connections from LaGuardia and Newark to Manhattan. Just to compare: Heathrow has a tube, rail and high-speed connection to downtown London. Even little Stockholm has a high-speed rail connection to its airport.

Also, VRE and MARC are in no way comparable to heavy rail systems in other metropoles. RER in Paris rides every two minutes, more frequently than Metro in DC. Heavy rail connections in the Netherlands provide connections about every 10-15 minutes between the large cities in the Dutch Randstad and way more often between the city's cores and their suburbs. Amsterdam, Schiphol and Rotterdam are now connected via high-speed rail. Trains in London ride way more frequently than Metro, let alone VRE and MARC.

In short: the model you claim to want to imitate has heavy rail frequencies that are significantly higher than even metro provides. Just to contrast, when the Silver Line arrives, the Blue Line goes down to 12 minute service at rush hour.

You are correct that what we do in DC is insane. We pretend that MARC, VRE and Amtrak can ever remotely get close to heavy rail in other metropoles. We pretend that we have a world-class metro system, while our system compares with those of smaller cities like Montreal and Kiev, not Tokyo or London. Hell, even LA is leaving us in the dust these days.

by Jasper on Jan 24, 2013 10:07 am • linkreport

@MetroDerp @Pworth....

WMATA needs to get more serious on bus service and at least propose BRT. You could do a nice surface BRT network on Rhode Island, North Capitol, Pennsylvania SE, 16th St. and K Street to name a few, and it would cost $2 billion at most for all of these. Many of these roads are ideal for high quality BRT, and even simpler BRT would be an imnprovement for mobility.

Choosing between BRT and Metro is a false dichotomy. WMATA can seek the $20 billion it wants for the Metro expansion while also pursuing a complementary surface system that is easier to implement in the short run. The problem is that WMATA and the city (with their streetcar dreams)are still more interested in moving cars than people, which is ironic since WMATA doesn't actually move any people in cars.

by norb on Jan 24, 2013 10:10 am • linkreport

@ Nick:Radial expansion of the system is not needed. Sure, it might bring more revenue by attracting more riders, but it will encourage further exurban sprawl.

You do realize that exurban sprawl goes about 30-40 miles further out than metro does, right? Greater Washington stretches out as far as Fredericksburg, Warrenton (if not Culpepper), Leesburg, Frederick (if not Hagerstown), Baltimore, Annapolis, Upper Malboro, and La Plata. Greater Washington does not end at the Beltway (which is where metro ends, roughly). #DCcentric

by Jasper on Jan 24, 2013 10:15 am • linkreport

Am I missing something in the map above? I thought a major goal in this plan is the separation of the blue line. But would it actually just be running along the same path as the orange?

by Gray's in the Fields on Jan 24, 2013 10:15 am • linkreport

I find it interesting and illuminating that Metro brings to the table a $20 billion CAPITAL plan and people on this blog complain about operating issues, such as off-peak headways that are too high.

Of course, if Metro knows its customers are more concerned about off-peak headways than peak-period crowding they can include references to off-peak and weekend headway improvement in their plans. But in reality, the difference between a 10-minute and 20-minute headway, cost-wise, is a drop in the bucket in comparison to all the new tunnel, track and train cars that are being discussed.

by recyclist on Jan 24, 2013 10:18 am • linkreport

There are many aspects of the long term strategic plans to discuss here. Is there a direct link to the 49 page presentation here or did I overlook it? There is a link to a PDF file by following the links in the Wash Post article, but it goes to documentcloud.org, not a WMATA website.

Several comments of many that could be made:
1. Farragut Sq: I think an argument could be made that the Farragut Square pedestrian tunnel should have been built the same time as Silver Line Phase 1, so the connecting tunnel would be open when Silver Phase 1 does. Or at least start on the tunnel now, so it is open when Phase 2 starts running. Would help reduce the traffic load at Metro Center as I suspect there will be more commuters between the Red Line Rockville - Dupont Circle axis & Tysons, Reston, Herndon than has been projected.
2. Possible Blue Line extension to Potomac Mills. No, far more cost effective to expand VRE to a 7 day a week regional service for transit along that route. Extend the Yellow Line along Rt. 1 to Ft. Belvoir is the better approach for TOD in that corridor.
3. Extend the Orange Line to Rt. 50 / Fairfax is ok, but Centreville in the I-66 median strip? No, too far.

by AlanF on Jan 24, 2013 10:19 am • linkreport

@recyclist:
I find it interesting and illuminating that Metro brings to the table a $20 billion CAPITAL plan and people on this blog complain about operating issues, such as off-peak headways that are too high.
A valid point.
But in reality, the difference between a 10-minute and 20-minute headway, cost-wise, is a drop in the bucket in comparison to all the new tunnel, track and train cars that are being discussed.
Really, though? Over 40 or 50 years, doubling off-peak train frequency amounts to almost nothing? That seems hard to believe.

by Gray's in the Fields on Jan 24, 2013 10:21 am • linkreport

@Jasper: I agree on the Yellow Line extension. Still, I'm impressed that they're actually talking, for once, about the fact that they'll need to increase surface capacity BEFORE expanding the system even further. This is the first time I've seen that sort of thing discussed - usually everything's all about expansion first.

A radial line, or two, wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing; hell, I think it should be fairly easy to engineer somewhere either in the median of, or paralleling, the Beltway. That would be nice to see eventually. And yes, extending MARC service to L'Enfant would make a lot of sense. But this is a decent start, I think.

As to the headway issue...it SHOULD be addressed, because I think it's the major barrier that keeps people from taking full advantage of Metro at the weekends. Adding some capacity at off-peak hours, and on the weekends, would be a decent revenue generator. Yes, some of the people that take the extra trains would be those who would have taken the train otherwise, but I'll wager they'd draw in a lot more people.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jan 24, 2013 10:31 am • linkreport

1. The Rosslyn wye is a big deal. It would allow a Dulles-Tyson's-Ballston-Pentagon-Crystal City-National Aitport-Potomac Yards-Alexandria line.

2. WMATA doesn't have to be a supporter/advocate for commuter rail. There's nothing preventing it from negotiating with Amtrak, CSX and NS to add or upgrade and electrify track, buying its own rolling stock and running a Baltimore/BWI to Burke service fare-integrated with Metrorail (with Metrorail transfers at New Carrollton, Union Station, L'Enfant Plaza, Crystal City and King St.).

by Jim on Jan 24, 2013 10:32 am • linkreport

@Jasper

Well, yes, the metro area goes 40-50 miles out; point taken. My point is, do we need a "metro" system that goes even 20 miles out? Is it feasible/worth the expense? It's already 30 minutes from Vienna-Metro Center. Do people want 60 minutes from Leesburg-Metro Center?

Someone else up in this thread made a great point about expanding metro out past the beltway just making the drive to the park-n-ride shorter, or actually expanding ridership.

by Nick on Jan 24, 2013 10:36 am • linkreport

@Alan B.

It's hard to imagine an infill station on the red line closer to the Rock Creek Cemetery and Brightwood park than Fort Totten station already is. Were you envisioning something on the green line?

by Lucre on Jan 24, 2013 10:37 am • linkreport

AlanF: The images link to the presentation, but I forgot a link in the text. I've added it now. (I just downloaded the PDF from the Post to my serve; WMATA gave the Post the plan but didn't even post it on its website, at least not as of last night).

Gray's in the Fields: That map I think you're talking is an old one I made a few years back to talk about some of the potential of the separate Yellow Line. I didn't have time at 4:30 last night to make a new map showing WMATA's proposals.

by David Alpert on Jan 24, 2013 10:44 am • linkreport

"Someone else up in this thread made a great point about expanding metro out past the beltway just making the drive to the park-n-ride shorter, or actually expanding ridership."

In the case of the Orange line, making that drive shorter would be a way to address serious congestion on I66. It might also divert more people to metro who would otherwise drive the whole way - and it might ALSO enable TOD.

And the local part of the funding will come from Va and the Va localities anyway.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 24, 2013 10:48 am • linkreport

@Gray's in the Fields:
Really, though? Over 40 or 50 years, doubling off-peak train frequency amounts to almost nothing? That seems hard to believe.
Actually, that's accurate. The capital expense of doubling off-peak headways is nothing.

Think about it. Let's say that Metro owns 1,000 railcars. And it currently takes 800 cars to run peak service and 300 cars to run off-peak service.

Doubling *peak* service means buying 600 railcars. Doubling off-peak service doesn't mean buying any railcars.

Adding a new line to alleviate *peak* period congestion costs a lot. But doubling off-peak service doesn't require a new subway line.

That's because the infrastructure is all built to support a max load during peak periods. The capital costs of increasing off-peak service are essentially none, because that service (or at least the ridership/congestion being designed for) will always be less than it is at peak.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 24, 2013 10:55 am • linkreport

@David Alpert: Oh, okay, fair enough. But perhaps you can understand my confusion.

Did you get any feel from reading through the documents or your discussion why they prefer a new blue and yellow alignment focusing on Thomas Circle?

by Gray's in the Fields on Jan 24, 2013 10:56 am • linkreport

Lucre,

Yeah the green line. There is almost two miles of track with no station between Petworth and Ft Totten,in one of the densest parts of the city.

by Alan B. on Jan 24, 2013 10:58 am • linkreport

@Matt Johnson: But I didn't limit the costs I was discussing to capital costs. Yearly operating costs may be a drop in the bucket compared to capital costs, but over the long term, those recurring operating costs can be quite significant.

by Gray's in the Fields on Jan 24, 2013 11:00 am • linkreport

Imagine, for a moment, walking into a Metrorail station or a Metrobus platform and not needing to ask for assistance in either route planning, fare payment, and even walking to or from your bus or train.

I manage to do that every workday of my life, and this guy wants me to imagine it? Sheesh.

by iaom on Jan 24, 2013 11:01 am • linkreport

@Gray's in the Fields

They want separated line going up 10th street because there's enough ridership coming from Alex/Southern Fairfax to the west side of the downtown for that route to be preferred over a more easterly alignment.

Personally, I like the separated alignment that goes to the east and to Union Station. The model shows less ridership benefit for that alignment, but it has the virtue of opening up a lot more land for more intensive development, whereas the Thomas Circle alignment tends to serve current development patterns, therefore does not make as strong a case for new funding based on real estate growth. Also, I think the model underestimates the ridership benefits of the easterly alignment, though I'm a total amateur in that regard.

by jnb on Jan 24, 2013 11:04 am • linkreport

@Alan B.

Re: zoning changes around Fort Totten

I don't know which specific zoning changes were made to allow this to happen, but the massive Fort Totten Square development including one of the Walmarts is under construction right now a very short distance from the station.

by Wilsonia on Jan 24, 2013 11:06 am • linkreport

iaom, I laughed, BUT WMATA does a pretty abysmal job of wayfinding/ helping infrequent users figure out the system. There is definitely a lot more that can be done in that regard to help bring in more / casual users.

by Alan B. on Jan 24, 2013 11:06 am • linkreport

Some thoughts:
1) Separating the Blue Line and not running it to Union Station leaves two direct connections on the table. As any transit planner will tell you, the key is in the transfers. At the very least, an extension to Mount Vernon Square makes a helluva lot of sense. It's a half-mile away; not connecting is incredibly foolish.

2) The politically difficult but cost-effective way to boost capacity is the Metro Express system proposed here (and later expounded upon). That would add capacity on the Red Line, which sorely needs it; create de facto suburban extensions; and help draw Baltimore into the DC metro area, helping both communities.

Since these aren't WMATA systems, they should say that they will actively work with MARC, VRE, and CSX to increase core capacity, negotiate through-running, and potentially operate inner-line trains. Even a fare union would be wonderful and take some pressure off Gallery Place and Metro Center.

3) Surface transportation is absolutely necessary, and it's a shame WMATA offloads it onto the localities. They have plans for 7th Street, for example, but have left half of it unfinished (like bulb-outs at H). From freeway bus boarding in the 'burbs to transit priority lanes in the cities, that would massively improve the capacity, reliability, and the prestige of Metrobus.

by David Edmondson on Jan 24, 2013 11:10 am • linkreport

iaom, I laughed, BUT WMATA does a pretty abysmal job of wayfinding/ helping infrequent users figure out the system. There is definitely a lot more that can be done in that regard to help bring in more / casual users.

Then he should have phrased it that way! Like so: "Imagine, people too dumb to figure out simple maps will be blocking things up all over the place with the roving customer assistants instead of gathered around the station manager's kiosk where they can be easily avoided by people trying to get to their train on time."

by iaom on Jan 24, 2013 11:11 am • linkreport


Like Jim, AlanF and others have said, we need more of an investment in VRE and MARC and not extending WMATA to the exurbs. As you say, who wants a 60 minute commute to Burke when we can have VRE do it in 30?. Expansion and electrification; new rolling stock and late night and weekend service; separation of freight and commuter lines where needed; this is what the region needs.

What I'd like to see for WMATA in the core, including what we see in this plan, include additional two-track connections with other trunk lines, more turn back, tail tracks (Fort Totten, Ballston), and lacking a connection to Union Station, given what Amtrak is planning with it's long-term expansion, is just silly.

http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2012/07/25/amtrak-unveils-7-billion-union.html?page=all

by Randall M. on Jan 24, 2013 11:20 am • linkreport

(Don't take me too seriously, BTW, I'm just being silly.)

by iaom on Jan 24, 2013 11:20 am • linkreport

Metro could save a lot of money in lieu of the tunnel between Farragut North and West by building a new exit from each station that dumps people out into Farragut Square itself without having to wait to cross I St and K St when making the current walking connection. It would shave probably 45 seconds on average for that above ground transfer based on personal experience. It could save up to 1:30 if you are unlucky when exiting the station.

Also, why does metro only show a blue line going halfway through the city in a new tunnel? Would the Silver take over the current blue line east of Rosslyn?

by NikolasM on Jan 24, 2013 11:22 am • linkreport

Well for one they have a surface lot that could be redeveloped. It's absurd to have a surface lot that size in the middle of a city. Theres also plenty of scrubland right around the station that can be redeveloped. I don't know about the Walmart in particular and I'm sure some stuff is in the works, but part of the focus on improving metro should be to do better TOD planning around existing stations.

by Alan B. on Jan 24, 2013 11:31 am • linkreport

Another way WMATA could encourage MARC/VRE connections is to redesign fare collection and stations to allow cross-platform transers. Silver Spring could look like:

||||||||||| MARC
---------------- Platform
||||||||||| WMATA
||||||||||| WMATA
---------------- Platform
||||||||||| MARC

Ideally we'd have rolling stock that could cross onto WMATA tracks and allow single-platform boarding, but given the current regulatory environment that might be even more of a pipe dream. (Also this might not be physically possible if MARC and WMATA platform heights are different.)

by David Edmondson on Jan 24, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

@MLD: As for current plans to extend the system to Centreville/Bowie/Potomac Mills, I think we will have to do some serious counting of whether those extensions really will lead to increased ridership and transit-oriented commuting, or whether it's about making some people's trips to a park-n-ride lot slightly shorter.

Extending the Orange line to Bowie would probably help create TOD at New Carrollton, not Bowie. To facilitate TOD Metro built a new parking building at New Carrollton to replace most of the huge surface parking lot between the tracks and US-50.

But they didn't close the lot they were replacing, and now both the lot and the building fill up. That lot has to go for TOD to progress--but one more monster parking building there would not be good. And any proposal to eliminate that metro parking is a political nonstarter.

An obvious solution is for a different lot to open the same time that the New Carrollton surface lot closes. I think people could even live with the parking being shifted before the Metro extension is complete, if the parking and shuttle are free and roads are managed to allow the shuttle to skip the bottleneck.

by JimT on Jan 24, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

@JimT

Metro has proposed that surface parking at New Carrollton be replaced at Landover as part of TOD at New Carrollton, where it will be cheaper to build and will not limit TOD opportunities (Landover station parking lot is in a flood plain - you can build parking but not residential)

by jnb on Jan 24, 2013 11:41 am • linkreport

I thought the separated blue line was gonna go Georgetown -> Downtown -> Union Station -> H St and then north?

Union station needs additional capacity and why link up a couple more areas. Seems half baked.

by H Street LL on Jan 24, 2013 11:45 am • linkreport

Extending Orange line to Centreville is likely to become a major concern to Fairfax County.

It would address improving transit on the congested I66 corridor - whether thats through diversion of drivers to transit, or through drivers driving to outer metro stations rather than to Vienna, its still congestion relief, and travel time savings for users. Not every new station will be TOD friendly, but some will likely have some potential, and as in the New Carrolton case, it may strengthen TOD at Vienna and Dunn Loring, and at other locations along the existing Orange line in NoVa.

Also, without the promise of new or extended radial lanes, it will be difficult to get a political concensus for a Va contribution to the seperated blue line.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 24, 2013 11:56 am • linkreport

Now's as good a time as any to dust off my old fantasy Metro map: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thisisbossi/5386981166/ Unfortunately, my working file seems to have been corrupted. Perhaps now I'll be able to give it another whirl & make it a bit more aesthetic; work in a few more ideas.

I like that the plan hits a mix of shorter-term issues (8-car trains, ped tunnels, new connectors) as well as much longer-term goals (Blue Line realignment). It's a nice reminder that my seeming crackpot pipedream fantasy map isn't entirely way out in left-field (just bouncing off the walls of the Green Monster).

Momentum does suggest a few things I hadn't thought of before- particularly extensions to Bowie, Centreville, & Potomac Mills; also serious mention of NoVA-only service via a C&K connector by Rosslyn; and even a C&L connector by Pentagon plus a whole new Pentagon station. Big aspirations.

A few thoughts of additional items I'd like to see...

Rail Connectors:
- D&F Connector(s) at L'Enfant
- B&F Connector(s) at Gallery Place

Rail Extensions:
- Orange west to Fair Lakes & Centerville is good; perhaps consider hitting Fairfax, GMU; perhaps also up to Chantilly, Dulles [I haven't tried laying this out yet]
- Blue south to Newington, Lorton, Woodbridge, Potomac Mills [appears to be what they're proposing; I haven't tried laying this out yet]
- Blue east to Six Flags & Bowie [I haven't tried laying this out yet]
- Yellow south to Groveton, Hybla Valley, Engleside, Ft Belvoir
- Yellow north to Chillum, Langley Park, Adelphi, White Oak, Tech Rd, Briggs Chaney; perhaps also to Burtonsville, Maple Lawn, Merriweather, Columbia
- Green north to Beltsville, Konterra, Contee Rd, Laurel, Ft Meade, Arundel Mills, BWI
- Red northwest to Gaithersburg, Germantown
- Red north to Leisure World, ICC P&R, Olney

Realignments / New Lines:
- A line that hits more of Fairfax County southwest of Arlington (shown in blue on my fantasy map).
- Diagonal southwest/northeast service through downtown (shown in blue & pink on my fantasy map).
- Service to Upper NW (shown in cyan on my fantasy map).
- Service to NE (shown in blue, taupe/coal, pink, and cyan on my fantasy map).
- Service to SE & PG Co (shown in silver, cyan, & brown on my fantasy map).
- Loop Lines (shown in taupe/coal & brown on my fantasy map). Admittedly the inner taupe/coal line is perhaps the least necessary & also poses the most operational issues; but the further out brown picks up a number of additional communities. Perhaps worth pointing out here that the parallel/perpendicular orientation of the lines on that fantasy map doesn't necessarily reflect whether they'd actually share trackage; when I laid out alignments in Google Earth I tried to keep it to a minimum where 3+ lines are on the same tracks)

In-Fill Stations:
- Potomac Park (necessitating the Yellow Line Bridge be replaced w/ a tunnel)
- Potomac Yard (already planned)

Miscellaneous:
- 3rd-tracking
- Increased frequency / Reduced headways (ideally 2min/peak; 10min/off)

Non-WMATA:
- Feeder BRT/LRT systems (I have a whole other fantasy map covering Maryland in great detail w/ LRT/BRT)
- "Underground City" requirements; new developments downtown required to construct ped connections at underground level. Think Montreal: would start small but gradually grow.

Massive issues relate to marketing & funding:
- Good to be idealistic & think big: it helps ensure there is always a goal; also establishes master plans for long-term right-of-way dedication & designs by other stakeholders
- But need to be realistic to sell it to a dubious public; also with mind to fiscal constraints.
- Long-term idealistic goals should be constructible & operable in segments

Funding options:
- Need dedicated funding
- Sales tax
- Fuel tax (or other automotive taxes/fees)
- Tolling / Congestion Pricing
- Portion of income or property taxes
- Increased assessments from participating governments
- Taxes on Transit Service Districts (value capture?)
- Private Partnerships (as w/ in-fill stations)
- User Fees / Transit Fares

None of those funding mechanisms will move forward w/ a dubious, pessimistic, and distrusting public. Even if polling the riders finds, on the average, generally positive sentiments: non-riders are likely far less forgiving, and they're the more critical if we're to have any hope of paying for the system & convincing them of a transit option.

by Bossi on Jan 24, 2013 11:58 am • linkreport

The exurban Metro extensions are a red herring. The report specifically mentions that Metro isn't considering any extensions until the core capacity issue is addressed. (That said, I think you could make the case for extending the Yellow Line in the short-term future)

I was also a bit surprised to not see an official proposal for a Rosslyn-Ballston bypass along with the new Rosslyn wye and Blue Line tube. Seems like fairly low-hanging fruit compared to everything else being proposed, since you could probably build it in the I-66 median.

This is definitely a start to a great plan. They've definitely got the right goals in mind (as opposed to, say, BART's long-term plan, which is a disaster in the making).

Here are my concerns:
All previous new Metro construction has opened up opportunities for new development and population growth. The proposed downtown tunnels are going to pass through some of the most established neighborhoods in town. Shouldn't we be pushing them further North and East to encourage population growth in DC? Even if these don't get built until the distant future, they should be on the books so that we can leave accommodations for them in our near-term plans.

Also, Union Station needs to be included somehow. It's a glaring omission.

Here's my suggestion:
Blue: Proposed alignment to Thomas Circle, THEN east to Mt Vernon Square, Union Station North, Starburst, then Bladensburg.

Yellow: Turn East at Thomas Circle, and do a cut-and-cover underneath Rhode Island Ave as far as they can go until the money runs out. This is the real opportunity for new development.

Also, build an automated tram/LRT under 1st St between NoMa, the two Union Station Metros, H St Streetcar, Senate, CVC, House/Capitol South, and Navy Yard. This gives Union Station better connectivity to just about every line in the system, and also greatly improves a few commuting routes.

by andrew on Jan 24, 2013 12:06 pm • linkreport

"Underground City" requirements; new developments downtown required to construct ped connections at underground level. Think Montreal: would start small but gradually grow.

Yeah, because Crystal City is awesome *Rolls eyes*

by andrew on Jan 24, 2013 12:09 pm • linkreport

@jnb, @Alan B:

Yes, I rather expected that knee-jerk attacks would come from my "modest proposal". But wow - "most asinine" is a real hallmark coming from this blog!

However I really don't think the current metrorail system is sustainable, and I disagree strongly that an urban core will founder without a subway. San Francisco seems to do pretty well with surface transit as the dominant mode for within-core transit.

Your attempt to cut off the suburbs from the city is just silly. We are a unified metropolitan region, and light rail (including metro) is an effective option for moving people from suburbs to core and back.

by Pworth on Jan 24, 2013 12:17 pm • linkreport

Speaking of elephants in the room, Union Station isn't the only one. Much of the information covered previously on GGW (http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/10965/metro-planners-contemplate-systems-second-generation/) is absent from this plan. Where is the circumferential beltway line? Where's the Brown Line? What about the proposed extensions from Largo and Shady Grove? And the word "Baltimore" isn't in the plan at all, yet there are longstanding discussions about how to reach Baltimore via a proposed Green Line extension (http://www.mdot.maryland.gov/Office_of_Planning_and_Capital_Programming/BWIC/BWIC.html) and/or high speed rail (http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/453/325/Amtrak-Vision-for-the-Northeast-Corridor.pdf) and/or monorail (though that's a little fanciful and the website has expired.)

How strange that these aren't even mentioned.

by Mark Bardwell on Jan 24, 2013 12:18 pm • linkreport

@jnb: Can you provide a lik to the Metro proposal for Landover parking you mentioned?

I am somewhat skeptical of that option, because the connections to US-50 are not so great. Are they contemplating dedicated lanes from US-50 comparable to what Greenbelt and New Carrollton stations have today?, along with widening of US-50 to Landover Road so that Metro-bound drivers will not get stuck in the existing bottleneck?

by JimT on Jan 24, 2013 12:22 pm • linkreport

Pworth, [Deleted for violating the comment policy.] [Muni Metro is a subway, and] was very well used when I was there. I don't see at all how reducing transit options does anything to increase mobility in the city. Not everyone works downtown either.

by Alan B. on Jan 24, 2013 12:24 pm • linkreport

@JimT

See next to last paragraph for Landover parking

http://www.gazette.net/article/20130104/NEWS/130109965/1124/new-carrollton-metro-station-tapped-for-1-billion-project&template=gazette

by jnb on Jan 24, 2013 12:32 pm • linkreport

It's nice to know what WMATA wants to do west of the Anacostia. Will there be a second volume for the east side of town?

by JimT on Jan 24, 2013 12:34 pm • linkreport

@Pworth
Yes, I rather expected that knee-jerk attacks would come from my "modest proposal". But wow - "most asinine" is a real hallmark coming from this blog!

However I really don't think the current metrorail system is sustainable, and I disagree strongly that an urban core will founder without a subway. San Francisco seems to do pretty well with surface transit as the dominant mode for within-core transit.

It's a poorly thought out idea. Abandoning literally billions of dollars in infrastructure is wasteful and poor planning. You provided no reason as to why the current Metro setup is "unsustainable," rather you just declare it to be so when that's not remotely the case. San Francisco does well with surface transit but their transit mode share is not as high as DC's.

Your attempt to cut off the suburbs from the city is just silly. We are a unified metropolitan region, and light rail (including metro) is an effective option for moving people from suburbs to core and back.

Isn't this proposal to cut off subway service in the city the inverse - "cutting of the city from the suburbs"? Turning Metro into commuter rail doesn't unify the region at all, it keeps things more separate. DC needs both quality surface transit for some trips and Metro for others.

by MLD on Jan 24, 2013 12:36 pm • linkreport

"The exurban Metro extensions are a red herring. The report specifically mentions that Metro isn't considering any extensions until the core capacity issue is addressed"

they are linked - operationally you can't do the extensions (calling centreville or Ft Belvoir exurban is a bit silly, BTW) without more capacity at the core - but you can't get Va to help pay for core improvements like the blue line tunnel, without the promise of extensions, I think.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 24, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport

@andrew

Great point about opening up development - the plan needs to be able to relieve congestion for existing passengers, increase system capacity, AND open up areas for more intensive development. Concentrating all the lines within such a small part of the region may make sense from system operations, but supporting growth on the east end of the urban core (including the Union Station vision) should be a goal, too.

by jnb on Jan 24, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport

@JimT

This proposal is about expanding core capacity. The areas mentioned west of the Anacostia are areas that are nearing capacity and are in the center of the city. EOTR currently has plenty of rail capacity that could be better utilized. Its purpose isn't to primarily expand rail services to new areas, I would love that west of the river as much as you would like that EOTR.

by ARM on Jan 24, 2013 12:38 pm • linkreport

"The infrastructure and personnel costs of running a system with so many stations is killing it."

Which invididual stations have the lowest ridership, where the benefits of said ridership might be lower than incremental costs? Its not always the case that every existing station needs to be kept (NYC has several ghost stations) but I suspect actually getting to the nitty gritty will show that almost all, if not all, of the stations are positive contributors.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 24, 2013 12:41 pm • linkreport

@Jasper - having lived near Kyiv - WMAT struggles in comparison. They are both similarly structured systems (focus on bringing workers into the city not moving people about inside the city) with standard station designs. Kyiv has much shorter headways (even at night) and escalators (deeper than WMATA) are never out of order. Granted the Kyiv equivalent of the the Union Station connection is 100 times worse than the Union Station transfer - WMATA could learn a lot from Kyiv.

by andy2 on Jan 24, 2013 12:42 pm • linkreport

@jnb: Aren't they talking about about just a little bit of parking to accommodate construction on the north side of the tracks? The big surface parking lot that the parking building was meant to replace is on the south side.

by JimT on Jan 24, 2013 12:43 pm • linkreport

@JimT

ARM is correct. For example, separating lines through the core means that Green line service levels can double (from 13 trains per hour to 26), and reliability should improve (b/c no interlining with Yellow Line). That means much better service to Green Line stations Anacostia, Congress Heights, Alabama Ave, etc.

by jnb on Jan 24, 2013 12:44 pm • linkreport

@Bardwell, the rejected ideas such as the Beltline and Brown Line are not part of the plan. The Beltline was obviously an exercise to see what the ridership numbers might look like, it would be staggeringly expensive to build as heavy rail. Extending a light rail Purple Line to Tysons and, maybe to Largo, is more cost effective and a better match of potential capacity needs.

As for extending Green Line to Baltimore or BWI, the cost would be huge for the benefit. Upgrading the NorthEast Corridor to 4 tracks and expanding MARC to a 125 mph capable regional rail line with 7 day/week and 1/2 hour frequency service outside of rush hours between Union Station and BWI, West Baltimore/Red Line & Balt Penn Station provides the capacity and transit speed needed for downtown DC to Baltimore trips.

The thinking should be to expand the Metro in the core, extend lines where there is a need & no viable MARC/VRE option, convert MARC & VRE to regional rail systems, and build light rail lines with a high degree of grade separation for circular routes with the Metro system as the backbone (Purple line, a Tysons to Columbia Pike or Alexandria LRT).

by AlanF on Jan 24, 2013 12:46 pm • linkreport

@JimT

I don't know the total number of parking spaces that would be relocated, and the combined views of WMATA, MDOT, and Prince George's County are probably not settled on that, either. They know, though, that there's less opportunity cost in terms of TOD by putting new structured parking at Landover compared to New Carrollton.

by jnb on Jan 24, 2013 12:46 pm • linkreport

We already have commuter rail, and Metro as is is a great way to also come to the city from the suburbs. Removing stations in town would help resolve the capacity issues however that these proposals are aimed at resolving.

Moreover a convoluted scheme to replace metro trains with BRT or so forth would similarly decrease capacity overall which would also be a bad idea

by drumz on Jan 24, 2013 12:51 pm • linkreport

@AlanF

I was just thinking about how if they extended the Green Line to BWI, I would never use any other airport ever again. The GR/YL corridor is by far the engine of new growth and development in town, and extending it to BWI would definitely give Maryland a pretty solid gain in the flights department.

Real question, though, is how much brownfield/sprawl/etc. would we have to put stops at between Greenbelt and BWI to make it a reality?

by MetroDerp on Jan 24, 2013 12:56 pm • linkreport

@andy2: It's interesting that you mention Kyiv. My mother grew up in Saint Petersburg - another subway system with similarities to ours, at least in terms of depth of stations - and she still keeps up with Russian news online, so she knows about more recent developments there. Again, the differences are significant, to our detriment.

@andrew: C'mon. I LIKE Crystal City. (I wish there were more of those sorts of underground passageways in this country, actually. It would go a long way towards solving some of our problems. Speaking of eastern Europe - it's fascinating to see what Warsaw has done with the underground area surrounding the train station, beneath the Palace of Culture and Science - is anyone here familiar with that?)

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jan 24, 2013 1:02 pm • linkreport

@MetroDerp: I think Green Line service to BWI would be a mistake, if only for the distance. (Does anyone know how it compares to the distance between downtown DC and Dulles? Just curious.) Better to expand MARC service there - that would kill two birds with one stone, and MARC's already available. Best would be to combine MARC and VRE so those of us south of DC could participate, too...and add some infill stations to both for the commuter traffic. But that's probably a pipe dream.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jan 24, 2013 1:05 pm • linkreport

Green line to BWI is an incredibly expensive idea. Fund MARC properly and bring it to a more frequent and 7 days a week level of service and you have that done at a far quicker travel time than metro could ever provide.

by NikolasM on Jan 24, 2013 1:06 pm • linkreport

I think these are so much needed movements, I would like to see these projects actually started. The Washington region needs a regionally comprehensive plan, that included NoVA, all of Maryland and DC, and even WV. The WMATA can be in charge, but a complete transportation network would really help the region grow smartly.

by Benjamin D K on Jan 24, 2013 1:09 pm • linkreport

If MARC and VRE combined I could hop on the train at Alexandria and get to BWI fairly quickly. That would be an awesome advantage for BWI to have.

by NikolasM on Jan 24, 2013 1:10 pm • linkreport

@Ser Nicolao

White House ---> Dulles is about 22 miles as the crow flies.

White House ---> BWI about 27.

by Nick on Jan 24, 2013 1:10 pm • linkreport

Dave Alpert should repost his combined commuter rail metro map he did a few years ago as that is the end state I would love to see.

by NikolasM on Jan 24, 2013 1:11 pm • linkreport

White House to Dulles also has the monster employment center known as Tyson's Corner and the Reston corridor between it.

by NikolasM on Jan 24, 2013 1:13 pm • linkreport

@jnb: OK thanks. I'm guessing that the Forest City project has a relatively minor impact on north-side parking, which can be accommodated by more people driving to Landover with little if any capacity expansion there.

The real showdown will be when proposals come in to develop the big south-side lots. I think many people want to see US-50 widened from MD-410 to the DC line anyway. That may be what it takes to both put MD-450 on a road diet and move the parking to Landover. A dedicated ramp may still be necessary even with the widening, howewever.

by JimT on Jan 24, 2013 1:16 pm • linkreport

Ah, found it:

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/1709/the-metro-express/

A unified system of commuter rail and metro would be perfect for the region.

by NikolasM on Jan 24, 2013 1:22 pm • linkreport

@ Nick:Do people want 60 minutes from Leesburg-Metro Center?

No. People want 30 mins Leesburg - Tysons. Or 30 mins Fredericksburg to Alexandria. Or any way to get decently from Franconia to Tysons without a massive detour.

Someone else up in this thread made a great point about expanding metro out past the beltway just making the drive to the park-n-ride shorter, or actually expanding ridership.

It is also #DCcentric, and ignoring that people that live in Burke, might work in Tysons, but have no transit to get there. Or people living in Woodbrigde that need to get to Andrews.

Also, if you can get people off of I-95 from Fredericksburg to Alexandria, everybody else can drive faster.

@ Randall M:As you say, who wants a 60 minute commute to Burke when we can have VRE do it in 30?

Good luck with that commute around noon. Or 8pm. Or on a Saturday. VRE and MARC are limited rush-hour services. They are not full on rail services.

@ andy2:WMATA could learn a lot from Kyiv.

Thanks for confirming. I've never been there. But the map looks better.

by Jasper on Jan 24, 2013 1:24 pm • linkreport

A number of thoughts/comments about this, but the ones that stick out most to me are as follows:

-Overall, very good steps in the right direction. Core capacity is a serious, serious concern for Metro. Granted, by the time these expansions are rolled out (provided that even happens), Metro will still be far behind. But it's an improvement for sure considering the near silence from Metro on the topic of expansion plans.

-Why on earth do the new tunnels stop at 10th Street? Look at the direction of development in the city: Mt. Vernon Triangle, Union Station/Noma, H Street...so much is happening in those parts of the city, with many new residents to boot. It seems almost ridiculously short-sighted to not continue tunneling on through to Union Station, then on through NE past the Starburst intersection. In other words, if you've tunneled to 10th Street, you might as well finish the job. At the very least, any new E-W tunnel MUST connect to Union Station.

-A big outstanding question to me: will the new tunnels be accompanied by new stations? Metro stations serving areas such as Georgetown, West End, Thomas Circle, etc. are much-needed, and would help relieve congestion off of some of the overcrowded core stations. I see no mention of new stations planned in the proposal, so I do wonder what Metro is planning in this regard.

-Finally: headways. They're a huge issue. It almost seems to be a chicken/egg argument, with Metro claiming that it doesn't offer more late-night/weekend trains due to low ridership, and people stating that they don't take Metro late at night or on weekends because of the infrequency of trains. Compared to other issues being discussed here in the Master Plan, adding service and reducing headways at off-peak times is a relatively inexpensive way for Metro to boost capacity and ridership.

by Ben on Jan 24, 2013 1:24 pm • linkreport

If Metro trains were driverless like many new systems across the world headways would be a cinch at any time.

by NikolasM on Jan 24, 2013 1:31 pm • linkreport

Two words: circle line.

by Another Ben on Jan 24, 2013 1:34 pm • linkreport

@Jasper

"It is also #DCcentric, and ignoring that people that live in Burke, might work in Tysons, but have no transit to get there. Or people living in Woodbrigde that need to get to Andrews. Also, if you can get people off of I-95 from Fredericksburg to Alexandria, everybody else can drive faster."

Right, but isn't being #DCcentric (did not know this was a bad thing) kind of the point? How many people commute from Burke to Tysons, or Chantilly to Tysons, versus those two origins to say the Pentagon or Farragut? Do we build dedicated transit everywhere, regardless of cost, or do we do the most sensible, cost effective, economic-benefit projects?

All I'm trying to say is that (my theory here, not guaranteed fact) extending the Orange line to Centreville (or Green line to Laurel or what have you) isn't as strong of a cost/benefit as say, re-routing the blue line through downtown.

by Nick on Jan 24, 2013 1:35 pm • linkreport

Jasper, I don't think it's a dig at the suburbs to say it's a waste. I think it's pointing out the the lack of density in the greater region really hurts efficiency so it seems better to serve areas where the natural ridership base is already.

by Alan B. on Jan 24, 2013 1:41 pm • linkreport

@Ser Amantio di Nicola @NikolasM

I did not know this about those distances. This is good to know.

I guess my main reason for suggesting BWI is pretty much self-serving. It would be a one-seat ride as is.

Now, I don't mind transferring, but with current headways and transfer locations, it's a pain just to get from say, Columbia Heights to Union Station. And that's before even taking into account the absolute mess that Union Station is now.

But agreed, if we fix those and make MARC a viable transit service, that would obviate the need for a Metro extension to BWI.

by MetroDerp on Jan 24, 2013 1:43 pm • linkreport

@ jasper

"It is also #DCcentric, and ignoring that people that live in Burke, might work in Tysons, but have no transit to get there."

as of last week, Fairfax is running an exprees bus from Burke to Tysons via the new HOT lanes. they will soon be adding additional lines from Springfield and IIUC, Lorton, to Tysons via the HOT lanes.

"Or people living in Woodbrigde that need to get to Andrews."

Thats going to a be a hard one. Hopefully when rail is added over the Wilson bridge, there will be a stop close to King Street Station, so people can transfer from a more frequent VRE.

"Also, if you can get people off of I-95 from Fredericksburg to Alexandria, everybody else can drive faster."

Which is why many of us want to see much more frequent VRE service - in precisely that corridor.

@nick

Orange line to Centreville is DIFFERENT from Green line to Laurel, or Blue to Ft Belvoir, for one simple reason - there is not parallel commuter rail line close by.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 24, 2013 1:43 pm • linkreport

@andrew-

Yeah, because Crystal City is awesome *Rolls eyes*

Agreed, but Crystal City is also particularly distinct from downtown DC in its urban form, vacancy rate, and attraction to visitors such as tourists or non-insular businesses. It has branding issues in that pretty much the only people who know Crystal City even *has* underground passages are local residents & workers (and even then large portions are unaware). The passages themselves are, the most part, uninviting utilitarian corridors with little aesthetic.

Not to say it's perfect & such a scheme would certainly be more complex than simply saying "let's build tunnels", but DC's core has much more in common with Montreal and presently has a stronger potential than Crystal City does.

by Bossi on Jan 24, 2013 1:55 pm • linkreport

One thought on maintenance: Adding new wyes and extra density in the core adds a lot of redundancy, and makes it easier for Metro to completely shut down portions of track for days at a time. Hopefully they won't need do it often, but it would be a whole lot more efficient than their current strategy of performing major track work on weeknights, or providing substitute busing on weekends.

And, yes. Driverless trains would be nice, but probably won't happen anytime soon. I still can't believe that Metro is spending billions to replace its antiquated signaling system with the same antiquated signaling system, plus a few minor changes. Would proper CBTC have actually cost us that much more?

by andrew on Jan 24, 2013 1:56 pm • linkreport

There's another elephant in the room.

Through-running at Union Station is going to be astonishingly expensive. They'll need to build another railyard beneath Columbus Circle, expand the tunnel under the mall, harmonize platform configurations and loading gauges between MARC and VRE, rebuild the Long Bridge, and electrify any portions of the track where we'd want to run frequent service. This is to say nothing of the changes you'd want to make to Union Station and the existing VRE stations to make sure that

All of these are things that we should eventually do, and could probably do in stages. The SE HSR plan also requires most of these improvements to be made. However, to make MARC/VRE through-running work, and to make it work with any remotely reasonable headways, there's a TON of work that will need to be done, even though the right of way is already there.

(Still, it's easier than, say, doing NJT->LIRR through-running. Everything about those two systems is completely incompatible)

by andrew on Jan 24, 2013 2:15 pm • linkreport

Pardon, but isnt the main reason for the tunnels in Montreal due to the climate?

Its quite possible to get around on the streets of DC without tunnels. If a developer wants to build them fine, but mandating an expensive additional piece of infrastructure to keep people off the street (shades of parking minimums, anyone?) at a time when malls are being displaced by open air lifestyl centers, when even Crystal City is being reinvented to be walkable in the open air, when people want to walk in AIR and SUNSHINE, seems to me, to be beyond silly.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 24, 2013 2:15 pm • linkreport

And does this plan provide any indication how they intend to actually pay for any of these improvements?

Instead of these fantasies how about setting some goals they might actually have a chance of achieving like:
* Limit major system meltdowns to one per week
* Open the Silver and Purple lines no more than 3 years behind schedule
* Improve on-time performance without cooking the statistics
* Respond to FOIA requests in something resembling a timely manner
* At least one weekend per year without single tracking anywhere in the system

by Jacob on Jan 24, 2013 2:27 pm • linkreport

@jnb,@ARM For example, separating lines through the core means that Green line service levels can double (from 13 trains per hour to 26), and reliability should improve (b/c no interlining with Yellow Line).

And yet, I am left with the sense that this plan is freezing EOTR as a suburb, while we talk about more stations and parallel lines WOTR.

So areas out in the spokes have to stay that way because now we are shifting to build core capacity. What is core capacity? Better serving the people we are already serving.

Perhaps a more equitable plan would make some sort of comparable expansion EOTR. Just as one need not go through Metro Center to travel from Vienna to Alexandria, one ought not have to go through L'Enfant Plaza to travel from New Carrollton to Suitland.

by JimT on Jan 24, 2013 3:01 pm • linkreport

What I suspect happened to a Union Station connection is that it, in the absence of other major demand drivers around it, could not justify a significant eastward detour in the tunnel route. The other stations along a new Blue/Yellow line approach to Union Station would have been in comparatively low-density areas like the Capitol reservation or H St., which are mighty fine places but frankly not at heavy rail-supportive densities -- i.e., continuous mid- and high-rise construction.

@Brian/Ben/etc: Of course the new tunneled rail lines will also have stations in places like Georgetown, they're just not shown on the conceptual maps because they're, well, concepts.

@Jacob: No, there's no financial plan. The last part of the plan discusses Metro's need for dedicated funding. The system can and should do both long-range planning, particularly for very complicated projects like new subways, as well as better manage day-to-day operations -- it's not a zero-sum game, and good long-range planning today will vastly ease tomorrow's daily operations.

@Mark Bardwell: This plan moves forward the best ideas from the much broader pool of ideas raised earlier (and summarized in Matt Johnson's earlier post). Maryland is pushing demand past Shady Grove onto the CCT; Baltimore is best served by a 15-minute high-speed connection rather than a 90-minute Metro ride.

by Payton on Jan 24, 2013 3:17 pm • linkreport

Like many people here, I am puzzled by the decision to stop the M St. line at Thomas Circle. Does anyone know when the full plan will be opened to the public?

The one thing that makes some sense to me is if the M and 10th street lines are meant as the first phase of core expansion. If, after the lines are built, a second phase extending M st. to Union Station and beyond, and extending 10th into the full east side Brown Line that was talked about in their earlier study is built, then this alignment would make sense to me. But otherwise, I agree with the multiple posters above who don't see how this helps DC handle expansion outside the traditional downtown.

by JW on Jan 24, 2013 3:22 pm • linkreport

I'm disappointed. I really wanted to see them go for the separated Blue Line as shown here.

by David C on Jan 24, 2013 3:24 pm • linkreport

And #DCcentric: So? Transit needs to focus on those markets where it can best compete, which is inside the Beltway in comparatively higher-density, more congested areas with all-day demand for transit services. What's occurring in DC is similar to what's occurred in Toronto, where too many extensions at the edges have led to a capacity crunch in the core (which, despite the service at the edges, is still where transit demand focuses) -- and thus a need for more and redundant service patterns at the core.

by Payton on Jan 24, 2013 3:24 pm • linkreport

The estimated cost for the seperate blue line is 3.3 billion, tunnel included.

I have earlier heard the number for the full seperate blue line, was 8 to 10 billion. I imagine leaving out the stations, and ending at 10th street, is how you get down to $3.3 billion. Its the stripped down seperate blue line, so to speak.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 24, 2013 3:26 pm • linkreport

I understand that running a separated blue line into Union Station probably brings with it a wide range of engineering (and $$) challenges. But running it to NoMa would give many of the benefits--everything other than a direct link to MARC/Amtrak--at a much lower cost. Also, blue line transfers could get to Union Station fairly quickly by walking along the Met Branch Trail.

Seems like you'd be looking at the following stations:
-- Georgetown
-- West End (22nd & M)
-- Farragut North (w transfer to red line)
-- Thomas Circle

Then you could run it to:
--Mt. Vernon Square (with transfers to green/yellow)
--Mt. Vernon Triangle (Eastern end, like 4th & K)
--NoMa (transfer to Red line)
--H Street, near 8th (with transfers to Streetcar) -- this is in between the two ends of H Street NE, but has some major projects in the pipeline, and will be denser than east end.
--Stadium-Armory (transfers to orange/silver)

by Jacques on Jan 24, 2013 3:27 pm • linkreport

@ Nick:Right, but isn't being #DCcentric (did not know this was a bad thing) kind of the point?

No. Not if Tysons becomes as much a job center as DC is. Not if the feds keep spreading out to the suburbs. USPTO has already created massive reverse commuting on the Blue and Yellow Lines as well as taken thousands of people of of I-395.

How many people commute from Burke to Tysons, or Chantilly to Tysons, versus those two origins to say the Pentagon or Farragut?

Well, Tysons will start rivaling DC in number of employees, so they need to come. So, to answer: How many people commute from Burke to Tysons, or Chantilly to Tysons, versus those two origins to say the Pentagon or Farragut? about as many.

@ Nick:All I'm trying to say is that (my theory here, not guaranteed fact) extending the Orange line to Centreville (or Green line to Laurel or what have you) isn't as strong of a cost/benefit as say, re-routing the blue line through downtown.

Both are needed. Desperately. DC is always in the top 3 most congested cities in the US, with the others cycling in and out. As we can not build more roads, we need more transit. Again, DC runs on a transit system worse than Kyiv's.

Alan B:Jasper, I don't think it's a dig at the suburbs to say it's a waste. I think it's pointing out the the lack of density in the greater region really hurts efficiency so it seems better to serve areas where the natural ridership base is already.

The only way to get the suburbs to densify is to bring metro to it. Plenty of densification can happen.

@Walker:Which is why many of us want to see much more frequent VRE service - in precisely that corridor.

VRE is not a viable option because it is too depending on the whims of the railroad companies. Also, there is a massive choking point at the Potomac. And VRE does not go to Tysons.

by Jasper on Jan 24, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

@jasper

"Well, Tysons will start rivaling DC in number of employees, so they need to come."

Please show the numbers to back up your claim. I'd like to see them.

by revitalizer on Jan 24, 2013 3:47 pm • linkreport

@MetroDerp: Actually, I'd love to have some kind of regular service to BWI, too. It wouldn't be a one-seat deal for me, given where I live, but then neither will Dulles. (I suspect I'll still be driving out there to use it; given transfers, it'll take about as much time and be less of a hassle if I don't have to park there.)

@NicK: DC-centric isn't a horrible idea for the short-term, but long-term Metro is going to have to look for some ways to expand. It's necessary because of the smaller satellite employment and commercial centers that already exist - Fort Belvoir, Andrews AFB, National Harbor, maybe Potomac Mills. They'll siphon off a lot of the commuters from the system so that not everyone is pouring into downtown DC. Tysons will be huge; Belvoir already IS huge, and getting bigger. So is National Harbor. Why shut them out when expanding to encompass them is a relatively small matter, compared to some other ideas being batted around?

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jan 24, 2013 3:47 pm • linkreport

@Jasper: Also, VRE doesn't go TO Fort Belvoir, only through. Actually, there's a lot of places it doesn't go right now.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jan 24, 2013 3:48 pm • linkreport

An interesting proposal, but it does nothing to improve east/west connectivity. (Is the Blue Line just supposed to loop around and come back out?) Instead of duplicating trunk lines a block apart, I would rather see new trunk lines in underserved areas, which could still provide additional capacity for overcrowded corridors like Ballston-Rosslyn. I would consider the separated Blue Line proposal floating around on this blog to be far superior.

by Matthias on Jan 24, 2013 3:49 pm • linkreport

Fixing the core helps the ends by increasing frequencies. There is no issue with me that this is DC centric.

by NikolasM on Jan 24, 2013 4:03 pm • linkreport

@Matthias

"Instead of duplicating trunk lines a block apart, I would rather see new trunk lines in underserved areas, which could still provide additional capacity for overcrowded corridors like Ballston-Rosslyn. I would consider the separated Blue Line proposal floating around on this blog to be far superior."

I think we should wait until we actually see the proposal and have read it. Maybe the proposal to end the M Street and 10th Street lines at Thomas Circle is "Phase 1" and will be engineered to be extended one the phase is complete.

I think the $2.7 billion for the 10th St line and the $3.3 billion for the M St line (even if only getting them to Thomas Circle) would make these projects attainable from a funding perspective.

At any rate, we should all wait until we have more details before passing judgement on the proposal.

by revitalizer on Jan 24, 2013 4:05 pm • linkreport

I think the separated blue line is multitudes more important than the separated yellow line in terms of priority.

by NikolasM on Jan 24, 2013 4:09 pm • linkreport

Well, I didn't think the separated blue line would be cheap, but it's time we stopped being scarred of doing things just because they're expensive. When you think of America's greatest accomplishments, how many of them were cheap?

by David C on Jan 24, 2013 4:13 pm • linkreport

@Jasper: "Well, Tysons will start rivaling DC in number of employees." Huh? Tysons will max out at 200,000 employees, or twice its current employment. Around 800,000 people work inside DC today, which MWCOG forecasts at 983,000 by 2040 -- still more than will work in all of greater Fairfax (935,000). Downtown DC already has 5.14X as much *private* office space as Tysons, never mind all the federal or city offices.

DC's Office of Planning has an interesting point: as leases come due on federal facilities, and as space per worker sharply declines, jobs should tend to move towards already owned facilities closer to the core from the rented facilities further from the core.

by Payton on Jan 24, 2013 4:14 pm • linkreport


"VRE is not a viable option because it is too depending on the whims of the railroad companies. Also, there is a massive choking point at the Potomac."

adding the capacity, including at the Long Bridge, to fix tht will need to be done anyway, and almost certainly buys you more capacity for the buck than does adding a two more heavy rail metro lines (one south and one southwest toward Burke and beyond).

And VRE does not go to Tysons."

yes, Tysons needs to be addressed differently. Southern FFX and PWC to Tysons will be by bus using HOV/HOT lanes. Again FFX is now running express buses from Burke, the PWC buses that already run to Tysons I presume are or will be routed on the express lanes, and FFX is adding two more lines to Tysons. As those succeed, and Tysons is more built out, more capacity should be added.

Maybe eventually a round the beltway heavy rail line, but I doubt there will be density to justify that before 2040.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 24, 2013 4:36 pm • linkreport

"Tysons will be huge; Belvoir already IS huge, and getting bigger."

I am pretty sure that in number of jobs, Tysons today is bigger than Ft belvoir is expected to be. Which is why the region is properly prioritizing access to Tysons, with Silver Line phase 1 and 2, and then I would hope transitways on 7, Gallows, and 123.

"Tysons will max out at 200,000 employees," that is the current plan, with an end date of 2050. As numerous discussions here have made clear, earlier plans called for more intense development, but the new County admin under Ms Bulova decided to accept the traffic forecasts that some consider "too conventional" That number is based on the maximum that does not create highway gridlock, assuming a SOV mode share of about 85% IIRC.

if SOV modeshare ends up significantly below that, there will be reason to revisit those plans.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 24, 2013 4:42 pm • linkreport

@MetroDerp, "I guess my main reason for suggesting BWI is pretty much self-serving. It would be a one-seat ride as is.

Now, I don't mind transferring, but with current headways and transfer locations, it's a pain just to get from say, Columbia Heights to Union Station."
It would not be a one seat ride, but the Purple Line would allow for Columbia Heights to College Park on the Green Line, then the Purple to New Carrolton, and then upgraded regional MARC to BWI without backtracking through DC. The Purple Line is going to shift traffic pat terms to more outward from DC and then Purple Line east or west trips.

I wish the northern VA transportation agencies had been seriously studying a separate ROW, high level of grade separation light rail line that would run from one or more Metro stops in Tysons on or parallel to Rt. 7 to Falls Church to Seven Corners to TBD connections on the Blue/Yellow line. Would have been helpful to have a future LRT taken in consideration when designing the Silver Line stations & developments in Tysons and Rt. 7 road projects. Would complement and fill in the big gap in transit options between the Orange/Silver and Blue/Yellow lines.

by AlanF on Jan 24, 2013 4:49 pm • linkreport

I think 20 billion (in todays dollars) to get everything they want on the wishlist is a bit of a fantasy. The completely above ground Potomac Avenue station has already near doubled its cost estimate to a quarter of a billion just by itself, and we saw how much tunneling for Silver Line was rejected due to cost. 2 billion a mile is what the 2nd avenue line in NYC is going to wind up costing, so I'd use that a reasonable order of magnitude benchmark for these projects.

by Kolohe on Jan 24, 2013 4:56 pm • linkreport

@Payton:Tysons will max out at 200,000 employees, or twice its current employment. Around 800,000 people work inside DC today, which MWCOG forecasts at 983,000 by 2040

I stand corrected. Still, that's 8 Pentagons.

Southern FFX and PWC to Tysons will be by bus using HOV/HOT lanes.

Yeah, sure. One way twice an hour rush-hour only, no service at noon, night or weekend. That's exactly the same problem as VRE has.

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/connector/pdf/495.pdf

This is not transit. This is a token service. And that for $3.65 per trip. Pathetic.

by Jasper on Jan 24, 2013 4:56 pm • linkreport

"yeah, sure. One way twice an hour rush-hour only, no service at noon, night or weekend."

if the ridership seems to justify it, they can easily increase the service. But they may not.

Burke isnt THAT dense, and its not THAT hard to get to tysons from there by car. Which, if its a problem for frequent bus service, is an even bigger problem for investing several billions in a metro rail line.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 24, 2013 5:21 pm • linkreport

"I wish the northern VA transportation agencies had been seriously studying a separate ROW, high level of grade separation light rail line that "

Penny Gross (vice chair of the Fairfax BOS) has said, they want to get a better idea of how PikeRail works out before looking at extentions (which is what they envision rte 7 LRT as being)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 24, 2013 5:23 pm • linkreport

Speaking as someone who once commuted from Burke to Tyson's, getting there is only a problem during the rush.

Granted that's not much comfort if you're careless but as AWITC says its a question of limited resources.

by Drumz on Jan 24, 2013 5:28 pm • linkreport

Orange Line to Centreville. Understandable.

Orange Line to Bowie. Understandable.

And lastly... Blue Line to Prince William County? Really? Where's our Green Line to BWI, Green Line to Waldorf, Silver Line to Leesburg, or Red Line to Frederick? Metro and Metro equivalents spur economic development, and it is foolish and irresponsible to think that a few new MARC or VRE stations will have as much as an impact as Metro. Build a new MARC station in a neighborhood, you'll have a few people move in. Build a new Metro station, the town will be booming.

by Tyler Graham on Jan 24, 2013 5:31 pm • linkreport

@Kolohe, I would not use NYC Second Ave or East Side Access construction costs as any sort of guide as to what a separated Blue Line would cost in DC. The dense infrastructure of Manhattan and very high cost of everything, including property acquisition in NYC, drives the cost per mile way up. Underground Metro lines were built through DC from the 1970s to 1990s without breaking the bank after all.

The plan is maintain the current $1 billion a year in capital funding being spent now on the Metro Forward upgrades and get another $1.25 billion a year in sustained funding for the big projects over a 20 to 30 year period. With the funding split among the local and state governments along doubling or tripling the current $150 million a year WMATA gets from the federal government, it might possible. But it would need a dedicated revenue stream - regional gas excise tax, tolls, extra property tax assessment, whatever.

by AlanF on Jan 24, 2013 5:43 pm • linkreport

Why does everyone want the Yellow Line to go to to Columbia or Burtonsville that is beyond stupid when you look at a map of the system.

If anywhere the Yellow line should go to Potomac, Great Falls or even Tyson’s by crossing back into Virginia. Presently you have no connections to the western portion of the Red Line it would be smart to extend the Yellow Line with a mirror image of the Green Line. This would fill the gap left by having no east/west lines and no ability to get across Rock Creek besides 2 bus lines.

1 Transfer Station on the western end of the Red Line so that riders do not have to travel to Gallery Place to somewhere such as Columbia Heights, PG Plaza, Greenbelt, College Park. Almost any station north or Woodley Park and south of Bethesda is good.

2 Transit in DC north of downtown this could be fixed by extending the Yellow Line to places not served by the Red or Green Lines or otherwise could be done by separated Blue Line that travels further north than any current ideas.

Send the Blue Line north after Rosslyn toward American University then east toward a Red Line Station stopping there then crossing Rock Creek meeting a Green/Yellow Line Station and then south stopping at the Hospital Complex where 4 hospitals reside then I'd send it to Brookland or Rhode Island Ave (forget Union Station it is served by rail while other areas are not) then to Ft Lincoln or Langdon then toward Trinidad and along Benning Rd to meet up with current line.

With that routing you would provide most areas not covered by Metrorail service with service, provide east/west transit in Upper Northwest/Northeast DC, rail service to the Hospitals, service to eastern portions of DC not near a station

3 Just for the hell of it I'd enclose the Blue/Orange line between Minnesota Ave and Stadium to provide service east of the river during snow storms seeing as how Benning Rd, Capitol Hgts and Addison RD are underground or partially underground

4 Add cross y tracks to all lines that are less than 1 mile apart anywhere in the system or add a second track to where there are non revenue tracks in the systems so that there are switches at Ft Totten, Benning RD, Rosslyn, Metro Center, L’Enfant Plaza, King Street and Pentagon

5 This would cost a fortune but in the end could be worth it. Combine the ends of the Blue and Yellow Lines; after King Street all trains tack the routing of the Yellow line to Huntington and then from there make a U turn toward Van Dorn Street serving Van Dorn Street Station and then Franconia Springfield. Any route taking between Huntington and Van Dorn would be fine.

6 3rd or 4th Tracks built on any parts of system at or above ground level. If ever possible bury all tracks between Rhode Island Ave Station (would be hard between Union Station and New York Ave due to streets underneath and Noma Station) and Silver Spring (including Amtrak, CSX)

7 Route Blue line around Arlington Cemetery, the station has no purpose really it is probably the least used station on a daily basis by anyone who resides in the DC Area. I say reroute the Blue Line on Columbia Pike then Glebe Rd and then Arlington Blvd until back at Rosslyn or even at a different Orange Line Station then on a separate track into DC.

8 Unified payment system with VRE and MARC; if that means adding smartrip readers to Marc/VRE stations or trains so be it.

by kk on Jan 24, 2013 5:59 pm • linkreport

Any place more than 25 miles from DC no matter how urban should not get Metrorail. Anything beyond that should get VRE/MARC or some type of Metro Commuter Rail.

If everybody got there wish the trains would probably radiate 50 miles from DC in each direction so there has to be a point where we say no.

by kk on Jan 24, 2013 6:08 pm • linkreport

@Kolohe @alanF

Sadly, the 2nd Ave Subway is all too emblematic of the hugely inflated transit construction prices not just in New York, but in the United States. And it's not just union wages and modern labor practices, either. We pay massively more than other developed countries for equivalent scale, or even a lesser scale. And until we find a way to reign that in, there won't be the political will (I'm personally of the mind that transit is more or less worth whatever it costs and then some, but then again, no one's elected me...yet).

by MetroDerp on Jan 24, 2013 6:12 pm • linkreport

Since similar thoughts have been mentioned by some, here's my shameless plug for theoretical separated Blue and Yellow Lines in the core that both serve Union Station.

Meanwhile, Jasper and I think a few others hinted at this, but I think it's an absolute disappointment that the "forgotten corner" of Fairfax County got the short shrift again. Here you have the most transit-dependent population in the county, a major node at one end (Fort Belvoir), connection to an existing Metrorail line, a corridor ripe for redevelopment, support for rail transit by area residents, and WMATA didn't even suggest a SURFACE RAIL LINE! By no means am I expecting this (though it'd be nice), but some sort of rail transit down Route 1 from Huntington to Fort Belvoir is well-justified and would do much to promote transit-oriented development along a corridor that needs it.

I'd also like to point out that, if by some rare chance the Yellow Line gets extended to Fort Belvior, a trip from there to Gallery Place would still be shorter than the existing Red Line trip from Shady Grove.

Lastly, since some are discussing commuter rail as an alternative to the suburban extensions, most of the Route 1 corridor in Fairfax County does *NOT* have an adjacent rail line.

by Froggie on Jan 24, 2013 6:17 pm • linkreport

On the trip planner:

This is an embarrassment. How long does it take to deploy OpenTripPlanner? A few hours, not counting data fetching and bundle building? OpenPlans even built a Web-based wizard that would take in GTFS, build a bundle, and deploy OTP to a new EC2 instance for you (you had to pay the EC2 bill, though).

All of the hand-wringing about "how to provide regional trip planning" as if it's something that will take an immense amount of work, and, by definition, be very expensive and difficult to build just show how out-of-touch traditional transit is with the world of emerging transit technology.

(In fairness to "traditional transit", some agencies are with it; look at TriMet's regional trip planner, powered by OneBusAway, and of course MTA Bus Time.)

by Kurt Raschke on Jan 24, 2013 7:00 pm • linkreport

@ Tyler Graham:And lastly... Blue Line to Prince William County? Really? Where's our Green Line to BWI, Green Line to Waldorf, Silver Line to Leesburg, or Red Line to Frederick?/i>

You're rather unambitious. Yellow Line to Frederickburg. Green Line to Baltimore. Green Line to La Plata. Silver Line to Purceville or Charles Town. Red Line to Frederick or Hagertown and Columbia, Elicott City and West-Baltimore.

I don't talk too much about what should happen in MD, because I don't live there and do not know my way around there as well as in VA. DC should also get extra capacity. separate Blue Line under M, more capacity downtown, and north and east DC need more metro as well.

by Jasper on Jan 24, 2013 8:38 pm • linkreport

Oops, sorry forgot to close the italics.

by Jasper on Jan 24, 2013 8:38 pm • linkreport

Lastly, since some are discussing commuter rail as an alternative to the suburban extensions, most of the Route 1 corridor in Fairfax County does *NOT* have an adjacent rail line.

That's my point as well about the Yellow Line extension, though I'd take it to Woodbridge. Belvoir's not as big as Tyson's, but Tyson's is more accessible than Belvoir. Belvoir has Route 1 running through it, and that's about it apart from a couple of non-through roads. So all of that traffic which is divided among several roads in Tyson's is confined to ONE road - Route 1 - in Belvoir. Something needs to be done to alleviate that.

Personally, I don't think taking Metro as far as Woodbridge will be that damaging to the core. A lot of people will be taking the train from there only as far as Belvoir - there's a VRE station that will take them into DC. An extended Yellow Line is best for people like me who don't have easy access to a VRE station.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jan 24, 2013 9:39 pm • linkreport

A streetcar bridge is a colossally goofy idea. Setting aside the many problems with streetcars that GGW chooses to ignore, to spend millions on a bridge that would solely serve low-capacity DC/Arlington transit vehicles and be unavailable to limit Metrorail bottlenecks or suburban bus routes is truly wasteful and silly. Expand the 14th Street bridge/interchanges to create bus-only (at least at rush-hour) lanes makes much, much more sense as a regional solution.

by Geronimo on Jan 24, 2013 9:39 pm • linkreport

Capacity additions anywhere benefit commuting in the REGION, not just DC, not just MD, not just VA. The Silver Line will benefit passengers commuting between Addison Road and Tysons; same for people who will commute between Tysons and Foggy Bottom as they will now be able to take the Silver Line. Similarly, a Metrorail spur along US-29 in MD from Silver Spring, as noted in one of the links, to White Oak will benefit VA commuters who work at FDA, etc..., etc..., etc...

Where it gets tricky is what is developed at new stations... this is where I think the District and NOVA seem to have an advantage, at least at the present time. All the private development seems to generally either be locating in NOVA or DC, maybe due to business climate, demographics, or something else. Maybe this will change in Montgomery County as White Flint redevelops (and as Bethesda already did a several years ago). Not sure what's going on in Prince George's at their existing Metro stations.

by Transport. on Jan 24, 2013 10:46 pm • linkreport

@Payton
H street is NOT a low density area. The neighborhoods that come together at the starburst intersection on the east end of H St all have population densities of around 20,000 people per square mile. Which is very dense, more dense than most places around metro stations in the region. I'm not just comparing to commuter stations out in the middle of nowhere either. No census tract in Bethesda for instance has a density of more than 15,000.

Those are 2010 census figures also which is prior to that large 'Flats at Atlas' development going up. Plus, don't forget all this density is here with us being over a mile walk to the nearest metro station. I'm sure if you actually built one it would draw even more density. Again not that we need it, we have plenty enough people over here to justify a heavy rail transit station. It's the perfect place to bring a separated blue/orange line through to connect to Union station.

by Doug on Jan 25, 2013 2:51 am • linkreport

This is the kind of brainstorming about the future that I would have heard from the original planners of Metro. This is great evidence that Metro under Manager Sarles is coming back to being the first rate transit system we were hoping for in the 60s and 70s. That said, this new culture and restored direction has to be institutionalized since Sarles won’t be there forever. And the fundamental problem with investing in a system which has not been forthright in the past with regard to openness and policing itself for fraud and bad contracts has to be fixed before our region and nation sinks a quarter trillion dollars in to the system again (126 billion times typical rail overrun of 100 percent is over a quarter trillion).

by Andrew on Jan 25, 2013 6:33 am • linkreport

One thing I've wondered about the blue line extension: I've always seen it depicted as interchanging at Farragut North/West. Would it make more sense to route it up New Hampshire Avenue after Georgetown, intersect with the Red Line at Dupont Circle, and go down Mass Ave, and hit Scott Cirlce, Thomas Circle, the Convention Center and Union Station? That would add a lot more capacity to Dupont Circle Station, extend the walkshed of metro a few blocks further north, provide a direct connection to Dupont Circle from Virginia, and not be that much longer to tunnel distance-wise. Is there something I'm missing about this?

by arlucbo on Jan 25, 2013 6:53 am • linkreport

Something like this, maybe: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&tab=wl

or this:

https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&tab=wl

by Jason on Jan 25, 2013 8:19 am • linkreport

So I only read about the first 50 comments or so and I didn't really see anybody mention it, but a lot of Metro's suggestions and suggestions being made by people here were included in the 2002 Core Capacity Study that metro commissioned. This summer before I went back to school I made a rough KML overlay of the improvements proposed by the study, complete with long verbal descriptions as typed up by metro. I figured that some of you all might like to take a look at it so I'm sharing it here:

https://productforums.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!topic/gec-dynamic-data-layers/LwvOT0uGrg8

I hope this is helpful for you all, and I'm sorry for how rough this thing is. Feel free to make your own improvements, also send me an email at dsade@bu.edu if you want the full PDF of the study which to my knowledge isn't available anywhere else online.

by Dan on Jan 25, 2013 9:04 am • linkreport

Maybe there's an obvious reason, but why have we never considered adding high-capacity transit along the entire length of Rhode Island Ave? It seems like that corridor would add a lot of connectivity to the existing system, while opening up a lot of new densification opportunities. The entire corridor has all of the ingredients for successful infill.

by andrew on Jan 25, 2013 10:40 am • linkreport

So what happens to the 14th street bridge connection if Metro builds a 10th street tunnel for the yellow line? Does it become a spur of the green line with service from Springfield/Huntington to Greenbelt? As a green line rider, the only thing I dislike about yellow line trains is that they stop Mount Vernon Square rather Greenbelt, but that's a matter of having enough rolling stock, is there actually a capacity problem in the green line tunnel?

by Steve S. on Jan 25, 2013 2:35 pm • linkreport

@Steve S.

There is a capacity issue with the Green tunnel, yes.

During rush hours currently, there are 12 trains per hour (TPH) in each direction between Greenbelt and Branch Avenue in addition to 10 TPH between Huntington and Mount Vernon Square and 3 TPH between Franconia and Greenbelt.

That means that there are currently 25 TPH in the Green tunnel, which is just 1 less than the maximum capacity of 26 TPH (and that will be reached when the Silver Line opens, because one more Franconia train will start going to Greenbelt).

So, if WMATA wants to increase the number of trains going to Branch Avenue, for example, they cannot.

So the 14th Street Bridge will likely link into the 10th Street subway.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 25, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

I hope they don't sever the one-seat ride from Columbia Heights/U Street to National Airport.

by Steve S. on Jan 25, 2013 4:23 pm • linkreport

I erred, 126 billion should be 26 billion for expansion meaning double that for typical overruns is 52, more or less.

by Andrew on Jan 26, 2013 5:11 am • linkreport

"Lastly, since some are discussing commuter rail as an alternative to the suburban extensions, most of the Route 1 corridor in Fairfax County does *NOT* have an adjacent rail line."

Yes, I understand that VRE does not do anything for the densifiable parts of the REX corridor, closer to Huntington Metro, and could see a Yellow line extension at some point to serve it. But thats different, IMO, from advocating an extension to serve Ft Belvoir and points beyond.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 26, 2013 8:17 am • linkreport

@Matt

but doesn't a seperated blue line, which presumably eliminates Rush+, address that? Then you are back to 22 TPH, which gives you four more trains an hour to play with on the two lines. Depending of course on growth in Yellow and Green line ridership.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 26, 2013 8:19 am • linkreport

A member of the team that planned the current WMATA system in 1962-63, Ed Tennyson, was scathing is his analysis of WMATA's "strategic plan".

He and I have been working on "WMATA Phase II" that can almost triple urban rail (all types) passenger miles while REDUCING the overall oeprating subsidy.

Our combined Rose, Plum and Copper Lines will meet the demand much better than WMATA's plans.

http://oilfreedc.blogspot.com/

by AlanfromBigEasy (Alan Drake) on Jan 26, 2013 3:55 pm • linkreport

I like the idea of moving the Silver Line along the Blue Line to Arlington Cemetery and then under the Potomac along the Yellow Line. However, I think once in DC, the Silver Line should then proceed along the Green Line to the Waterfront and Navy Yard stations. Ultimately, a tunnel could then go north under Eighth Street then northwest under Massachusetts Avenue to connect to the Red Line and Union Station (and points north along the Red Line). Transfers to the Blue/Orange Line could be made at Union Market. A new station could be built near the Jefferson Memorial for transfers to the Yellow Line. A new station could also be built near Stanton Park.

by Steve K on Jan 27, 2013 8:19 pm • linkreport

Building a new trunk line along M Street would solve many Blue/Orange/Silver line capacity issues and finally link Georgetown to the CBD. I think David had that on one of his maps. But instead of turning south at Thomas Circle and run down 10th Street, I prefer to run the subway to Union Station, another one of our chokepoints.

The 10th Street subway, being sandwiched between two other trunk lines, does not seem to add much capacity for the expense.

by Paul M on Jan 28, 2013 2:20 pm • linkreport

While we are having fun visualizing Metro 2.0, I would be a huge fan of a upgrading the Columbia Pike streetcar proposal to heavy rail subway which would not only run from Pentagon down Columbia Pike to Baileys/Skyline City but also eventually continue to the Mark Center and Lincolnia.

Looking at some of the old Metro plans, a line in this corridor was clearly discussed but was later cut. And more interestingly, next time you are on the Metro near the Pentagon, look out for stub tunnels that were actually built to accommodate a line in this corridor.

by Paul M on Jan 28, 2013 2:34 pm • linkreport

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