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Metro's stuffed full at Rosslyn. What can be done?

When WMATA released its Momentum plan last week, it reopened the conversation about dealing with core capacity. By 2025, the plan seeks to address one of the biggest chokepoints in the system: Rosslyn.


View peak service levels: Pre-Rush Plus   Rush Plus (today)   with Silver Line
Potential 2025 solutions: Rosslyn wye   Blue Line terminal

Metro has to juggle service at Rosslyn, where the Orange and Blue lines merge entering the District from the west, because it faces a structural limit to the number of trains per hour (TPH) that any given section of track is capable of handling. That limit is 26 TPH, or about one train every 2.3 minutes.

The reason for Rush Plus last year was to deal with capacity issues at Rosslyn without undertaking any capital projects. Essentially, Rush Plus was a stopgap measure to get a little more capacity out of Metro. But Rush Plus hurt many Blue Line riders, and without major changes at Rosslyn, even Rush Plus won't be enough.

As ridership increases, Metro has to either find creative ways to move more people throughout the system, without crossing 26 TPH on any segment of track, or expand capacity.

Before Rush Plus

Before Rush Plus started, during peak periods, exactly 26 TPH (the maximum) passed through Rosslyn. Those 26 TPH consisted of 10 Blue and 16 Orange trains.

At Pentagon, those same 10 Blue trains were passing through in addition to 10 Yellow trains. In total, 36 TPH were entering the District from Virginia during the morning rush via Rosslyn and Pentagon combined.

But this left some capacity unused. The Yellow Line bridge was carrying only about 40% of the trains it could carry. As you can see in the diagram below, there was also extra capacity in the Yellow and Green Line tunnel.

This map shows the frequency of service for every line during the peak period. Every track segment is the same width, corresponding to 26 TPH. If 26 TPH pass through at peak, it's "full" with colored lines; if there are fewer trains, there is black space.

After Rush Plus

Once Rush Plus took effect, those numbers increased slightly. At Rosslyn, the numbers are now 19 Orange and 7 Blue, which is still 26 trains per hour. But at Pentagon, in addition to the 7 Blue trains running via Rosslyn, there are now 13 Yellow trains. That means a total of 39 TPH are entering the District from Virginia during the morning rush.

Since the number of trains is the same at Rosslyn as it was before, Metro could have kept the number of Blue and Orange trains the same, and just added new Yellow trains. But adding trains from Virginia was only part of the equation. Metro was also attempting to address the severe crowding on the Orange Line and paving the way for the Silver Line. As a result, Metro traded some Blue Line trains for Orange ones.

When the Silver Line begins operating, some of the Orange trains will have to become Silver trains, in order to keep the total number passing through Rosslyn at 26 TPH.

Cross-Potomac capacity will be maxed out

One of the biggest constraints with Metro is getting trains between Virginia and DC. There are 2 Metro crossings of the Potomac: a tunnel for the Blue/Orange lines and a bridge for the Yellow Line.

Each of these crossings has a capacity of 26 trains per hour, for a total of 52. However, because the Yellow shares with the Green Line, the Yellow Line bridge can only carry 26 TPH minus however many trains per hour are running on the Green Line (at present, 12 TPH).

This means that there are 14 slots available for the Yellow Line to cross the Potomac. Right now, the Yellow Line is taking 13 of those slots during rush hour: 10 for trains running between Huntington and Mount Vernon Square and 3 for trains running between Franconia and Greenbelt.

When the Silver Line opens, Metro's plan will be to redirect one more Franconia train to Greenbelt. This will mean cross-Potomac capacity will be maxed out at 26 TPH through the Rosslyn tunnel and 14 TPH over the Yellow Line bridge, for a total of 40 TPH between Virginia and DC.

Through 2025, those 40 trains are probably enough. But there's another problem: now there aren't enough trains running between Pentagon and Rosslyn. Riders from south Arlington, Alexandria, and southern Fairfax have long waits to get a train to Rosslyn, the Orange and Silver corridors, or to reach stations like Foggy Bottom without a transfer.

How can Metro fix Rosslyn?

Metro wants to address the Rosslyn chokepoint soon. It's one of 7 capital items in the "Metro 2025 recommendations of the Momentum plan.

Planners haven't decided on a specific solution yet, but are studying 2 options. One would build a "wye" at Rosslyn, a track connection so that trains from Tysons or Vienna could turn south and head for Arlington Cemetery, and vice versa. The other option is to build a new station at Rosslyn with separate platforms for the Blue Line.

The wye at Rosslyn would also let Metro add rail service between the Blue-Yellow corridor and the Orange-Silver corridor. Some trains going through Arlington Cemetery would go toward downtown, as the Blue Line does today, while some trains would turn west and run through Ballston and Tysons.

This approach would likely mean a good deal of disruption for Orange and Silver line riders, since Metro would need to build new underground connections to the line between Rosslyn and Court House. It would also permanently limit the number of trains between Court House and downtown DC, because some of those slots would go to the Blue Line and the new north-south all-Virginia line.

But this would also give riders a one-seat ride from Tysons to Pentagon and points south. It would also build a little more redundancy into the system, allowing trains to divert to the south in the case of track work, a disabled train, or other disruptions.

The real issue, though, is that this project only allows for a small increase in the number of trains, and does not increase the number of trains between Virginia and the District. It also would mean that some trains wouldn't stop at Rosslyn, forcing those actually heading there to wait for a later train or transfer.

Under the wye scenario, the service pattern would probably look something like this: 14 Yellow trains crossing the 14th Street Bridge (4 of them from Franconia) each hour during the peak; 5 TPH on the Blue Line between Franconia and Largo via Rosslyn; 10 TPH on the Orange Line from Vienna into DC; and 11 TPH on the Silver Line from Tysons. This still adds up to 40 TPH between Virginia and DC. In addition, the wye would enable 5 completely new TPH between Pentagon and Court House.

A new Blue Line terminal at Rosslyn involves building new, separate tracks at Rosslyn, possibly in a new station next to the old one, that would become the new end of the Blue Line. Blue Line trains could stop and turn around without interfering with the Orange and Silver trains going to Foggy Bottom, and Blue Line riders could transfer to either direction of those trains at Rosslyn.

A new Blue Line station at Rosslyn would allow even more trains between Pentagon and north Arlington12 TPH, compared to 10 for the wye.

It would require passengers to transfer to the Orange or Silver lines to get to downtown or west toward Ballston and Tysons. But it would also form the first step toward a separated Blue Line through downtown. If and when Metro is able to build that, it could simply extend the new tunnel under the Potomac and beyond. If WMATA thinks a separate Blue Line will be the long-term approach, this solution might be more attractive.

Another advantage to a Blue station at Rosslyn is that it reduces the amount of interlining in the system. That should have a positive effect on reliability, because a delay on the Blue Line won't affect the Orange or Silver lines, or vice versa.

Note that we don't know which trains will go to Franconia or Huntington under this or any other future plan, or how many and which trains will go to New Carrollton vs. Largo vs. turn at Stadium-Armory. Since all trains to those destinations come from the same track, it's not an operational issue, just a question of balancing simplicity with convenience and being fair to riders on each branch.

Transferring can be painless

If Metro does go with the new Blue Line station at Rosslyn, they can help make transferring painless by getting the design of the new station right.

Cross-platform transfers are more commonplace in some cities. Montreal, for example, has 2 in their Metro system, Lionel-Groulx and Snowdon. New York has many, especially between local and express services on each line.

A 4-track stacked Rosslyn station would allow passengers from an inbound Blue Line train to simply walk across the platform to board an inbound Orange or Silver train. To transfer from an inbound to an outbound, the passenger would just have to go downstairs or upstairs.

The station could look something like this:


A Rosslyn design with cross-platform transfers. Graphic by the author.

It would be more expensive, but in terms of simplifying riders' ability to transfer, it could be worth it to build a new Rosslyn station with 4 tracks.

On the other hand, such a station would cost more, and would disrupt all service through Rosslyn during construction, just as the wye would, while a separate station could avoid interfering with Orange and Silver service.

But any new station will be there a long time, and riders may regret making it more difficult to transfer. After all, many riders still suffer from the lack of a direct connection between Farragut North and Farragut West (a tunnel that Metro proposes to complete as part of their 2025 plan).

Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master's in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Greenbelt. Hes a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a contract employee of the Montgomery County Planning Department. His views are his own and do not represent the opinion of his employer. 

Comments

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A very convincing and well-written argument for a new Rosslyn station. Great article.

by aaa on Jan 29, 2013 10:23 am • linkreport

Wye not combine the two options, and build a new station that allows intra-VA travel AND presumes a new Potomac crossing.

by Jasper on Jan 29, 2013 10:32 am • linkreport

Great article - love the graphics. They really help explain the capacity issue facing the region and really helps explains the plans Metro is putting in place.

by matthew on Jan 29, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

This is SUCH a well played article. Superb maps, makes perfect sense. Track29 nails it again.

by Rich on Jan 29, 2013 10:39 am • linkreport

A couple days ago, Stephen Smith pointed me to a circa 2008 posting by a guy named "Sand Box John" who said the switches are capable of 90 second headways (40 TPH), not 135 second headways (26/27 TPH). The Silver Line, he claimed, was the only line limited to 135 seconds, but the older tracks had the higher switching capacity.

But color me ignorant of such details. If the poster is blowing smoke (given that it's an internet forum, I wouldn't be surprised), what's holding us back from investing in higher-capacity switches, even if just on the Rosslyn-Stadium tunnel?

by David Edmondson on Jan 29, 2013 10:43 am • linkreport

@Jasper

I doubt it is possible to build a new station at Rosslyn that allows:
1. easy/short transfer to current station
2. ability to send trains towards Georgetown
3. ability to send trains into VA on current Orange.

See figure 1 (page 4) of this pdf for how the station platform is oriented. You couldn't build a new station near the current one and send trains through it to Georgetown and the outbound Orange without building a big looping tunnel under Rosslyn.

Also, if you separate the Blue Line at Rosslyn, there is little reason to build a wye that services the station, people can just transfer. The wye could be used to reroute trains in a disruption.

by MLD on Jan 29, 2013 10:44 am • linkreport

@David Edmondson

Yes, the system was designed to run 90-second headways, but only as a recovery measure. You can't schedule trains that fast because of dwell times and switching. The 90 seconds are basically how fast you'd run trains in the event of one being offloaded or otherwise experience difficulties, in order to make up the capacity (or at least, that's how I understand it).

by MetroDerp on Jan 29, 2013 10:47 am • linkreport

@Jasper:
We're going to talk more about this in a future post.

But if a separated Blue Line is built, the Blue Line will no longer have to share with the Orange/Silver.

That means that the Orange/Silver could have 26 TPH running between East Falls Church and Foggy Bottom (currently, it's limited to 19 because 7 Blues join at Rosslyn).

If nothing is joining at Rosslyn, AND let's say 6 trains leave the Orange/Silver at Court House to run toward Pentagon, then the number of trains running through Foggy Bottom has fallen to 20.

Essentially, if nothing is joining the Orange/Silver at Rosslyn, it is fundamentally impossible to have something leave the Orange/Silver at Court House without reducing the number of trains going downtown.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 29, 2013 10:47 am • linkreport

Excellent article! I really appreciate the detailed explanation, and I sincerely hope that a second Rosslyn station is built. This clearly makes sense for eventually adding a new line through the District. It also preserves service between Rosslyn and Pentagon / points south. Rosslyn is itself a very large employment destination, and there are plenty of folks who likely commute by metro from Alexandria and South Arlington, not to mention those that commute by metro from Rosslyn to points south (As approx 11,000 people live in Rosslyn).

by Nevitt on Jan 29, 2013 10:50 am • linkreport

Close Arlington Cemetery Station and route the Blue Line over the Yellow Line bridge.

by Tom Coumaris on Jan 29, 2013 10:52 am • linkreport

@Tom:
It's not that simple.

Right now, 20 TPH leave King Street bound for Downtown (10 from Franconia + 10 from Huntington). Because the Green Line runs 12 TPH, there are 14 slots for the Yellow Line.

If all trains were routed across the Yellow Line Bridge, service at King Street would need to fall from 20 TPH to 14 TPH, a decrease in service of 30%.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 29, 2013 10:59 am • linkreport

Thanks for the analysis, Matt. One issue that isn't discussed is the cost difference between the two. I'm assuming the Wye would be much less costly now but the new station option would be more cost-effective in the long run, should a new line eventually be built.

That said, I think we're overemphasizing the convenience of riders to get between the two Virginia "legs" of the Metrorail system. Ask how many Maryland riders, especially those along the Red Line, how convenient it is to get between Bethesda and Silver Spring; they would likely kill for what Blue Line riders have now.

That said, the solution in Maryland is to develop the Purple Line in order to provide that connectivity, as well as provide additional transit service to densely populated areas within the Beltway. I think the same should be considered in Virginia. It can likely be done in a much quicker timeframe (certainly a concern with the Silver Line going in) and at a cost that may actually have a shot at funding. Make plans for the future, yes, but something has to be done to alleviate the transit crush now.

by Adam L on Jan 29, 2013 11:09 am • linkreport

@ MLD:You couldn't build a new station near the current one and send trains through it to Georgetown and the outbound Orange without building a big looping tunnel under Rosslyn.

You could go under Lynn St or Ft Meyer Dr, or even move to their junction at the little park there. And while you start digging there, perhaps VDOT could redo that whole messy intersection there between Arl Blvd, Ft Meyer, Lynn and Meade.

As a side note: Everybody always assumes that the Blue Line will be separated from the Orange, and therefore that a new Potomac Crossing would be at Rosslyn. My question is, why keep two crossings at the same point? Is there really no better option? What is you'd re-align the Silver Line along 123 across Chain Bridge, and then let is follow AZ, NE, MA and WI Aves down to P St, Dupont & Logan Circle and onwards to RI or NY Ave? That would really open up northern DC to development. And add real new capacity to the system.

by Jasper on Jan 29, 2013 11:09 am • linkreport

wye vs seperate blue line

doesnt that choice to some degree depend on where new jobs will be going? If Tysons takes off, and reinvented Crystal City takes off (and they both do well in terms of transit mode share), and DC keeps the existing height limit, it seems harder to argue for the higher cost of a seperate blue line. Compared to the benefits of the wye.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 29, 2013 11:12 am • linkreport

I like the option of the blue and silver line sharing, makes sense kind of like a purple line for VA.

by Matt R on Jan 29, 2013 11:12 am • linkreport

Metro being Metro, I suppose none of this was taken into account before construction of the new entrance to the Rosslyn station was begun.

http://www.wmata.com/pdfs/planning/Station%20Access/Rosslyn_Final_Report%202007.pdf

by Juanita de Talmas on Jan 29, 2013 11:18 am • linkreport

Interesting.

From my, admittedly limited, reading, it appears that WMATA's priority is to improve rush hour services. I realise I am biased by my own use of the metro, but personally non-rush hour and particularly weekend services are FAR more needing of improvement than the rush hour trains.

by bajin on Jan 29, 2013 11:18 am • linkreport

"On the other hand, such a station would cost more, and would disrupt all service through Rosslyn during construction, just as the wye would, while a separate station could avoid interfering with Orange and Silver service."

A lengthy disruption of service makes a shared station a non-starter. The best that can be expected are platforms at the same level not more than 3 minutes of walking away.

Also, a wye would not present anything like the same level of disruption as a new shared station.

by PeakVT on Jan 29, 2013 11:18 am • linkreport

A number of Fairfax County residents raised the Rosslyn tunnel capacity problem as early as 2006-07 when government agencies were still evaluating the proposed Silver Line and its funding. The issue was brought before federal, state and local governments, but was ignored. No one in the decision-making chain would even acknowledge the problem existed. It was seen as a potential barrier to construction of the Silver Line, which, under the former Comp Plan for Tysons and with a number of specific road improvements, triggered more density at Tysons.

The attitude was "If we don't talk about the problem, it won't exist." Elected officials from both political parties closed their eyes. And the media ignored the question as well.

The problem should have been addressed as part of the Silver Line review process. Our "good government" wasn't.

by tmt on Jan 29, 2013 11:21 am • linkreport

@tmt: Sadly, that's the way politics tends to work. It's generally easier to get people excited about something new and shiny than mundane maintenance kinds of things. It's the same reason people love to build new freeways even as current freeways crumble. Repaved freeways rarely have big ribbon cuttings politicians can go to. On the upside, the Silver Line probably forces the Rosslyn capacity issue in a way it wouldn't have been otherwise. I agree it's certainly sub-optimal.

by Distantantennas on Jan 29, 2013 11:31 am • linkreport

Rush hour is the peak usage and will always take precedent in rethinking service. Not mentioned in the article is adding a new tunnel (or perhaps a bridge, depending on where it happens). Ultimately, though, this would have to take into account what line(s) would have to absorb more traffic and where they could do it.

The idea of terminating the Blue in Virginia has a lot of appeal. Transfer could be simple and other than Rosslyn, the major destinations often are more efficiently met from DC via the Yellow, anyway. A terminal station also push Arlington to make Rosslyn less of a dead zone and also create opportunities to have more efficient transfers to buses.

Terminating the Blue in Rosslyn would mean rethinking where to "restart" the line to Largo. I'm guessing Metro Center as the logical place, although Metro could consider more within DC service with Stadium-Armory as the origin for Largo.

by Rich on Jan 29, 2013 11:34 am • linkreport

At least in the short-term, better bus service between the Wisconsin Avenue corridor and Rosslyn could help. . Many neighborhoods along the Wisconsin Avenue corridor are not close to metro-rail stations and residents and workers rely on reliable, convenient, bus service.

Currently, if you take transit from Glover Park and other Wisconsin Avenue-adjacent neighborhoods to Rosslyn and Northern Virginia, there are three options: 1) 30s bus to Foggy Bottom and then transfer to Orange/Blue line, 2) 30s bus to M Street in Georgetown and then transfer to the 38 bus, 3) 30s bus to Georgetown and then walk across the Key Bridge.

All of these three current choices add anywhere between 15 - 30 minutes travel time in each direction. This is up to an hour of additional travel time daily.

Direct Wisconsin Avenue - Rosslyn bus service would help with the following:

1) Provide a more direct transit connection to Reagan airport.
2) Provide a more direct connection to the Silver Line (and Tysons, Reston, and Dulles)
3) Make Glover Park, the National Cathedral, American University (the Washington College of Law will relocate to Tenley Circle) more accessible.
4) Provide passengers in Friendship Heights and Tenley with an alternative to access Virginia rather than using the Red line and transferring at Metro Center (helping to relieve capacity and crowding issues at some of the core downtown metro stations).

by Ben on Jan 29, 2013 11:36 am • linkreport

Extremely well done Matt. Just wanted to make one comment on track capacity vs. line capacity. You show the inner Red line as at or near track capacity but that does not mean that the line is near its actual carrying capacity. WMATA's own data says that with all 8-car trains the Red line can stay within its Board-approved rail service loading guidelines until 2040. There are other examples of this situation around the system, too.

by Steve Strauss on Jan 29, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

@Rich:
Why does the line to Largo need to restart?

The Largo branch doesn't have to be Blue. For simplicity, it makes sense to just run Silver trains to Largo instead.

There is no place to turn trains coming from Largo until West Falls Church. And any service that starts at Largo and ends Downtown creates a "gap" in service that continues all the way to Vienna/Wiehle.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 29, 2013 11:41 am • linkreport

@Rich

If you terminate the Blue Line at Rosslyn to increase the number of Silver/Orange trains, the Silver line would just run to Largo to cover that service. Matt's Blue Line Terminal map shows that.

by MLD on Jan 29, 2013 11:42 am • linkreport

How about reducing dwell times at stations by purchasing trains with a reasonable number of doors?

by Gray's in the Fields on Jan 29, 2013 11:45 am • linkreport

Terminating the Blue line at Rosslyn means that there'd be NO single-seat service into the District from Franconia or Van Dorn. As has been shown by the reaction to Rush-Plus, the single seat option is highly valued. People will wait for the rare (and therefore packed) Blue line train rather than take a Yellow and transfer.

The advantage of the wye is it affords the line that Matt has colored Turquoise. If Tyson's really does become the major center that is being planned for, then a single-seat ride from Alexandria and south Arlington into Tyson's will be well worth having. It also provides an airport to airport connection.

by Jim on Jan 29, 2013 12:14 pm • linkreport

Oh, how I love cross-platform transfers, and loathe Metro's choked X-crossing transfer stations. Over a station's many years of service, the value of passenger minutes saved on transfers more than pays for the additional upfront cost. Hong Kong uses cross-platforms extensively, with intricately interleaved tunnels to ensure that each transfer movement can be done across -- and one feeder LRT line that's right-running (everything else in the former British colony is left-running) just to facilitate a cross-platform inbound transfer. Didn't I see something once, though, that Rosslyn couldn't be built as a cross-platform?

Fantastic graphics, Mr. Johnson.

by Payton on Jan 29, 2013 12:16 pm • linkreport

What role do other planned investments have in relieving capacity/congestion at Rosslyn, specifically, extending the Purple line from Bethesda to Tysons? Additionally, would shifting some metro-rail passengers from the Yellow line to Amtrak and VRE help reduce capacity issues on the Yellow line bridge crossing?

by Ben on Jan 29, 2013 12:31 pm • linkreport

The new station idea is definitely the way to go. Some blue trains could continue through the old track to Rosslyn if needed. The 4 track Rosslyn station would be expensive to build and shut down the whole station for at least 6 months. That might not be an option. I agree that the set up would be nice, but closing that station for even a week would be hell. Cheaper, less invasive options; even if they are not as convenient once built are probably more realistic.

by Richard Bourne on Jan 29, 2013 12:32 pm • linkreport

@Jim: Terminating Blue in Virginia would mean less single-seat service into the District from Franconia or Van Dorn, but there would likely be Yellow line service over the bridge into the District from those stations. It would still be one transfer to get to the other lines for stations not serviced by the Green/Yellow section.

It would possibly remove the ability to get between any two stations on any trains with only a single transfer. If you got on a blue that terminated in Rosslyn but needed to go to a Red or Green station that would require two transfers.

by Another Josh on Jan 29, 2013 12:34 pm • linkreport

@Ben: It's my understanding that there are not currently capacity issues on the Yellow line bridge. The capacity issue comes into play when the Yellow line merges with the Green at L'Enfant. The graphics in the article indicate this. A separate Yellow line (down the road) would let them use the bridge to full capacity.

by Another Josh on Jan 29, 2013 12:39 pm • linkreport

Steve Strauss/Matt--I thought the reason that the red line has greater capacity is because it doesn't share tracks and therefore has greater than 26 trains/hour capacity that Matt says is the max. capacity of all the lines (this is the max capacity of lines that have shared switches). I no longer remember the exact number but it's a few more than 26 trains/hour.

2. B4 the Fairfax residents in 2006-7 raised the issue of Rosslyn capacity, it was raised in the separated blue line proposal of 2001, and after that concept was disavowed by WMATA in 2003 due to budget reasons, Arlington kept the issue alive in its transportation plan. (I wrote about it wrt the Silver Line in the fall of 2006 myself, http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2006/09/blinking-on-urban-design-means-you.html)

by Richard Layman on Jan 29, 2013 1:10 pm • linkreport

Matt -- really good article and interesting perspective on the challenges of increasing service and capacity. You've done a nice job of breaking down the key factors and making the logistics relatable.

by anon_1 on Jan 29, 2013 1:27 pm • linkreport

@Richard Layman:
The Red Line has a capacity of 26 TPH just like the other lines.

And it does, in fact, share with another line.

That's because there are essentially 2 Red Lines. A full length Shady Grove - Glenmont line and a shorter Grosvenor - Silver Spring line.

A train is a train. Just because both lines use the same color on the map does not mean that switching movements don't matter.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 29, 2013 1:48 pm • linkreport

Why wouldn't you just break in one additional tunnel downstairs under the inbound tracks at Rosslyn to make a single new turnaround track shared with the outbound platform. Essentially you could make a new terminus with minimal new digging/station expansion and keep the blue line out of the rosslyn tunnel and a relatively easy transfer (same level to go from Pentagon to Tysons, different level to go from Pentagon into the city, which people can the yellow line for anyway.)

by Bret on Jan 29, 2013 1:55 pm • linkreport

A terminal station also push Arlington to make Rosslyn less of a dead zone

How so? How would a Blue Line terminal encourage less of a dead zone than the Blue Line stop that exists now?

by Vinh An Nguyen on Jan 29, 2013 2:01 pm • linkreport

@Bret
You need two tracks in order to turn trains at rush hour and avoid delaying trains down the line. With one track, there isn't enough time to turn the train and get it out of the way before the next train is due to arrive.

by MLD on Jan 29, 2013 2:03 pm • linkreport

Surprised not to see this in the comments:

Isn't the actual service on the Red Line 10 trains per hour to the longer terminals and 20 trains per hour on the core?

by Adam on Jan 29, 2013 2:04 pm • linkreport

The question of Wye vs. New Station really comes down to the development pattern. NOVA's hope seems to be to move away from the model of residents who live in VA and commute to DC. That's a pretty inefficient system when you think about it because there's a river separating the two places. The hope is that jobs for additional VA residents will be in VA, most likely in Tysons.

If that hope becomes a reality, it makes more sense for VA to spend its transit dollars building infrastructure to Tysons (Route 7 light rail SE of Tysons; brown line linking King ST, Merrifield, and Tysons) that building infrastructure to DC.

Overall, the most sustainable development pattern is to better balance jobs and residents. That means more residents in DC and more jobs in Tysons/Bethesda. The challenge for DC is building an educational system that can attract and retain residents for the long term and the challenge for VA/MD is to build a transit network that makes Tysons/Bethesda more viable urban job centers.

by Falls Church on Jan 29, 2013 2:12 pm • linkreport

note for people who clicked through to that past blog entry, I corrected the internal links to the Rosslyn BID magazine story from Summer 2006 on the genesis of the Rosslyn Metro Station in terms of the planning for the original system.

by Richard Layman on Jan 29, 2013 2:48 pm • linkreport

Both a seperate Blue terminal and the Wye option seem very costly for a small benefit - particularly the Wye.

The problem Rush Plus exposed was the volume of people traveling from South Arlington to (approximately) Farragut Square. The operating pattern assumed in Matt's Wye diagram does not improve the number of trains through to DC.

All of those interline connection concepts that WMATA has discussed seem to have the same issue: high cost with relatively little improvement to capacity.

At least the new Blue terminal has the opportunity to be extended as the first part of a new subway line through the core.

by Alex B. on Jan 29, 2013 3:00 pm • linkreport

I think the Rosslyn terminal makes more sense than the wye, for all the reasons above. There are two major issues though:

1) The ultimate problem to be solved isn't throughput of trains, it's throughput of people. Those 12 trains an hour full of people won't all be working in Rosslyn. Well over 50% of them will probably be proceeding on to offices in Foggy Bottom and Farragut Square, the R-B Corridor or Tysons. Meanwhile, the spots on those trains, especially to Farragut, will be filled with people who got on out in Fairfax. Instead of a bottleneck of trains to get into the tunnels, you'd have a bottleneck of blue line riders waiting to get onto the Orange Line. I suppose this could be mitigated somewhat with enhanced bus service, maybe on the 38B, but conservatively 6 trains an hour worth of people (assuming 1/2 can walk to their destinations from Rosslyn) will still have to be absorbed somehow

2) From a Government Contracting/Engineering standpoint, building a tunnel deep enough and at the proper angle that it can be extended to Georgetown when the money becomes available isn't an easy engineering task (that's why it wasn't done in the 70s). I imagine the preliminary engineering to build the station in such a way that it could be extended from the bluff that Rosslyn is on, under the Potomac and all the way up to Georgetown, would basically amount to doing the engineering to build the Georgetown Station itself. Maybe WMATA can create a sense of momentum with that, but more likely it will kill the project, or leave us with a station that can't be extended to Georgetown

Also, I don't think the imperative for a cross-platform transfer is that great. The advantage of a cross-platform transfer is that it would make the change from inbound train to inbound train easier, and same with outbound to outbound, but the downside is that such an arrangement makes inbound-to-outbound travel harder. In this case, because we're talking about job growth in Arlington and Tysons, there will be a lot of inbound-to-outbound transferring. What's more important than how the platforms are arranged, is how close the two platforms are from each other, so all transfers are minimized.

by arlucbo on Jan 29, 2013 3:15 pm • linkreport

I think metro skipped over an idea in their latest Momentum plan. While a new tunnel from Rosslyn to Georgetown and beyond is necessary, it does not need to join up with a new tunnel under 10th street. Instead, a tunnel to Georgetown should continue to Union station and then head to New Carrollton on right of way adjacent to the AMTRAK and MARC ROW, joining the orange line a Cheverly. In addition to relieving congestion at Rosslyn, this plan would cost less than the 10th street tunnel option as right of way east of Union Station could be built above ground, and it would allow new service at an infill station near Ivy City.

by caps fan on Jan 29, 2013 3:46 pm • linkreport

The hope is that jobs for additional VA residents will be in VA, most likely in Tysons.

If DC ever gets its way and imposes a commuter tax, this would be pushed into overdrive.

by Marian Berry on Jan 29, 2013 3:54 pm • linkreport

@MetroDerp

Got it. From researching Tokyo subways (which I'd imagine have maxed out their headways), 26 TPH seems fairly common. Some operate up to 30 TPH, but they also have personnel managing crowds (and stuffing trains) to ensure shorter dwell times.

by David Edmondson on Jan 29, 2013 4:00 pm • linkreport

I believe we need to be thinking about induced demand. Today, Springfield is a popular place to live for folks who commute to areas like Foggy Bottom on the Blue line. These people naturally are irate at Rush Plus because they get less service now. However, fast forward to 20 years from now when Tysons, Potomac Yard, and Crystal City are all built out (as well as many parts of DC. Because of the difficulties of crossing the Potomac, there should be an incentive for Virginians to stay in VA and for Washingtonians to stay in DC. Building another Potomac crossing would induce demand just like building a new highway in the exurbs.

Instead if we build the wye, VA can create an infrastructure corridor that directly links Alexandria and Arlington with the western and southern parts of Fairfax. This is the kind of pattern we need to encourage - one trip, no transfers, between most points in the network.

VA should look for ways to keep people working in VA, especially after the billions they are investing to grow the area. Meanwhile let DC figure out how to get more people to both live and work in the city instead of crossing the Potomac every day. Both sides will be better off.

by movement on Jan 29, 2013 4:15 pm • linkreport

Do not build a transfer station at an existing transfer station. Why? It will cause undo headache and reduce the usability of METRO for years!
Instead build a new transfer station at Court House for the Blue and Orange/Silver lines.
Moving blue up to Court House will improve the geometry and approach to Georgetown and on to P Street - Logan Circle - Union Station - North Capital Hill - Stadium Armory.

by andy2 on Jan 29, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

@movement: VA should look for ways to keep people working in VA, especially after the billions they are investing to grow the area. Meanwhile let DC figure out how to get more people to both live and work in the city instead of crossing the Potomac every day.

That just won't work, especially not if the region wants to continue attracting urban-oriented professionals. The job I'm at now is in the soulless heart of northern Virginia, but you better believe that if I couldn't get to it from DC then I wouldn't have taken it and moved here. And I'm far from the only one. We need more cross-Potomac links to encourage this kind of cross-pollination.

by MetroDerp on Jan 29, 2013 4:25 pm • linkreport

@andy2: "Instead build a new transfer station at Court House for the Blue and Orange/Silver lines. Moving blue up to Court House will improve the geometry and approach to Georgetown and on to P Street - Logan Circle - Union Station - North Capital Hill - Stadium Armory."

There's probably a good argument for what you're suggesting, in terms of more digging room for a Georgetown tunnel. One key challenge is there's not much room to dig a new tunnel from Arlington Cemetery toward Courthouse without digging under the cemetery or Iwo Jima, both of which may be non-starters.

by Jacques on Jan 29, 2013 4:34 pm • linkreport

Further thinking about capacity scenarios between VA and DC:

The current max across the Potomac is 40 TPH as outlined by Matt. In both of the scenarios below, the limiting factor is the 52 TPH capacity of the Orange/Silver and Blue/Yellow lines within VA.
1) A new yellow line north through DC increases capacity by 6 TPH (15%) to 46 TPH.
2) A new blue line across the Potomac would increase capacity by 12 TPH (30%) to 52 TPH.
*** Combining options 1 and 2 is of no value, maxing out at 52 TPH, the same as option 2 alone. (To be fair, I'm assuming zero value on a Pentagon to Anacostia connection)
3) A new line in VA (use imagination) in combination with either option 1 or 2 increases capacity by 38 TPH (95%) to 78 TPH.

by Herbie on Jan 29, 2013 4:44 pm • linkreport

As a retired ATC tech, I can say that the switches are not a factor in headway. It only takes them a few seconds to throw and a route to be established.

I think it's great that people are thinking about ways to maximize capacity on Metrorail. At the risk of stating the obvious, at some point Metro will be maxed out. Building our way out of the problem is not financially realistic. As with so many problems, overpopulation (regional in this case) is the underlying issue. The D.C. area is already over capacity. Although the quality of life continues to be diminished, people keep moving here -- primarily to find a job.

The only way I see to slow and then stop the growth and sprawl is to encourage businesses and government agencies to locate (or re-locate) in other areas -- economically depressed areas that have most of the necessary infrastructure and actually _want_ population growth.

Sorry for the tangent, but I think the 'elephant in the room' needs to be pointed out.

by S. Johnson on Jan 29, 2013 4:48 pm • linkreport

according to BLS there are 750 thousand wage and salary jobs in the District. Unless either the district empties out of employment, or becomes a zone free of children and retirees, or goes to a population of about 1.5 million or more, DC is going to get commuters from outside the District.

Similarly the inner jurisdictions of NoVa, including especially Alexandria, South Arlington the southern half of Fairfax, are going to continue to have DC as an important source of employment.

improving the river crossings is costly, but the costs of trying to delink NoVa from DC economically would be much higher.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 29, 2013 4:48 pm • linkreport

Why not simply cancel the blue lines Rosslyn route and institute a new service (let's call it the "olive line"), that shuttles between Rosslyn and the Pentagon?

I also agree with what others are saying that if you currently live in Alexandria/South Arlington but work before L'enfant its probably just better to move. With all the new demand from west the current situation cannot hold, and building a whole new tunnel for maybe a few hundred blue liners is not economically viable.

by North Arlington on Jan 29, 2013 4:48 pm • linkreport

@Derp
In 20 years much of Alexandria and Arlington will be just as urban as DC, following Brooklyn's lead relative to Manhattan.

by movement on Jan 29, 2013 4:50 pm • linkreport

"With all the new demand from west the current situation cannot hold, and building a whole new tunnel for maybe a few hundred blue liners is not economically viable."

but its not a few hundred A. its not only the folks who live in Crystal City and south arlington, its all the people who commute by express bus to the pentagon to jobs in the west side of downtown DC. Plus the folks from Alexandria with a one seat ride currently. B. Eventually there will be new routes in NoVa

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 29, 2013 4:53 pm • linkreport

While the article is well-written and uses complex graphics to argue its perspective, I found the article a bit sad.

Why ?

Because the article is fundamentally written from a DC perspective -- all about moving people across/under the Potomac.

The reality is that the bigger problem at Rosslyn today is folks who live in Alexandria/Crystal City trying to reach jobs along Wilson/Clarendon Blvds and Fairfax Drive && (in the other direction) folks who live along the Orange Line in Virginia trying to reach their jobs at the Pentagon. This will only get worse with the Silver Line, as a majority of Pentagon employees live in Virginia, according to Washington Headquarters Services (who manage the Pentagon).

To solve this problem, a "wye" that SKIPS the Rosslyn station completely, and runs trains between Court House and Arlington Cemetary would do best. It is very sad that these aspects of the situation are not seriously discussed, in favour of the usual bias towards DC. Sigh.

by Sad on Jan 29, 2013 5:04 pm • linkreport

Urban economics is all about agglomeration economies

IOW, what makes the region strong, esp for private sector employers, is the vast pool of specialized human resources. Carve that pool up into little buckets, and you might as well locate in Pittsburgh.

by Happy on Jan 29, 2013 5:08 pm • linkreport

@Sad in favour of the usual bias towards DC

Well, you know, it's not like DC contributes 40% of all of WMATA's operational subsidy, nor hosts nearly 50% of all Metrorail stations, or is home to 660,000 people in just 64 sq. miles, or is home to three of the region's sports teams, or is the capital of the entire United States (and that's before taking into account the fact that the Potomac crossings also connect Virginia to Maryland).

Yeah, a totally unjustified bias, there.

by MetroDerp on Jan 29, 2013 5:15 pm • linkreport

@Herbie

The separated Yellow line together with wyes at Rosslyn and the Pentagon permits 52 tph between Virginia and the District: Blue and Orange cross at Rosslyn, Yellow and Silver cross at the 14th Street Bridge. This also has the benefit of allowing the Green line to expand above its present 12 tph, thus avoiding the coming Green crush on the Anacostia crossing.

by Jim on Jan 29, 2013 5:15 pm • linkreport

@Jim Yes you're right. Lapse of reasoning that I didn't catch until I hit the submit button. Also, my option 3 does is partially wrong since a new Potomac crossing (i.e. separated Blue line) is required to reach 78 TPH between VA and DC.

by Herbie on Jan 29, 2013 5:29 pm • linkreport

Ben makes an excellent suggestion about adding a "30-V" bus option that goes down Wisconsin Avenue and over the Key Bridge to Rosslyn.

The current 30s series bus line does not make Wisconsin Avenue the enhanced transit zone that the Office of Planning assumes today, but adding a direct connection to Rosslyn station would certainly enhance options for riders.

by Bob on Jan 29, 2013 5:34 pm • linkreport

Adam is right above. The current operating pattern on Red is 10 and 20, not 13 and 26. Metro tried doing 26 tph on Red and found problems maintaining on-time performance. A few years ago now they changed the service plan to fewer, longer trains and saw improvements in OTP, fewer delays, etc.

by recyclist on Jan 29, 2013 5:39 pm • linkreport

@ movement:Because of the difficulties of crossing the Potomac, there should be an incentive for Virginians to stay in VA and for Washingtonians to stay in DC.

This is such a weird argument. I can not think of another city in the world where such an argument would be used. Cities are built at rivers to encourage trade across the river. The fact that DC has so few bridges and tunnels is an anomaly. Build some more!

by Jasper on Jan 29, 2013 8:58 pm • linkreport

@ MetroDerp:Yeah, a totally unjustified bias, there.

Yes actually. Despite all your numbers, the vast, vast majority of Greater Washingtonians do not live in the District. They do not leave near the majority of metro stations.

So, asking for some equity in metro-attention is not that weird. Not being treated equal is something Washingtonians should sympathize with...

by Jasper on Jan 29, 2013 9:06 pm • linkreport

The best option, IMHO, is to 1) only run the green line as a spur to Lenfant, 2) allow the blue line to run all the way north to greenbelt/ft Totten via the yellow line bridge over the Potomac and 3) create an "Arlington Cemetery Shuttle" train that only runs from Rosslyn to the Pentagon. You can then max out your limited resource, which is TPM over the Potomac w/o having to build a new frickin tunnel or bridge.

And then maybe my taxes won't have to go up so much...

by rcunnyftw on Jan 29, 2013 11:03 pm • linkreport

would it be possible to build 3 wyes?

put the rosslyn why in, then add a wye Pentagon and another at Lenfant?

that way silver line trains could run from Dulles inward, turn south at Lenfant, head across the yellow line bridge turn north at Pentagon and head backout through arlington cemetery and towards dulles again? Most Dulles riders would be inward to the core and you would prevent sending silver line trains all the way to largo.

by pat b on Jan 30, 2013 1:16 am • linkreport

@rcunnyftw: that solves nothing. How would Green Line or Cemetery Shuttle trains enter L'Enfant, Pentagon, or Rosslyn if those stations' tracks are being monopolized by river-crossing Orange or Yellow line trains?

@movement, Sad: the parts of Virginia that have been most successful have been those parts tied to the broader regional economy, not the parts that have turned their backs on the world. More interconnectivity and more trade create more economic growth. Also, of course the post focuses on the river crossings; they're the ones closest to capacity, they're expensive, and demand is growing.

by Payton on Jan 30, 2013 1:28 am • linkreport

Why not just go all out and build Wye's at all non revenue tracks in addition to one at each junction? That way you will never really have huge disruptions due to a broken down train or a train out of service; you could just route the train around it.

Rosslyn
Pentagon
Ft Totten
Stadium Armory
Metro Center

by kk on Jan 30, 2013 2:02 am • linkreport

@ Ben and Bob

WMATA did that years ago they had a B11 bus route that went from Medical Center to Rosslyn got cancelled long time ago. I remember taking it one time it was slow as hell.

I think there are better options than that route

1 run buses across the Chain Bridge then down either Military Road or GW Parkway in Arlington to Rosslyn

2 run buses from wherever along Wisconsin Ave to Rosslyn via MacArthur Blvd or Foxhall Road

3 add a 38c to the 38b route from Woodley Park to Court House or Clarendon

by kk on Jan 30, 2013 2:21 am • linkreport

improving the river crossings is costly, but the costs of trying to delink NoVa from DC economically would be much higher.

No one is talking about removing the existing links between VA and DC or doing any "de-linking". We're talking about where is the greatest bang for your buck in creating new links. There's a good chance that new links should be from various places in VA to Tysons, not from VA to DC. Just as one would say that DC should prioritize streetcars that link various neighborhoods within DC rather over building new roads that further link DC with Baltimore.

That just won't work, especially not if the region wants to continue attracting urban-oriented professionals. The job I'm at now is in the soulless heart of northern Virginia, but you better believe that if I couldn't get to it from DC then I wouldn't have taken it and moved here.

The exact same logic applies to the urban areas in NOVA like Arlington/Tysons. If urban-oriented professionals can't get from those places to jobs in the "soulless heart of northern virginia", then we won't continue attracting that important demographic. That's why improved links to Tysons should be prioritized over additional links to DC. First, we already have a lot of transit and road links between NOVA and DC. Second, we want to incentivize job growth in NOVA's urban areas rather than subsidizing the model of living in VA but commuting to some other place. Work Where You Live -- that should be the guiding principle for NOVA development.

by Falls Church on Jan 30, 2013 11:48 am • linkreport

@ Falls Church

Where are all of these transit and road links between NOVA and DC ?

I count 5 roads and then the metro which adds two more. I guess you could add bus service but then you must subtract some for Saturday and Sundays when most of them do not operate.

In VA you have options to get to Tysons either drive or take one of the several Metrobuses or Fairfax Connectors that travel there.

Most people can not work where they live as you would not be able to afford either your rent/mortgage.

If you worked in Tysons(I'm including the malls) where could you afford to live in there with the salaries that are paid, the same goes for Springfield, Alexandria, Falls Church, Rosslyn, Ballston etc.

You may be able to afford to live where you work if you're making 60,000 + a year but the majority of people don't. Lets take Clarendon for example how many people that work at Whole Foods, Apple, CVS, & Eleven or any other retail could afford that area and then expand that to everywhere in Northern VA.

by kk on Jan 30, 2013 4:10 pm • linkreport

"No one is talking about removing the existing links between VA and DC or doing any "de-linking". We're talking about where is the greatest bang for your buck in creating new links. There's a good chance that new links should be from various places in VA to Tysons, not from VA to DC. Just as one would say that DC should prioritize streetcars that link various neighborhoods within DC rather over building new roads that further link DC with Baltimore"

existing and future congestion on the links between DC and NoVa will serve to gradually weaken the regional connections (nothing so drastic as taking out existing infrastructure is required).

I think the clear plan for Va is to do BOTH. And I am not talking alot of new links (I think the street car link, for example, probably will not be justifiable) Basically the only links that are proposed, that are serious, are adding a track (and a bike trail) to the rebuilt Long Bridge, and building the tunnel from Rosslyn to Georgetown. That tunnel will be about $2billion (WMATA is talking 3.3 but that includes the section from gtown to thomas circle) Thats a small part of total spending on intra-Nova links that will take places in the next 30 years. It may well be smaller than the total spending on access to Tysons.

As for DC - Baltimore, improving MARC service, and getting HSR on the NEC seems to be definitely on the agenda. Building more road capacity to link them would not be the efficient mode choice. I see no evidence that DC does not value regional links, just that the street car is something they can do more quickly and easily, and goose development. BTW, they seem quite interested in taking the streetcars to and over the Md Line at Silver Spring and on Rhode Island Avenue.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 30, 2013 4:29 pm • linkreport

"Work Where You Live -- that should be the guiding principle for NOVA development."

The reality is that people often live with a spouse or partner who works, and in a different location. So someone has to commute. And people change jobs - and especially if they own, are not inclined to move with each job change.

Its just not realistic to expect everyone to live where they work.

Not to mention that giving the layout of Tysons, even if it becomes much more walkable, will still mean a fairly high SOV share - which means A. Pushing much more employment there (vs DC) means more VMT overall, and B. Most people commuting from southern FFX, PWC, etc will have some nasty commutes getting there - whereas if they work in DC they have more viable transit options.

That is, if we in NoVa care about the prospect of southern Fairfax, PWC, etc, and not just of the favored quarter, which is much less reliant on commuting to the District.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 30, 2013 4:34 pm • linkreport

Even if Metrorail has difficulty running trains above 26 trains an hour, it does not mean it's impossible if London Underground is investing in improved signalling to get it's busiest lines up to 32 and 33 trains per hour, then so can Mero. It might need to invest in more people to manage it's stations and platforms. But London copes with quite old and cramped tunnels compared to Metros stations.

However that's not to say there is not considerable merit in separating the Blue line. While the station idea is a good one it is very expensive. You could not convert the existing station to that design, so it would need a new station. It would seem a waste of resources to leave the old one empty though.

The solution is to build a parallel station, but build new flying junctions, so one station is city bound and the other outbound. That would at least reduce the amount of people using passageways to transfer between station boxes.

If such a solution was sought, it would be tempting to see how far you could push an extension. I'd suggest keep it simple and have a stop in Georgetown and the first stage finish at Du Pont Circle.

by Rational Plan on Jan 30, 2013 7:29 pm • linkreport

There is no overcrowding at Rosslyn, there is overpopulation at Rosslyn. If an issue getting to downtown, Rosslyn is close enough to walk.

by calmtruth on Jan 30, 2013 7:34 pm • linkreport

I had heard this option batted around in the past... what about a blue line which crosses the Potomac at a different point, with a tunnel near Key Bridge, and up through Georgetown? I'm sure that would be too big of an investment to basically build a new line, but wouldn't that kind of relieve the bottleneck without changing Orange/Silver service?

Like this, minus the other lines: http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/DC-Metro.jpg

by Michael on Jan 30, 2013 8:19 pm • linkreport

Blue Line Separation Starter Project
https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=202435105046472301511.00048a48f3605231b7424&msa=0&ll=38.892369,-77.064371&spn=0.016417,0.026157

Separating the Blue Line is a long term goal for the METRO system as a whole - particularly to alleviate the "Orange Crush" at the Rosslyn station - in addition to offering more crosstown access in downtown DC. However, such a project has been dismissed on the grounds that it would cost billions of dollars to essentially duplicate an existing route, adding capacity but not serving new customers. What has never been discussed is a half mile viaduct separation of the blue line at the the Rosslyn station ONLY using existing right of way, with a new viaduct platform above Lynn Street, and a high-speed high-capacity elevator connecting this platform directly to the existing one below ground. Serving as a "Junior Stage One", such a project would be a tiny fraction of the cost a proposed full separation of the blue line, but respond to the major problem of the existing Orange Crush, as well as responding to the upcoming "Silver Crush" as well (under const silver shares track w orange).

by stevek_fairfax on Jan 30, 2013 9:42 pm • linkreport

As other comments say, the presentation is clear and thoughtful.

I wonder if the potential Rosslyn "Y" to allow turns toward Alexandria from points west should have another just down the tracks at the Pentagon to allow a second way to reach the District across a bridge that seems to have some remaining capacity even in future scenarios.

Such a "Y" might not be easy but there is another option: use the existing "pocket track" at National Airport as a place to turn such trains around and head east from there if starting from the west, or vice versa. This would also "connect" Dulles and National, albeit in a way that would not be attractive to those with planes at both ends.

Where are the other pocket tracks in the existing system. One is north of Farragut North; another just north of Grosvenor. Elsewhere?

by Lindsley Williams on Jan 30, 2013 11:17 pm • linkreport

I think the clear plan for Va is to do BOTH

It depends what you mean by both. Yes, there will be incremental transit improvements to both Tysons and DC. But, in terms of a major heavy rail project like the Brown Line or another transit potomac crossing, I'd be pleasantly surprised if we got either. If the choice is between the two, I'd rather go with the Brown Line (connecting King St, to Merrifield, to Tysons). If we're not going to get another potomac crossing/separate blue line, then the Wye solution is superior to the Rosslyn station option.

Better balancing jobs and residences (or the Work Where You Live principle) does not mean that every single person will work a short distance from where they live. Rather, it means encouraging a sensible, mixed-use development pattern that doesn't force people to commute long distances across multiple jurisdictions.

Pushing much more employment there (vs DC) means more VMT overall

Even with the higher VMT, VA is better off pushing employment to Tysons rather than DC.

Most people commuting from southern FFX, PWC, etc will have some nasty commutes getting there - whereas if they work in DC they have more viable transit options.

That's a chicken-egg problem. There are more viable transit options to DC because there are more jobs in DC. As Tysons starts to rival DC as an employment center, we can build more viable transit options to Tysons. Already, with express buses running on the the HOT lane network on 95/Beltway, taking transit to Tysons from PWC will be faster/better. There are also express buses that run from Loudoun to Tysons. If you're looking to connect the rest of FFX to Tysons, we should be planning a BRT system like MoCo is doing.

BTW, they seem quite interested in taking the streetcars to and over the Md Line at Silver Spring and on Rhode Island Avenue.

I'm all for running streetcars from DC into Arlington. That's low-cost and high benefit. But, you don't see MD proposing a new metro line that goes into DC. Rather, their new heavy rail line (the purple line) goes to Bethesda. If you look at MD's major initiatives, they are about building more transit to Bethesda (purple line and BRT system) and creating more jobs at the metro stations in PG, to better balance jobs and residents. They have very little focus on increasing transportation capacity from MD into DC.

If you worked in Tysons(I'm including the malls) where could you afford to live in there with the salaries that are paid

You could live in the area between Seven Corners and the Beltway (like around Loehmann's Plaza) which is a lot closer to Tysons than DC, and much more affordable than DC.

by Falls Church on Jan 30, 2013 11:36 pm • linkreport

Falls Church,

A few points:

Rather, it means encouraging a sensible, mixed-use development pattern that doesn't force people to commute long distances across multiple jurisdictions.

The only means of accomplishing this, given dual income households, is to centralize jobs more than they are now. That would imply for VA pushing more jobs to Arlington, not necessarily to Tysons. Tysons is better than other options, but centrality is a must if you want to offer that kind of geometric relief to commuting distances.

But, you don't see MD proposing a new metro line that goes into DC. Rather, their new heavy rail line (the purple line) goes to Bethesda.

The Purple line is not heavy rail.

Also, there's a reason the MD-DC border is different from the DC-VA border. I don't know if you noticed, but there's a rather large river there.

Metro crosses the MD-DC line six times already. From north to south: Red (Fr hts), Red (Sil Spr), Green (Ft Totten), Orange (Cheverly), Blue (Add Rd), and Green (Sou Ave). Metro does not bottleneck to cross that border the way it does to cross into VA because the nature of the border is entirely different.

They have very little focus on increasing transportation capacity from MD into DC.

Because MD-DC capacity is not nearly as big of a concern as VA-DC capacity is.

by Alex B. on Jan 31, 2013 8:32 am • linkreport

"It depends what you mean by both."

I mean transit ways on Rt 7, Gallows, and 123, with possible eventual conversion to street cars, and more express buses on the beltway, and maybe extending the purple line from Md. And on the other side, 2 billion for the new river crossing.

"Better balancing jobs and residences (or the Work Where You Live principle) does not mean that every single person will work a short distance from where they live. Rather, it means encouraging a sensible, mixed-use development pattern that doesn't force people to commute long distances across multiple jurisdictions."

Im not see why crossing jurisdiction boundaries is something magic. Its great to get people commuting shorter distances, but again, for people from the southern side of NoVa, downtown DC isnt really further than Tysons (and its closer than places where many now commute - such as Maryland and upper NW)

"Even with the higher VMT, VA is better off pushing employment to Tysons rather than DC."

Maybe. But Im not talking about pushing employment to DC, but rather not trying to fight the growth that will occur in downtown DC, and helping Va residents to take advantage of it.

"That's a chicken-egg problem. There are more viable transit options to DC because there are more jobs in DC. As Tysons starts to rival DC as an employment center, we can build more viable transit options to Tysons."

The number of jobs in downtown DC now is more than twice the number the county HOPES to get in Tysons by 2050, IIUC. And downtown DC will continue to get employment growth. There is ZERO possibility that tysons, by 2050, will have transit infrastructure comparable to what downtown DC has NOW, or that it will have the same critical mass of activity.

Oh, and the countys "preservation of suburban character zoning" for places like Pimmit Hills, Idylwood, etc, (and Town of Vienna's for itself) does not help either.

Im am all for the transformtation of Tysons, but the notion that by 2050, Tysons will resemble the level of urbanism of central DC is silly.

And NoVa cannot wait till after 2050 to deal with its commute issues, or to make improve the economic prospects of southern Fairfax and adjacent jurisdictions.

"Already, with express buses running on the the HOT lane network on 95/Beltway, taking transit to Tysons from PWC will be faster/better. There are also express buses that run from Loudoun to Tysons. If you're looking to connect the rest of FFX to Tysons, we should be planning a BRT system like MoCo is doing."

Thats great but its not the equivalent of the multiple heavy rail lines, and the commuter rail lines, that serve downtown DC (there are also express buses to downtown DC, from Loudoun, from southern Md, but in DCs transit scene they get lost in the sauce)

BTW, they seem quite interested in taking the streetcars to and over the Md Line at Silver Spring and on Rhode Island Avenue.

"I'm all for running streetcars from DC into Arlington. That's low-cost and high benefit."

How is it low cost? You would need a new crossing. I dont see that would be much less expensive than the rosslyn-georgetown tunnel. Or do you think taking away a couple of lanes on one of the bridges will go over well?

"But, you don't see MD proposing a new metro line that goes into DC. Rather, their new heavy rail line (the purple line) goes to Bethesda."

as has been stated, thats not a heavy rail line, and they already have multiple line into the district. Though there is talk of a seperated yellow line that would go up Rte 29 in MoCo - but thats not immediate.

"They have very little focus on increasing transportation capacity from MD into DC."

they already have two red line routes in, two green line routes in, the orange line, and the blue line. Thats six. Plus they are looking at major upgrades to MARC (which is already higher capacity than VRE). And I assume when DC streetcar reaches the state line, they will extend into Md.

So I think your charecterization of Md is not correct. Md is trying to do BOTH.

NoVa needs to do so as well.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 31, 2013 9:19 am • linkreport

This discussion in interesting but sadly amounts to a debate about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin considering that elected liberal Democrats in places like Arlington aren't interested in it. In the medium-term, allowing buses to ride on the Potomac bridge shoulders and adding many more direct-to-DC routes (similar to 16Y/7Y) along Route 50, Route 1, I-66/395 makes the most sense. Many people in Arlington/Alexandria live close enough to DC that better bus service might relieve a bit of the pressure on the existing rail crossings. An insufficient solution to be sure but politically/fiscally possible at least.

by Rory on Jan 31, 2013 12:24 pm • linkreport

Nicely done article.

I like the idea of a Blue Line station at Rosslyn that runs to Georgetown and under K Street. One plan I saw had that line connecting to the Red Line at Union Station and then joining the present Blue Line at the Stadium. The only problem is money. That would be a very expensive line to build.

Metro did not plan any staging areas downtown for large events. I would like to see a large terminal with multiple tracks and feeds to the various lines. Unfortunately, that would be expensive to build now.

by Bob on Jan 31, 2013 12:34 pm • linkreport

The only problem is money. That would be a very expensive line to build.

The problem with this line of reasoning (which many seem to have) is: what's the alternative?

Is the alternative no growth? Or ever-increasing job decentralization and traffic congestion?

by MLD on Jan 31, 2013 12:56 pm • linkreport

If ridership is expected to increase in the long run (and it will), the only way to increase capacity to the system is to separate not only the BL/OR lines, but all of them. They should go ahead and get started on it now, starting with the new station at Rosslyn and the M Street Subway. Five lines in three tunnels downtown may have worked in the past and it may work for now, but eventually it won't.

by Matt on Jan 31, 2013 3:46 pm • linkreport

Looking at this again, it seems as though a major limiting factor on a separated Blue Line will be the shared segment with the Yellow. Though projected ridership on the separated line won't be too much, limiting it to 12-13 tph is unfortunate.

I wonder if we could squeeze 1 or 2 more tph out of the system by organizing the crowds better. If our limiting factor isn't the signalling/switching infrastructure and is instead boarding delays, let's see how we can make that go faster.

by David Edmondson on Jan 31, 2013 4:18 pm • linkreport

If the system moves to 100% 8-car trains AND if the doors have the about the same location and width in future series as those now rolling, then it should be possible to distinguish areas where doors will exist (from which exiting passengers must first exit) so educated passengers can stand to either side prior to entering.

It is also possible that the manual systems that have been -- and maybe still are -- in use to confirm door opening (which adds seconds to openings at each stop) can be restored to something quicker, and automatic. And, maybe boarding passengers can heed door-closing signals so as to allow a train that is supposed to depart momentarily to do so instead of requiring one or more recycles of door closing, which adds one small delay after the other at present.

by Lindsley Williams on Jan 31, 2013 5:32 pm • linkreport

I think the real design flaw here lies with the Silver Line. Rather than connect with the Orange and eventually Blue lines, why couldn't the line have been configured to terminate at West Falls Church? There's no rule that says you have to have a one-seat ride to get from point a to point b. Look at other major transit systems-like NYC and London. Some lines just link up and have a transfer point. I think this should have been the design of choice for the Silver Line. As it is, Silver service is going to be infrequent at best-and even worse during off peak and weekend service. At least if it was separate it would be easier to run the Orange and Blue lines.

by Jay on Jan 31, 2013 5:34 pm • linkreport

To answer MLD's question:

No growth may be the only alternative -- at least, no more sprawl. Even growing up is a limited alternative since Metro's ultimate capacity is fixed.

Right-of-way is limited and even where it could theoretically be acquired there is simply no money for any additional construction. Well, I suppose there's always money available to borrow -- but the US is already $16 trillion in debt -- and that's not counting long-term obligations.

Those who want a smoother commute should be advocating for slow (or zero) growth in the entire D.C. region. As it is, I've read some great ideas here but the majority of them will probably never be implemented and the few that are will not come near absorbing all of the additional demand from ever more people moving here.

As I posted above, most people come to this area to find work. If there were jobs available elsewhere they would move there instead (at least many of them would). As long as we continue to experience population growth, the only solution I can think of is to encourage all gov't agencies and businesses that can do so to (re)locate in under populated areas (urban, suburban, and rural) that have most of the necessary infrastructure and actually _want_ population growth. If we can't stop population growth we need to deflect it, redirect it if you will.

"Solutions" like allowing cars, trucks, and/or buses to be driven on the shoulders of area highways shows just how pathetically desperate some are to continue accommodating growth at any cost -- even if it can be predicted to cost people their lives. Shoulders are there for a reason -- to provide a safe space for disabled vehicles to pull over; to provide emergency parking; and to provide access for emergency vehicles. It is incredibly short-sighted to allow shoulders to be used as travel lanes. That is a big fat clue that there are too many people living in this area already.

by S. Johnson on Jan 31, 2013 5:52 pm • linkreport

@Jay,

Multiple reasons terminating the Silver Line at WFC is a horrible idea. First, as discussed maintaining the 1-seat ride has been found to be a critical determinant factor for usage based on Blue/Yellow usage patterns under Rush+.

Additionally, the Silver Line for people west of Tyson's is actually making our commute WORSE to begin with. Current plans calls for Fairfax Connector changes such that lines formerly terminating at WFC are terminating at Wiehle. Which is all well and good except for the fact that now instead of a direct bus to WFC and a single transfer, under your scheme you'd want me to make 2 transfers (bus -> Silver, Silver -> Orange) just to get into downtown... what if I need to transfer again? Utterly preposterous. Granted I am biased by a brutal commute (Bus -> Orange -> Red -> Green to Greenbelt... and then some) but the Silver Line already creates an extra 5-10 minutes on my commute that I'm not looking forward to. Don't bury me please.

To the general audience... what Matt hasn't incorporated in his article is this possibility: What about multiple wyes?
Creating a wye at Rosslyn is great, but go the extra mile -- wyes at Pentagon and L'Enfant. Then you even have the option of a Wiehle-Branch Ave. run which utilizes open capacity. You'd have to look at usage metrics for the Orange Line, obviously if most people are going between Foggy Bottom and Metro Center this doesn't do much. But if many are getting off at places like L'Enfant or Capital South or others, it actually would be a welcome option to have all of those wyes. You'd go from Court House to Pentagon to L'Enfant in 3 stops. You MIGHT even get people to do that just for the sake of it and run the Orange line a couple stops back the other way and it could have a ridership-easing benefit.

by Mike D. on Jan 31, 2013 10:28 pm • linkreport

@ Falls Church

Seven Corners is not near Tysons under any definition of the word near; near would be within 1 or 2 miles at the most

by kk on Feb 1, 2013 2:20 am • linkreport

It is a straight shot on 7 that's only about 15 minutes driving.

by selxic on Feb 1, 2013 7:12 am • linkreport

This is a great conversation and many of you make great points. However, what I'm hearing most is that the major limiting factor is money. Honestly, that's just not true. The only thing keeping us back is us our political will as a region. New York City is currently creating the 2nd avenue subway, extending its 7 line and rebuild stations.

Contrary to popular opinion, we can do that here - build that is. We are not just DC, MD or VA, we are the "Washington Metropolitan Area" with over 5 million people living here. If we unite on a transportation basis, we can secure the resources to build what we need for now and the future.

by Randall M. on Feb 2, 2013 8:53 am • linkreport

@ selxic

The main point I'm trying to make is Falls Church said work where you live; with that the suggestion of Seven Corners does not fit into work where you live when mentioning Tysons.

Plus many people take transit to Tysons and it is well over 15 minutes via bus I have rode it before. 15 minutes from Tysons could not even get you to West Falls Church station on a typical weekday unless its near 12am

by kk on Feb 5, 2013 6:32 pm • linkreport

It's very likely that we'll all be commuting/traveling via jetpacks before any of this materializes

by Simplicity on Mar 13, 2013 6:25 pm • linkreport

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