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WMATA plan: Not $26 billion, not mostly about tunnels

New Metro tunnels in downtown DC sound really cool (and expensive), but they're not what's most important about the "Momentum" strategic plan WMATA planners showed their board on Thursday. Rather, the crux of the plan is the smaller, yet very important, projects Metro needs for 2025.

Photo by woodleywonderworks on Flickr.

The capital improvements in "Metro 2025" come to about $6 billion, and include these 7 items:

  • 100% 8-car trains ($2 billion)
  • More capacity at core stations, including pedestrian tunnels ($2 1 billion)
  • Fixing the bottleneck at Rosslyn ($1 billion)
  • More places to turn trains ($500 million)
  • Next generation communications infrastructure ($400 million)
  • Speed up buses on priority corridors ($600 million)
  • More buses and new garage to grow bus system ($500 million)

The Momemtum plan also talks about some downtown tunnels in a future phase, "Metro 2040," but Tom Harrington, Director of Long-Range Planning for WMATA, emphasized in an interview that WMATA has not made any decisions about where specifically such tunnels would go, or which they want to build.

Rather, those sections are more general placeholders than anything else. While it's likely Metro needs at least one new tunnel to add capacity, WMATA can't even begin to plan for those tunnels until the elements of the 2025 plan get funding.

Given how long it takes to design, build, and fund transit in the United States, it's not too early to start talking about and building support around the elements of the 2040 plan. But what's more important now is laying the groundwork to enable those plans to go forward. That's the 2025 plan.

Harrington added that the $26 billion figure in the Washington Post's headline, which most other reporters subsequently focused on, isn't really the price tag for WMATA's plans. Rather, that covers the total cost of all transit projects the region's governments hope to build as well as future projects for WMATA.

As we discussed on Thursday, the plan also contains a lot of priorities for WMATA to improve its own operations. They include finishing repairs on the system, ensuring it's safe, devising better plans for communicating disruptions, making the system more "self-service," lowering costs and increasing efficiency, environmentally sustainable practices, and more.

The plan is not very detailed about these, and we look forward to hearing and discussing them more when there's more to understand.

Meanwhile, let's look more at the 7 capital items:

Photo by erin_johnson on Flickr.
100% 8-car trains: The original system's designers anticipated having trains of 8 cars, the full length of each platform. However, the system didn't need such long trains at the start, since the designers knew demand would grow over time.

They didn't build enough power stations and yard space to house all of those cars, anticipating that as the system grew, the local, state, and federal governments would fund the system's growth. That investment didn't continue much after the initial system was built, however. Today, Metro is overcrowded in many places, and needs the longer trains.

Core station capacity: The main transfer stations (Metro Center, Gallery Place, and L'Enfant Plaza), plus Union Station which is a transfer point between Metro and commuter rail or Amtrak, are jammed during rush hour. Metro needs to expand key spaces inside the stations and increase the numbers of escalators, elevators, and/or stairways between the different levels of the stations.

Image from WMATA.
WMATA's proposal includes pedestrian tunnels between Farragut North and West, and Metro Center and Gallery Place. The Farragut tunnel would reduce loading on the Red and Orange Lines where people have to currently ride to Metro Center to transfer, and the Metro Center-Gallery Place tunnel would let people avoid riding the Red Line one stop to transfer there.

Fix Rosslyn: This is the system's biggest bottleneck. We'll talk about this in part 2.

Turnbacks: Many subway systems have places where "gap trains" can wait to enter service in a busy section if trains get delayed, or places to push a disabled train out of the way. The Momentum plan isn't clear on where these would be, and Shyam Kannan, Managing Director for Planning, said WMATA is finishing up a study on this now.

In the past, WMATA planners have talked about adding pocket tracks north of Fort Totten and east of Eastern Market. A pocket track north of Fort Totten would also make it possible to run Yellow Line trains to Fort Totten during rush. Here's an explanation of why it's not possible to do that today; basically, they turn around on the main tracks, which takes too long to avoid delaying other trains at rush frequencies.

Communications infrastructure: The current "PIDS" screens in rail stations use very old technology dating back to Metro's early years. According to Kannan, during a service disruption, someone has to manually modify the information in the computer system to get the PIDS to work properly. They want to replace this whole system with a more modern one that doesn't have the flaws of the old.

This project also will involve systems to help riders get real-time bus and train predictions, Kannan said. Metro would like to place large screens, perhaps 4 by 6 feet, in many rail stations and busy bus stops to tell riders about the locations of trains and buses, as well as information about other modes like commuter rail and commuter buses. Better apps for smartphones and tablets, as well as open data to help other developers make their own tools, are also part of this piece of the strategic plan.

Bus priority corridors: Let's not forget buses. As we've talked about many, many times, making the buses more efficient, with features like "queue jumpers" to bypass congested areas, is an inexpensive way to improve transit and could even save money. If a bus can travel its route more quickly, you can have the same bus frequency with fewer buses and drivers, or more frequent service with the same numbers.

WMATA has identified a set of corridors ripe for optimizing bus service, but it needs more cooperation from local jurisdictions, which control the roads, signals, and bus stops, to make it happen. Some early elements are in the works; DC is planning bus lanes on H and I Streets past the White House, for instance.

More buses and a bus garage: A lot of bus riders wait longer than they should have to. We should beef up service on busy lines and in key places, like east of the Anacostia, which need better connectivity.

Also, WMATA needs to replace its aging garages in DC with a new one somewhere; Walter Reed was a promising spot, but Muriel Bowser and Vincent Gray blocked the idea; most recently, they have apparently been eying the Armed Forces Retirement Home, at North Capitol and Irving.

These are not in the region's plans today

These 7 items are extremely important for mobility in our region. They aren't just things that would be nice to have, but necessities if we don't want terrible overcrowding and delays.

However, these items are still not in the Constrained Long-Range Plan (CLRP), the list of transportation projects each jurisdiction gives to the Transportation Planning Board to staple together into a regional plan. (DC just proposed adding the I Street bus lane, and already had H Street in there).

As the TPB explains:

The CLRP (Financially Constrained Long-Range Plan) includes all "regionally significant" highway, transit and High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV), bicycle and pedestrian projects, and studies that the TPB realistically anticipates can be implemented by 2040. Some of these projects are scheduled for completion in the next few years, while others will be completed much later.
That means without action by regional leaders, we could get to 2040 and still have no more 8-car trains, the same and even worse Rush Plus crowding problems, terrible jams at transfer stations, buses stuck in even more traffic, and no room to park buses to expand service.

These improvements are basically necessary to keep Metro running efficiently over the next decade and to set the stage for future expansion. But it will not be easy to build these projects unless regional leaders are able to work together to secure funding for Metro's future.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. 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 two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Why is it never discussed that the system's switch network was designed to handle 40% more trains? per frequent discussions on, the switching and signaling system was designed to handle trains at a much higher frequency than is currently in place.

Once the system is capable of running on ATC again, and once the planned power upgrade takes place, it seems that if you run trains at 90 sec headways (instead of the 150 or so) you increase capacity in the system without station build-out.

Not saying this fixes every problem and introduces none of its own, but we really should look at bringing the system up to what it is already capable of before we look to add additional infrastructure.

by BradK on Jan 28, 2013 1:50 pm • linkreport

Well, I'll be gone and retired by the time this long overdue projects are done.

Please provide more information about Union Station as soon as possible. I think I feel more dangerous being at Union Station than any other stations. Take a look at Toronto Subway project at Toronto Union Station -- they're building second platform -- I think we should do the same. And they need to keep in mind what if we build new line out of Union Station and will need their own platform.

And add few entrances into Union Station at corner of Mass. Ave & 1st Street (on Postal Museum side) and across the street where people waiting for buses.

by Dave on Jan 28, 2013 1:59 pm • linkreport

@ David:

If Rosslyn is the system's biggest bottleneck, I hope you will explain why D&G junction on the east side town is not a bottleneck of similar importance.

If you are interested I did a drawing of how WMATA can increase car storage capacity at Brentwood Yard by 200+ by utilizing the former B&0 Eckington Yard. The Capitol Crescent trail would have to be moved to the west side of the former yard.

by Sand Box John on Jan 28, 2013 2:08 pm • linkreport

$1 billion for building pedestrain tunnels?

Don't we have the TIGER bus priority corridors already?

Why do I suspect nextbus has a larger influence on ridership than anything else bus related? perhaps leverage that instead.

by charlie on Jan 28, 2013 2:15 pm • linkreport

@ BradK:but we really should look at bringing the system up to what it is already capable of before we look to add additional infrastructure.

No, we should do both. Considering the existing gridlock, projected growth and impossibility of building many more roads, we need to expand our transit network massively.

by Jasper on Jan 28, 2013 2:18 pm • linkreport

They forgot a valuable tunnel/track - the East Falls Church - Rosslyn Express. This would ease traffic and crowding on trains when the Silver Line comes on and could be included in a new Rosslyn tunnel/track realignment.
Start planning now and begin construction yesterday! WMATA can't increase capacity unless the Orange and Blue are separated inside the District. The communities around the Blue and Orange (especially in Virginia) embraced metro as a means to encourage high-density suburban development. Should they not be rewarded for their efforts with a transit system that reflects the needed capacity?

by andy2 on Jan 28, 2013 2:21 pm • linkreport


I am not sure you are understanding what he said. Currently, the system signaling and switching equipment is only running (or can only run) with consistant 3-4 minute headways.

Even without the electrical upgrades, simply upgrading the switches to cut the headway in half means you've just doubled the capacity of the system without digging any tunnels or building any new stations.

I don't understand how the Russians can get their system, the first sections of which opened in 1935, and which carries 7.5 times the number of daily passengers as our metro does to operate consistantly at 90 second headways during rush, and we can barely manage 4 minute headways.

Upgrade the electrical and signaling equipment and dig a new tunnel under (or bridge over the potomac) and call it a day.

by DCr on Jan 28, 2013 2:31 pm • linkreport

Sand Box John: We'll have more tomorrow, but basically the D&G junction is not the bottleneck because there isn't more demand for trains into the core from that end than capacity, whereas there is more demand for trains in from the west.

Metro needs to be able to run more Orange Line (and future Silver) trains in the EFC-Rosslyn segment than it can now, but there isn't the same imperative to run more trains on the New Carrollton-Stadium-Armory segment.

by David Alpert on Jan 28, 2013 2:43 pm • linkreport

@ DCr: I am not sure you are understanding what he said.

I am not sure you understood what I said.

Of course we should be upgrading the system to its maximum capacity. But we should also be expanding the system, especially having seen how long it takes to get a new line going (see Silver, Purple). It's not either/or. It's both.

by Jasper on Jan 28, 2013 2:51 pm • linkreport

I'm blanking on D&G. What station is that?

I know I'm among like-minded friends on this blog, but I'd sure like to see elected officials who actually work toward funding our city's transit into the future, even if they spell out where that funding would come from explicitly.

by Austin on Jan 28, 2013 3:17 pm • linkreport

Each of the Metro lines uses route chaining and therefore has a letter.

A: Metro Center - Shady Grove
B: Metro Center - Glenmont
C: Metro Center - Rosslyn - Huntington
D: Metro Center - New Carrollton
E: Gallery Place - Greenbelt
F: Gallery Place - Branch Avenue
G: D&G Junction - Largo
J: C&J Junction - Franconia/Springfield
K: Rosslyn - Vienna
L: L'Enfant Plaza - Pentagon
N: K&N Junction - Wiehle Avenue (under construction)

When two routes diverge, the place where they meet is named for them. In this case, the point where the New Carrolton branch of the Orange Line and the Largo branch of the Blue Line diverge is called D&G Junction, because the D Route (New Carrollton) and the G Route (Largo) meet there.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 28, 2013 3:24 pm • linkreport

How about bus lanes on Connecticut (from Calvert), Wisconsin (from at least Mass), 16th (starting at Park?) and 14th (and Park)??? Those streets carry something like 70,000 bus riders a day, seems like the least we can do is have some bus lanes.

by Alan B. on Jan 28, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

@charlie, the pedestrian tunnels are nowhere close to $1 billion. IIRC, the projected costs, now a few years old, for the Farragut tunnel was $28 million and Metro Ctr - Gallery Place was $41 million. The tunnels are a small part of what looks to be a $2 billion catch-all for station access and internal improvements. Given the modest cost for the tunnels, they should start construction before Phase 2 of the Silver Line opens.

Besides upgrades to the core transfer station and Union station, what other stations are included in the station capacity category? With the plans for the second Bethesda entrance in the news, which other stations with entrances at one end should be candidates for adding a second entrance for capacity expansion and improving access to the station? What is the status of the plans for Foggy Bottom?

What we are getting from the Strategic plan process, is that other than the Silver Line, Potomac Yards, and maybe another infill station, that WMATA is not planning on any expansion of the system with new lines or corridors in revenue service in the next 15-20 years. However I can see Fairfax County and Virginia pushing ahead with an extension of the Orange Line to Centreville regardless of a Blue Line re-route.

by AlanF on Jan 28, 2013 3:38 pm • linkreport

Great list though, I think all of those definitely should be on the priority short list, way before we start to really plan new lines or anything like that.

Question about bus garages, has anyone done any studies on using multi story parking/bus garages similar to what has happened with Union Station for the chinatown buses? Seems like potential to get some buses staged closer to demand points downtown that would reduce deadheading. Obviously not a total solution, but it seems like it could work for some cases and it helps ameloriate some of the environmental justice issues of putting all the new construction in NE and SE.

by Alan B. on Jan 28, 2013 3:39 pm • linkreport

Correct me if I'm wrong, but won't dwell times start to become a huge issue if we go to 90-second headways? Seems to me like you'd need to implement skip-stop just to keep the trains moving.

It was always my understanding that the 90-second specification was a theoretical number that guided the number and placement of signaling blocks, to allow trains to run as close as 90 seconds apart when they needed to (preventing small delays from cascading into a huge problem up the line).

It's one thing for trains to be able to bunch up in the core when they need to. It's another to actually schedule 90 second headways throughout the system.

That said, I never have heard a convincing explanation for the congestion problem at Rosslyn, or why we can't move trains a bit closer together. Why does it take so long for the switch to change positions between trains?

by andrew on Jan 28, 2013 3:44 pm • linkreport

Also, why hasn't WMATA floated a serious CBTC proposal? Moreover, why wasn't that considered before we ripped out and replaced the Red Line's entire signaling system?

by andrew on Jan 28, 2013 3:45 pm • linkreport

If Rosslyn is the system's biggest bottleneck, I hope you will explain why D&G junction on the east side town is not a bottleneck of similar importance.

Actually, as the engineer, I'd think you'd be the person to answer that question. I often ride through the Rosslyn bottleneck during morning rush and the D&G junction in afternoon rush and while there are the same number of trains going through both junctions, the Rosslyn one backs up more often and with greater delays. I figure it has something to do with overcrowded trains on the Arlington side of the line.

by Falls Church on Jan 28, 2013 3:56 pm • linkreport

It doesn't take 135 seconds to move the switch. That's all computerized and automatic.

Here's an example: (t+0)

Let's say the interlocking [block] at Rosslyn is 450 feet long. The front of a train moving at 35 miles per hour takes about 9 seconds to clear the interlocking.

Because the train itself is (up to) 600 feet long, when the first car clears the interlocking, the last 2 cars have yet to enter. It should take another 3 seconds for them to be fully entered (t+12) and then 9 seconds for them to clear (t+21).

So, assuming no decelleration, it's taken 21 seconds for the train to clear the interlocking.

Now, the train is entering the station, which is 600 feet long. To complicate the math, the train is decellerating. Let's say it takes 35 seconds to platform the train (t+56).

The train now opens its doors and people begin to board and alight. Train doors are supposed to be open for 15 to 20 seconds (t+76).

Now, the operator takes 5 seconds to walk across the front of the train (t+81).

The train begins to accellerate out of the station. Let's say it takes 35 seconds for the train to fully clear the station (t+116).

At this point, now that the train has cleared the block adjacent to the interlocking, the relays powering the switch motors become re-energized and the switch is now able to be moved. Let's say it takes 10 seconds to reposition the switch (t+126).

The next train was operating 120 seconds behind the first, and slowed as it approached the red signal, which has just changed to lunar (clear). The train takes 30 seconds to clear the interlocking (t+156) and 35 seconds to platform (t+191).

I had to fudge or guesstimate some of the numbers there, but you can see that the time is not just about moving the switch points. It's about the time it takes the train to move over the switch and clear the adjacent blocks (including station dwell time, when the platform is immediately adjacent to the switch).

As for CBTC, the L Train (Canarsie Line) was the first NYCTA line to be converted to CBTC. AFTER the conversion to CBTC, the line's capacity was increased to 26 TPH.

That's the same as WMATA's limit, FYI. We don't have CBTC, but we do have blocks with cab signalling that were designed for higher speeds, and so I'm going to guess that WMATA didn't spend the money to install CBTC because it wouldn't have given us much of a boost.

Terminal Capacity
The other thing to consider is the capacity of a Terminal to handle trains. In addition to all the switching and time to clear blocks like at Rosslyn, the terminals have to use one track for the train that is boarding and waiting for it's scheduled departure time (recovery time). And therefore only have one track that is available for trains going out of service and heading into the yard. That involves the normal 20 second dwell for alighting. But then it also involves perhaps 2 minutes for WMATA employees to walk the train and make sure all the customers are off before it goes into the yard.

I see this ballet every morning at Greenbelt. This morning, for example, I got on a train that wasn't scheduled to depart for 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, a train on the other track arrived and was cleared of customers (taking about 3 minutes). It then puttered off into the yard. About 1 minute later, we departed. We passed 2 trains waiting south of the station so that they could offload and go into the yard.

It doesn't particularly matter if the mainline can handle a train every 90 seconds, if the terminal can only handle 2 trains every 5 minutes, or something like that.

Increasing capacity might mean adding tracks or platforms to the terminals in addition to resignalling.

Additionally, resignalling for CBTC might be a lot more intensive than just replacing parts. The signal replacement on the Red Line is replacing one part at a time. It's not like they ripped out every signal module and every WEE-Z bond at the same time.

They took one module out of the bracket and replaced it with a new one.

That's not really resignalling. That's really just maintenance and repair.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 28, 2013 4:09 pm • linkreport

Part of the reason for the Rosslyn bottleneck is the passenger imbalance - so while you have 10,000 passengers per hour travelling inbound during the AM rush at Rosslyn, they are not evenly distributed between trains. Before Rush+, you had 3/5 of the trains going through there from Orange, but something like 3/4 of the passengers were on those trains. That means dwell times for those trains at the stations leading up to and including Rosslyn would be longer, so the "zipper" of trains coming together from each line would not fit together properly.

I think Sand Box John's question is, if the system is designed for 90-second headways (40tph), and the switches can handle that, then why don't they just increase the number of trains to deal with the problem, rather than setting a cap of 26tph?

by MLD on Jan 28, 2013 4:18 pm • linkreport

David Alpert wrote:

100% 8-car trains ($2 billion)

100% 8 car train consists during peak demand periods makes plenty of sense, but I question the need for 8 car trains at all times. Now there is cost associated with removing railcars at the end of peak demand times, and putting them back out on the line again as demand picks up; and I don't claim to know how much that costs.

But might not not make more sense to run shorter trains on better headways on the weekends (for example) and maybe during the middle of the day and later in the evenings?

by C. P. Zilliacus on Jan 28, 2013 4:20 pm • linkreport

Good explanation, Matt, I didn't see it before I posted.

by MLD on Jan 28, 2013 4:23 pm • linkreport

The current "PIDS" screens in rail stations use very old technology dating back to Metro's early years

Which is weird because I don't remember the PIDS screens there in the 80's. (and wiki said they went in there in 2000)

by Kolohe on Jan 28, 2013 4:47 pm • linkreport

The PIDS screens use the track circuits to determine how far away a train is and so on. It's not that the screens themselves date to the 1980s, but that they get their data from systems that were installed at the start of Metro.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 28, 2013 4:49 pm • linkreport

Also, on the PIDS, it's worth keeping in mind how long it took Metro to free its schedule and current service info from a propriety format to allow others (e.g. google) to access and synthesize that information with other applications.

It's good to see that they want to move forward (finally) but their own management and bureaucracy has stiffled inovation on this front for years (decades even.

by Kolohe on Jan 28, 2013 4:51 pm • linkreport

I believe he PIDS were just built on top of the existing train location system that Metro has always had. All it does is figure out which block the train is in and it knows how many minutes it is from that block to a particular station. It also knows about where the train is going based on the destination code set.

They didn't build a whole new train locating system to power the PIDS, that's why they can't deal with track work.

by MLD on Jan 28, 2013 4:58 pm • linkreport

This isn't criticism of your post, just a point. The 7 items you list are incredibly important, but what I would consider incremental improvements. Necessary but incremental. Merely allowing full utilization of what has already been built.

Those things should be a given. They help push off reaching capacity but they don't significantly add to capacity or provide redundancy or a greater catchment area for higher capacity transit service.

So to me while strategic, those items aren't "visionary."

And we need the visionary/transformational stuff too, otherwise DC is screwed.

DC's elected and appointed officials should be at the head of the line screaming, I mean advocating, for significant additions to capacity such as the creation of the separated blue line at a minimum and the consideration of the separated yellow line at a medium, and other capacity expansion proposals.

ANd DC ought to be laying out a new way for planning expansion, because the outer suburbs are going to be advocating for expansion polycentricly, rather than DC advocating for expansion monocentricly.

should be at the head of the line screaming for

by Richard Layman on Jan 28, 2013 5:16 pm • linkreport

The PIDS are fine. They are much better than the new tvs that hang from the entry booths. The PIDs I can read from a distance. The tvs, I can't read them even when I am walking close by.

The only thing with the PIDS is that metro needs to think better about it's formatting. Too often, phrases are broken off in very weird instances. They also need to think more telegram/twitter style about the language they use. Use smarter abbreviations so they can squish more info per screen.

And yes, metro has been very slow putting more relevant information on the PIDS. 10 years ago, they were mostly fancy clocks.

by Jasper on Jan 28, 2013 8:33 pm • linkreport

@C. P. Zilliacus: 100% 8-car trains just refers to the fact that all the trains during peak periods would be 8-car trains and the improvements necessary to power a fleet of 100% 8-car trains at rush.

It wouldn't involve running 8-car trains everywhere during the non peak times.

by kidincredible on Jan 28, 2013 8:43 pm • linkreport

The proposed tunnel between Farragut North and Farragut West stations may also help alleviate the crush of pedestrians trying to cross the 17/I/Conn Ave NW intersection at the weekday-only Farragut West exit. There are a lot of buses trying to move through that busy area. If the ped. tunnel helps distribute pedestrians maybe buses can move through that area easier. Add on the crazy bikers where some stop like cars, others bike THROUGH pedestrians, others bike into the crosswalk doing a "zig-zag" of sorts to go against a light.

by Transport. on Jan 28, 2013 9:03 pm • linkreport

When concerning tunnels why not build a tunnel between Metro Center, Gallery Place and Judiciary Square. I would say add McPherson Square to the list but that might be to far and complicated.

With all the talk about separating the Blue is there any reason that the Blue Lines needs to serve Rosslyn at all. If there is ever a separate Blue Line it could be routed into Virginia and stop at any station Rosslyn, Court House, Clarendon, Virginia Sq and be rerouted to serve Columbia Pike or Glebe Road skipping Arlington Cemetery as 99% of people using Metrorail don't go there then returning to its present route.

by kk on Jan 28, 2013 9:24 pm • linkreport

@ andy2:

Actually they didn't, see table on page 33, line 2 of Momentum Strategic Plan 2013 - 2025 (8.08 MB PDF file).

"Silver / Orange line Express track West Falls Church to second Rosslyn station relocated Blue line. Cost 2.3 Billion."

by Sand Box John on Jan 28, 2013 11:05 pm • linkreport

There was an error in my post. I listed the station improvements as 2 billion, but the plan only says 1 billion. I've corrected it.

by David Alpert on Jan 28, 2013 11:28 pm • linkreport

I don't think Metro even needs to build a tunnel between the Farragut stations. All that needs to be done is build a new set of escalators at each station that dumps out into the corners of Farragut Square itself without having to cross I and K streets. That would save a lot of time and provide all sorts of business for the countless food trucks on that stretch.

by NikolasM on Jan 28, 2013 11:47 pm • linkreport

@Matt Johnson:

Your timing guesstimations are basically correct. However there is a roughly 75' long track circuit between the platform track circuit and the interlocking track circuit. When the train is berths at the platform the interlocking can be reset and cleared for the next train. If necessary the points in the turnout will move for the next train, and lock and lunar signal will be displayed before the train occupying platform track circuit has cleared.

by Sand Box John on Jan 28, 2013 11:48 pm • linkreport

@kk, what purpose would a Gallery Place to Judiciary Sq tunnel serve? The 2 proposed tunnels provide shortcuts between lines. Gallery Pl to Judiciary Sq is a Red line stop. Probably not an easy route anyway to build an adjacent ped tunnel and not a short distance.

As for the Blue re-route, can't see there being support for a very expensive re-route away from Arlington Cemetery and Rossyln. Rosslyn will remain the transfer stop. A new Blue line tunnel under the current Rosslyn station with a new deep station to Georgetown to M Street will be expensive enough to make it a challenge to get the funding.

Looking forward to Part 2 on the by 2025 plans for Rosslyn!

by AlanF on Jan 29, 2013 12:14 am • linkreport

@NikolasM, new escalators leading to Farragut Sq could easily be more expensive than the tunnel. Exits onto Farragut Sq would also not be acceptable to the Park Service. The recommended tunnel would be inside the fare gates, so it would be an easy connection with no fare gates to go through or virtual transfer to mess with. You might want to look at the 2004 Farragut Sq pedestrian tunnel study on the WMATA website.

A general question to those who might know: Was a connecting tunnel at Farragut Sq ever seriously considered when the stations were being built after they had been forced to build 2 stations by the National Park Service?

by AlanF on Jan 29, 2013 12:32 am • linkreport

Under Manager Richard Sarles, Metro has been changing all for the better. He’s obviously the right person to lead Metro with his deep history in transit and apparent ability to lead. Why were leaders like this not at Metro’s helm for so very long and what happens after he leaves? This high caliber of transit industry leadership and skill has to be a baseline requirement for all leadership at Metro moving forward. How is Metro being changed institutionally so it will continue these huge corrective courses when new faces are in control? Metro’s importance to this region cannot be overstated. Unless real changes in the rules, standards, culture, openness, and contracts are made now we have no reason to believe all these positives will stay intact. Too many undercurrents could stall progress or worse.

by Alex on Jan 29, 2013 7:01 am • linkreport

I don't think Sarles was what WMATA needed. He has a long history in the transit industry but with NJ Transit and the Port Authority, two agencies where the mentality is often to ignore riders because they will ride no matter what. He certainly righted the ship in terms of getting extensive maintenance going.

On the other hand, his team has shown little interest in upending the work culture at WMATA that seems to be the root cause of many problems. They have made the organization less transparent and less open to outside constructive criticism.

by MLD on Jan 29, 2013 9:03 am • linkreport

"I don't understand how the Russians can get their system, the first sections of which opened in 1935, and which carries 7.5 times the number of daily passengers as our metro does to operate consistantly at 90 second headways during rush, and we can barely manage 4 minute headways."

Because if and when the Moscow Metro had operational problems, Stalin would simply have had some people shot.

by Bob on Jan 29, 2013 10:12 am • linkreport


HAHAHAHAHA oh my god. You can't be serious. There have been NO changes under his leadership, and during his tenure WMATA has become more opaque, resistant to change, and lagging in basic maintenance, reliability, and overall service levels. He has been held accountable by no one, he has continued to obfuscate investigations into Metro's flaws, and he has done nothing to promote transit as something worthy of investment.

If we're getting serious, Sarles has to be one of the first people to go.

by MetroDerp on Jan 29, 2013 10:24 am • linkreport

@C. P. Zilliacus @kidincredible

From my understanding, there's not much of a cost difference in running 8-car v. 6-car trains; the cost comes into play with better headways (because then you're actually paying for each additional train operator). Don't get me wrong, I think headways are one of the most troubling aspects of the system as is - and as Sand Box John will confirm, they're in part due to the rolling stock shortage WMATA has had for 30 years - but that's no reason to not run 100% 8-car trains at all times. If nothing else, running only 8-car trains will ensure that there are no more mad scrambles to the last car at Gallery Place, and ensure that if for some idiotic reason headways do not improve, the infrequent trains at least have more capacity.

by MetroDerp on Jan 29, 2013 10:27 am • linkreport

"Fire CatoeSarles!" Welcome to 3.5 years ago.

If they go to 100% 8-car operations wouldn't they want to run 8-cars all the time? Seems like it would save time/money spent breaking and joining trains.

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

That depends on what direction they go with the fleet. The 7000-series cars are really designed to operate only as 8-packs. (Because they'll never operate as 4-packs in revenue service and can't be joined with other series).

If Metro continues to buy cars like that, they'll have no choice but to operate at least some 8-packs during the midday period.

But it's actually not that cumbersome to split an 8-pack into a six-pack. They do it at Greenbelt on the platform at the end of the rush hour frequently. An 8-pack comes in goes out of service. One of the yard shuttle operators cuts out the northernmost 2 cars and drives them off into the yard. Then the train goes back into service and leaves for Branch Avenue.

The time elapsed is never more than the recovery time built into the schedule. Takes maybe 2 minutes tops.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 29, 2013 10:36 am • linkreport

Very interested in part 2 on Rosslyn. I don't know that I've heard any realistic suggestions for fixing/future-proofing Rosslyn that *don't* involve a separated blue line.

by worthing on Jan 29, 2013 10:40 am • linkreport

The Rosslyn post (part 2) is already live.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 29, 2013 10:43 am • linkreport

We need to demand they plan on 4 tracking the system, both for express trains but also to solve the problems of broken down trains inherent to a two track design. If they're going to build, build right.

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

I openly admit I may have missed this, but by my read of the plan Momentum requires $6B in capital, the long range vision calls for $20B more (the $26B regional ask, for WMATA and others), but the plan is relatively quiet on attaching a cost figure to maintenance and state-of-good-repair until the very end. If I'm reading p.47 accurately, do I read that the $26B ($1.25B annualized)is just for new projects and SOGR is an additional $1B/year (~40% of regional funding ask, over and above the $26B)?? Does this mean that total capital needs for all projects (maintenance, retrofit & new) is probably closer to $35-40B??

by Andrew on Jan 29, 2013 1:37 pm • linkreport

The fact is that they don't have enough power from their substations to run 100% 8-car trains at all times. The capital costs listed for that would come from upgrading the traction power stations to provide enough power to the third rail so that 100% 8-car trains is possible.

So while it'd be great to do 100% 8-car trains immediately, even if there was enough rolling stock, the system as-is just can't handle it.

by kidincredible on Jan 29, 2013 1:52 pm • linkreport


You're totally right, I just meant once the substation and traction power upgrades are complete and we have the rolling stock, we should run 100% 8-car trains even during off-peak service (a commenter above suggested that even if we have the capacity, we should still do off-peak 6-car consists).

by MetroDerp on Jan 29, 2013 2:32 pm • linkreport

@Redline SOS, a 4 track Metro line with express trains is simply not going to happen. The cost is too high, could be major challenge to fit it under the street routes in DC, not enough density to justify it. When was the last 4 track heavy rail rapid transit subway line built in the US? Even in NYC, the Second Ave Subway is being built as a 2 track line. The DC Metro system will remain a two track system throughout, even if in 30-40 years another 40-50 miles of tracks are added after the Silver Line is completed.

by AlanF on Jan 29, 2013 4:46 pm • linkreport

@ AlanF

Even if they could not get a station directly at the park; was it not possible to move the station a block or two west or north so that you could get a station that all 3 lines could serve.

We all know that WMATA will not be builing anything 4 tracked in the next 75 years unless to put in bluntly part of the system gets destroyed; but what about leaving space for it. Why could we not building all stations similar to National Airport or West Falls Church, we don't have to lay a track we could just leave space for one in the future.

We could probably squeeze a 3rd track in some portions of the Orange Line along I66, between Minnesota Ave and New Carrolton in addition to the Red Line between NOMA and Brookland (since the red line was moved to the left at NOMA when building the station there is room for a 3 track there

by kk on Jan 30, 2013 2:40 am • linkreport

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