Greater Greater Washington

Metro beyond 2025: Possible futures with new connections

Last week, we talked about plans to give Metro the capacity it needs to get through 2025. What about beyond? The primary issue after 2025 will be cross-Potomac capacity.


Photo by the author.

Metro will likely choose to build, hopefully by 2025, either a new terminal for the Blue Line at Rosslyn that doesn't share tracks with the Orange or Silver Lines, or a "wye" so trains from Vienna and Tysons can turn toward the Pentagon.

However, neither solution increases the number of trains that can cross the Potomac River. Metro will need to start planning for the next phase very soon, since it takes so long to plan and build transit. Also, Metro's plan beyond 2025 could influence which of the options (terminal or wye) it chooses for 2025. Let's look at how Metro might expand its core capacity starting with each of the 2 primary Rosslyn alternatives.

Post-2025 solutions that go with a Rosslyn wye

Without construction in the core, a Rosslyn wye alone can't add any cross-Potomac capacity. Metro could build a second wye at Pentagon, for trains from Vienna and Tysons to cross the 14th Street bridge. However, the 7th Street tunnel, which carries the Green and Yellow Lines through downtown, can't take any more trains.

Wyes at Pentagon and L'Enfant: If Metro builds a total of 3 wyes, at Rosslyn, Pentagon, and L'Enfant Plaza, it could fit a few more trains across the river. Trains from Arlington Cemetery could cross the 14th Street Bridge, then continue east onto the Green Line toward Branch Avenue.

This scenario would let Metro fill unused capacity in the system without building any new trunk lines. However, much of this new capacity would go on the Green Line south of Waterfront station. Customers wanting to get to the downtown area would have to transfer.

It would, however, significantly add service to the growing Waterfront and Capitol Riverfront areas. DC has zoned much of these areas for downtown densities, but instead of the 5 lines that serve downtown or 3 in the Golden Triangle, this area has just one. This option would beef up service there, though many of the people riding there would want to come from downtown, and this doesn't boost that connection.

To absolutely max out capacity, Metro would need to run a line, like the lime-colored line on the map above, from Franconia to Branch Avenue. It's not completely necessary, but it would allow more full use of the capacity.

Unfortunately, this would increase the amount of interlining in the system, because trains would be running across multiple lines. The complex scheduling it would take to run this sort of service pattern might actually lower the total number of trains Metro can run through a tunnel.

This scenario would increase trans-Potomac capacity from 40 to 52 trains per hour, or just to 46 TPH without the Franconia-Branch Avenue Line.

Pentagon wye and separate Yellow Line: Metro has talked about building a separate tunnel for the Yellow Line. It's not clear where it would go yet. It could run north along 9th or 10th Street, or it could run east toward Capitol Hill before turning north.

This subway would separate the Yellow and Green Lines. That would allow Metro to run additional Green Line service between Greenbelt and Branch Avenue, including more service between downtown and the Waterfront/Riverfront areas.

It would also allow more service across the Potomac by decoupling the Green and Yellow Lines. However, since the Yellow Line shares tracks with the Blue south of Pentagon, this new subway would not be used to its full capacity.

Metro could get some additional capacity by routing some trains from Tysons via Arlington Cemetery over the 14th Street Bridge and into the new subway, if it built a wye at Pentagon. This would increase service across the Potomac to 52 TPH. Without the line running from Tysons through Arlington Cemetery, that would drop to 46 TPH.

Splitting Yellow Line service: Another option Metro studied for the Yellow Line is a new tunnel through the Capitol Riverfront, past the Capitol, and north to Union Station. This would increase service at Union Station, a major bottleneck, and give riders two ways to get downtown from the Waterfront/Riverfront area.

However, a lot of the riders in Alexandria and southern Arlington don't want their train to go so far east. They want to get to the 7th Street corridor. Therefore, Metro studied the idea of splitting the Yellow Line, with some trains taking their current path through L'Enfant Plaza and Archives while others would go to Union Station.

This operating plan makes a lot of sense with the Rosslyn wye, because those trains can fill the "gap" left on the 14th Street Bridge by Blue Line trains running north toward Rosslyn. With a new path for some Yellow trains, there would be room to add more Green Line service.

This approach would allow 52 trains per hour to cross the Potomac.

Tomorrow, we'll look at another set of long-term solutions, which Metro might pursue if it builds a new Blue Line terminal and then can send the Blue Line across the river toward Georgetown.

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. 

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Wyes are all nice, as long as we recognize that they are a stop-gap measure, and not an alternative for real expansion of the system, both in the core and at the end of lines.

by Jasper on Feb 7, 2013 10:12 am • linkreport

Wye's are a temporary fix to a permanent problem...a two track system. These "plans" fail to take into account the multiple daily trains going out of service for mechanical problems, sick passengers, and door problems. We need whatever new line is built to be four tracks and we need a serious discussion about 4 tracking the rest of the system.

by Redline SOS on Feb 7, 2013 10:13 am • linkreport

As if current service patterns weren't confusing enough.

The fix is simple, albeit extremely costly: separate all the lines completely. This means the additional crossing for the separated blue line, but also an additional crossing for silver. It will require massive procurement of rolling stock. It will be expensive but worth every penny.

@Redline: four-tracking will almost certainly never, ever happen. The cost is seen as too astronomical when compared with the relatively limited benefits (no new areas with access, etc.) In a perfect world we'd do it all, but somehow, an entity that literally prints money claims to be too "broke."

by MetroDerp on Feb 7, 2013 10:20 am • linkreport

The two-track system is not the issue.

To solve the maintenance/breakdown problems we need two things.

1) Better maintenance.

2) More pocket tracks (something like one every 4 stations) to pull broken trains out of the way. This would solve a lot of the 2-track limited space problem without the mind-boggling expense of literally doubling the current system while not adding any new stations.

by Nick on Feb 7, 2013 10:25 am • linkreport

All these options are based on one very important underlying assumption -- substantial job growth downtown. However, is this assumption necessarily accurate? The CBD is pretty close to built out, so there is simply no more office space there for many more jobs. New jobs would need to be housed in Capitol Riverfront or NoMA. What's the estimate for job growth in those locations?

Unlike DC, Tysons has unlimited densities at its metro stations, so literally the sky's the limit on space for future job growth there. The current estimate for Tysons is 100K additional jobs. There is no way that the current infrastructure at Tysons (including the Silver Line and planned road improvements) will be sufficient to support that many more commuters. Either Tysons will need additional feeder car lanes or more transit.

So, in a post titled Metro Beyond 2025, why is there no mention of an additional metro line to Tysons, such as the Brown Line connecting King Street, Merrifield, and Tysons? That would be Virginia's Purple Line.

by Falls Church on Feb 7, 2013 10:27 am • linkreport

Jesus, enough with the Tyson's Corner boosterism already. Projected job growth by 2050 is supposed to be like half of what DC's already is. It's growing but it's by no means about to shift the economic center of gravity away from DC - which, by the way, also has significant numbers of people actually living in it.

That's what all these discussions miss; Metro is not and should be a commuter system. It needs to a vital urban mass transit system. Anything less is a disservice to the city and the region.

by MetroDerp on Feb 7, 2013 10:30 am • linkreport

Four tracking WMATA might seems like a good idea if the only other city you look at is New York. Just about nowhere else in the world has four track subways and they all manage to get by without screwing their passengers over. The entire Tokyo metro is nothing but two track lines.

The solution to the mechanical problems, etc is not spending multiple billions of dollars to four-track the system. If WMATA spends so much as a cent on quad tracking existing routes I'll scream.

The solution is to maintain the system properly and have an institutional culture that puts passengers first.

If there are capacity issues don't spend money four-tracking existing lines, just eliminate the segments where two lines share the same track and build new lines which not only eases the capacity crunch and adds redundancy, but also serves new areas. (See: Separate yellow line and/or separate blue line.)

by orulz on Feb 7, 2013 10:32 am • linkreport

MetroDerp,

I totally agree for many people, Metro is much more than a commuting option. It's transportation for all kinds of other needs. However, there is no need for an additional Potomac crossing to meet those needs. Metro will not be running at capacity across the Potomac during off-peak times even beyond 2025. The purpose of the additional crossing is to relieve the peak time bottleneck.

Projected job growth by 2050 is supposed to be like half of what DC's already is.

Yes, DC will continue to be the center for total jobs but we're talking about job growth. Job growth is what should drive metro growth because job growth is what will drive the demand for more people to cross the Potomac.

It's not Tysons Boosterism, rather good planning. A good plan starts with estimates on job growth, from that you get estimates of increased ridership demand, and from that you determine where to expand metro. You don't start with a plan to expand Metro based simply on extrapolating the past into the future ad infinitum.

by Falls Church on Feb 7, 2013 10:40 am • linkreport

"The CBD is pretty close to built out, so there is simply no more office space there for many more jobs."

Depends on changes in the height limit, I guess.

"New jobs would need to be housed in Capitol Riverfront or NoMA. What's the estimate for job growth in those locations? "

The capacity is substantial. Plus add in Southwest/Foggy Bottom.

"Unlike DC, Tysons has unlimited densities at its metro stations, so literally the sky's the limit on space for future job growth there."

As TMT has stated thats not the case. The new Tysons zoning restricts the total office space for the entire Tysons district. The absence of a height limit does not allow unlimited new density.

"The current estimate for Tysons is 100K additional jobs. There is no way that the current infrastructure at Tysons (including the Silver Line and planned road improvements) will be sufficient to support that many more commuters. Either Tysons will need additional feeder car lanes or more transit."

More transit is likely needed, but little if any of it will be new metrorail lines - it will almost certainly take the form of new transitways for buses or streetcars, and an extended purple line. So it does not properly belong in WMATAs plans for dealing with operational issues.

It is of course, quite possible, that in 2050, if all goes well, and Tysons is approaching build out under the new plan, and new transitways, Silver Line success, and heavy walking/biking share have significantly reduced SOV share, the County will reexamine Tysons - and will substantially increase the limit on office space, and at that point new heavy rail lines will need to be considered. But IIUC the current WMATA planning is for conditions up to 2040, and not beyond.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 7, 2013 10:41 am • linkreport

The capacity is substantial. Plus add in Southwest/Foggy Bottom.

Southwest is the Capitol Riverfront. Much of Foggy Bottom is owned by GWU and will likely continue to be used for university purposes.

The new Tysons zoning restricts the total office space for the entire Tysons district.

Right, because the infrastructure doesn't support additional office space. Improve the infrastructure and the zoning will change. That won't really be controversial unlike the idea of changing DC's height limit.

More transit is likely needed, but little if any of it will be new metrorail lines

The Brown Line is a real proposal from WMATA. Not something I made up.

I'm not opposed to an additional Potomac crossing by any means. I'm just saying that we should consider the Brown Line in the plans and most importantly, determine if job growth estimates are sufficient for all of the proposals on the table -- Brown Line, extended Purple Line, VA/DC streetcars, Potomac Crossing, etc. If not, then we need to prioritize based on the estimated development pattern. We can't rush into evaluating Potomac crossing proposals without first looking at the big picture. Start with the forest, then look at the trees.

by Falls Church on Feb 7, 2013 10:52 am • linkreport

The title of this article is indeed Metro Beyond 2025. But it would be more accurate to say 'Metro between 2025 and 2040'.

This is not planning for Metro 3000. It's planning for the next stages.

by Matt Johnson on Feb 7, 2013 10:55 am • linkreport

Concur with Nick about the pocket tracks, as it would also add flexibility when single-tracking or shutting down parts of the system for weekend maintenance. With more pocket tracks, they could turn around trains and enable "more regular service".

I do like the Wye concept...provides flexibility in adjusting routes to account for shifts in travel. But agree that ultimately, new Blue and Yellow tunnels will be needed.

by Froggie on Feb 7, 2013 10:57 am • linkreport

Pocket tracks are a necessity. I keep thinking to myself "well, if the damn trains just didn't break down so often we wouldn't need them," but then I realize/remember that they're also useful for short-turning trains. Which on say, weekends, would be great for 8-minute frequencies in the core and 15-20 minutes on the outer reaches. That's a win-win, I think.

by MetroDerp on Feb 7, 2013 10:59 am • linkreport

"The capacity is substantial. Plus add in Southwest/Foggy Bottom.
Southwest is the Capitol Riverfront."

er, no. Capital Riverfront BID is near South East. Southwest Watefront is a different area.

"Right, because the infrastructure doesn't support additional office space. Improve the infrastructure and the zoning will change."

I don't disagree. But the steps are - Silver Line + Hot Lanes + internal improvements - growth, the first part of whats planned, up to 2020 or 2025 - more low hanging fruit transit - expanded express buses (including Legion bridge HOT lanes and BRT) - transitways with BRT/LRT on Rte 7/Rte 123/Gallows - fulfillment, in 2050 of planned office space - THEN further infrastructure. I do not think theres a reasonable scenario for speeding that up sufficiently for a new heavy rail line before 2050 - certainly not before 2040.

"That won't really be controversial unlike the idea of changing DC's height limit."

Any futher expansion of Tysons will be controversial. It will have impacts on suburban areas in Pimmit Hills, Idylwood, McLean, Great Falls, and Vienna.

"The Brown Line is a real proposal from WMATA. Not something I made up."

That may be, but I don't think its like before 2040.

"If not, then we need to prioritize based on the estimated development pattern. We can't rush into evaluating Potomac crossing proposals without first looking at the big picture"

Examination of development patterns is going to have to be mostly an MWCOG/jurisdictional responsibility. WMATA has to take those as given. Its not the job of WMATA to evaluate, say, the political ease of further changing zoning at Tysons. I do not see WMATA here as focusing on where employment will be - but rather as examining the operational issues they already have, and that will worsen with likely outcomes (if there is a forecast for regional growth through 2040 that shows little or no job growth in central DC, I am not aware of it).

Lots of discussion in NoVa (of things like the Yellow line in the Rte 1 corridor, of an extended Orange line) assume both that there will continue to be growth in rail commuting from NoVa to DC, AND that no increase in core capacity is needed to handle it. I think WMATA is trying to put this out, to enlighten that discussion with the operational problems at the core.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 7, 2013 11:06 am • linkreport

@Falls Church -- a slight quibble, but Southwest is not Capitol Riverfront. Capitol Riverfront 500 acres, essentially everything from South Capitol Street to 12th Street SE, south of the SE-SW Freeway (plus a bit more land on the eastern side of Buzzards Point).

Southwest in this case may be specifically referring to the Southwest Waterfront development (47 acres) -- which is 5-10 blocks west of Capitol Riverfront and with a different Metro Station. It could also refer to a wide range of potential developments that will come out of the Southwest EcoDistrict plan being proposed, which will repurpose many outdated or vacant federal office buildings, as well as including a significant amount of new residential and/or office property related to decking over the freeway.

by Jacques on Feb 7, 2013 11:08 am • linkreport

A couple of comments on Tysons. The development formula is a bit complicated. The final bargain permits unlimited FAR within the immediate TOD area, but subject to a 45 MSF cap on commercial development and an 84 MSF cap on total development within Tysons. At 84 MSF, the new, more robust transportation network reaches capacity and regular failure. No more road improvements beyond those set forth in Table 7 are possible. Therefore, to go beyond 84 MSF, each new motor vehicle trip must be canceled by a new transit, walking or biking trip. In other words, if you want to drive to Tysons, I must stop driving. Whether this is achievable or not is unknown.

Also to go beyond 84 MSF, the Plan assumes expansion of the Orange Line, at least, to Centreville and, most likely, beyond. Also, the Plan assumes the construction of an additional, but unspecified, Metrorail Line. A number of people with good understanding and knowledge believe this might be a line on or near Route 28 in western Fairfax and eastern Loudoun Counties, especially since the construction of the Express Lanes on the Beltway appears to have largely exhausted ROW. A rail connection between Bethesda and Tysons is problematic.

The Plan never assumed any more tunnel or bridge capacity to D.C. beyond what exists today. Every time someone raised the issue, the Task Force squelched the discussion.

by TMT on Feb 7, 2013 11:15 am • linkreport

Got it on Capitol vs. SW Waterfront. Thanks.

Examination of development patterns is going to have to be mostly an MWCOG/jurisdictional responsibility. WMATA has to take those as given.</>

Has this examination already been done? If so, what did it say? It would be premature to plan new metro lines before first doing that examination. Even if we're set on a new heavy rail potomac crossing, we need to examine the development pattern plan to help figure out which option makes most sense.

by Falls Church on Feb 7, 2013 11:20 am • linkreport

Another development of note. On Feb. 4, 2013, the Reston Citizens Association sent a letter to McDonnell, LaHood (oops), Warner, Kaine, Wolf and Connolly requesting that, in the event MWAA's operating authority is expanded to permit it to "conduct non]aviation related activities, including commercial development on land near the Rt. 606 Silver Line Metrorail station," Congress also "direct MWAA to share any income from these tax]free commercial initiatives with those who are paying for the Silver Line, including Dulles Toll Road users." My initial reaction is the proposal is quite good and could help reduce tolls on the DTR, which, in turn, would keep more traffic on the Road and not on other roads.

by TMT on Feb 7, 2013 11:20 am • linkreport

"Also to go beyond 84 MSF, the Plan assumes expansion of the Orange Line, at least, to Centreville and, most likely, beyond."

I think an end point for the Orange line beyond Centreville is problematic.

" Also, the Plan assumes the construction of an additional, but unspecified, Metrorail Line. A number of people with good understanding and knowledge believe this might be a line on or near Route 28 in western Fairfax and eastern Loudoun Counties,"

I am unclear how that would increase transit share to Tysons. Or is the idea simply to relieve road congestion in the broader region, with knock on effects on the beltway?

"especially since the construction of the Express Lanes on the Beltway appears to have largely exhausted ROW."

FC should address this, but I assume an eventual Brown line (heavy rail on the beltway) would not be at grade, but would be elevated above or be underground. Either option of course would be quite costly.

" A rail connection between Bethesda and Tysons is problematic.'

I believe we have extensively discussed potential routes on other threads.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 7, 2013 11:23 am • linkreport

"The Plan never assumed any more tunnel or bridge capacity to D.C. beyond what exists today. Every time someone raised the issue, the Task Force squelched the discussion."

TMT

if youve been following the discussion between FC and myself, you might note that we both beleive (I think) that in the absence of growth at Tysons, commuting to DC will play an even larger role in the economy of NoVa, and so the need for a new crossing would be even greater.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 7, 2013 11:29 am • linkreport

Assuming the L'Enfant Plaza wye causes the "Aqua" line (Tysons to Branch Ave) to skip L'Enfant Plaza itself, there ought to be a new station added somewhere between Hains Point and the fishmarket, so Aqua Line passengers can transfer to the Yellow (and Bronze) Line. We need a new station there anyways!

These maps are very well done.

by MV Jantzen on Feb 7, 2013 11:30 am • linkreport

"Has this examination already been done? If so, what did it say"

http://www.mwcog.org/publications/departmental.asp?CLASSIFICATION_ID=6&SUBCLASSIFICATION_ID=27

for $50 you can find out in detail and report back ;)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 7, 2013 11:35 am • linkreport

never mind, you can dl the soft copy for free.

They forecast another 200k jobs in DC, an increase of over 25%. Someone can go through the zones to see exactly where they expect that to take place (they also see substantial growth in Fairfax).

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 7, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

note thats to 2040

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 7, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

@ AWalkerInTheCity

My comments are based solely on what is in the Tysons Plan and conversations with Fairfax County officials. As you note, other developments are possible, but, to the best of my knowledge, aren't on the table. Also, VDOT and DRPT have been working with both the District and Maryland on transportatio planning, including transit. However, from what I've seen the most emphasis is on moving people within Virginia. If, the District or Maryland were to propose and fund large portions of other proposals (say, another tunnel under the Potomac or rail associated with the Beltway), there would likely be some shift in focus. Until then, I think Virginia's focus will continue be on areas south and west of Fairfax County.

by TMT on Feb 7, 2013 11:41 am • linkreport

Lots of discussion in NoVa (of things like the Yellow line in the Rte 1 corridor, of an extended Orange line) assume both that there will continue to be growth in rail commuting from NoVa to DC, AND that no increase in core capacity is needed to handle it. I think WMATA is trying to put this out, to enlighten that discussion with the operational problems at the core.

Er, yes, well. Regarding the Yellow Line, I think a lot of the commuting on that, if done properly, will be more geared to Fort Belvoir. I'm not saying that it won't increase the load of passengers into DC, but it'll open up a transit option for Belvoir, which ought to be one of its chief purposes. Putting Belvoir at the center of the extension, between Woodbridge and Huntington, will encourage a fair amount of reverse commuting, I'll wager.

That being said, I haven't heard anyone talking about the Yellow Line extension, at least, operating on the principle that core capacity doesn't need to be expanded. It's just that I think people want to discuss both things simultaneously, in the hopes of encouraging more to get done when it needs to be.

And yes, pocket tracks will go a long way towards alleviating the current issues in the core. As will line separation.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Feb 7, 2013 11:45 am • linkreport

Re: the Splitting Yellow Line service option

Would fit nicely with Amtrak's hopes/vision for Union Station. If Amtrak's forecasts are accurate, add'l WMATA capacity at Union Station would appear to be a strong "want".

The split of the yellow line with the attendant new tunnel/track/stations could also allow expansion of a line westward from the Pentagon into Arlington Cnty.

by bmv818 on Feb 7, 2013 11:52 am • linkreport

"If, the District or Maryland were to propose and fund large portions of other proposals (say, another tunnel under the Potomac or rail associated with the Beltway), there would likely be some shift in focus."

I believe that the District will end up funding the local share of the land side of a seperated blue line (IE from the tunnel to the eastern terminus) and Va would need to cover the tunnel itself. Absent that, I do not see the tunnel (or the seperate blue line) taking place. That will result in continued frustration on the part of NoVa commuters to DC, and will result in NoVans getting fewer of the new jobs in DC, with impact on the economic health of communities in NoVa that particularly rely on commuting to DC, esp communities in southern FFX county. But given the lack of clout, of political sophistication in those communities, its quite a possible outcome.

As for a Bethesda - Tysons purple line connection, I would expect both states to share the cost, as it presents benefits to both.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 7, 2013 11:55 am • linkreport

On a new Union Station connection:

It's warranted, yes. I'm not sure, though, that the Yellow Line would be the best line to put it on. I think Blue would make more sense, given its connections to the downtown business area

Although...if both the Blue AND Yellow Lines are separated, perhaps BOTH could go through there? Or is that too wild of a thought?

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Feb 7, 2013 12:09 pm • linkreport

@Ser:

AHHHHH! I have been thinking the exact same thing myself. I mean, it's the transportation hub of the region; why not also make it the hub of the Metro system? I would love love love to see this.

by MetroDerp on Feb 7, 2013 12:11 pm • linkreport

Metro will likely choose to build, hopefully by 2025

I'm sorry, but nothing of the sort will be built within twelve years. It just won't happen. NOTHING in this area gets constructed in that timeline, even if it is fully funded. Which is a whole other issue.

Dream on.

by Marian Berry on Feb 7, 2013 12:14 pm • linkreport

Yellow line to Union would be nice, but not necessary because anyone from Alexandria that wants to go directly to Union Station can do it quicker (but not as regularly) on an Amtrak train.

About the Yellow Line south to Belvoir, I have seen competing plans between it and a streetcar running along Rt. 1. Personally, I would love to see both happen. Realistically, only one may happen and I would prefer a streetcar (especially since many of the trips that I take down Rt. 1 are fairly short).

by Thad on Feb 7, 2013 12:39 pm • linkreport

@falls church

Tysons is going to get bigger, so is DC, but Metro's job is to reduce congestion by moving commuters to jobs. The challenge in planning for metro 2050 is that we don't know where the workers and businesses of 2050 want to be yet.

If they like the both like suburbs, we should build the purple and brown lines. If they both like cities, or if workers live in DC and commute to Tysons we're probably fine with the metro we have (including silver line), and maybe some additional core capacity. If workers continue to commute from the VA burbs to DC, then core and cross potomac capacity both become big problems.

It's hard to guess at where people live and what becomes the biggest bottleneck, but if my reasoning is correct, the best hedge is to separate the blue line for more core capacity. Unfortunately it's also the most expensive option.

by someguy on Feb 7, 2013 12:51 pm • linkreport

1. Where, exactly, do you expect the billions of dollars these changes would cost to come from?
2. Given that WMATA seems completely unable to maintain the current system (as evidenced by its' weekly meltdowns) what makes you think expansions would just spread resources even thinner and accelerate the death spiral?
3. 2025 is only 12 years away. Is it realistic to think that an entity which takes 8+ months to replace a single escalator (and still messes it up) would be able to plan, budget for, contract, build out and implement such drastic changes in such a timeframe?

by Jacob on Feb 7, 2013 12:56 pm • linkreport

@Thad: I agree, Yellow to Union isn't necessary, strictly speaking. However, if an extension IS built, and Union is on its path, I don't think it would be a bad idea to add Yellow Line capacity there. That makes it more properly hub-ish.

As to a streetcar on Route 1, I'm not convinced, because I don't see the room for it. My own suggestion is underground Metro, which they'll never plump for due to cost. The eminent domain fights along the road otherwise will be too difficult.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Feb 7, 2013 12:59 pm • linkreport

Thad: a transit feasibility study is supposed to be happening anytime now along the Route 1 corridor, to determine the best mode to pursue between Huntington and Fort Belvoir. You are correct that only one will likely happen (if ANYTHING ever happens). Based on local surveys, most residents favor SOME SORT of rail transit along Route 1. A slight majority (including me) would like a Yellow Line extension, based on State Delegate Surovell's constituent surveys. Others (namely the MVCCA Transportation Committee favor a monorail. Fairfax County's transportation plan includes a future Route 1 cross-section that would support light rail.

by Froggie on Feb 7, 2013 1:00 pm • linkreport

A Yellow line to Union Station connection would provide Union Station access for Potomac Yard, the Pentagon (including its express bus connections) and Capital Riverfront.

Not saying that lone would justify it - but the connections would be more than just from King Street.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 7, 2013 1:04 pm • linkreport

I'm not sure the problem is getting people in and out of DC so much as it is getting people around DC. I still think a streetcar system with strategic extensions to VA in Rosslyn and Pentagon/Crystal City would go a huge way to easing congestion. If you could divert a percentage of the people boarding in these areas that would make a big difference in congestion. Not to say that in the long term there isn't reason to add additional lines, but frankly the cost benefit logic is not clear to me. (And not to slight the MD people as I would definitely include Bethesda/Medical Center and Silver Spring eventually it's just that this was more VA side centric.)

by Alan B. on Feb 7, 2013 1:19 pm • linkreport

bmv818:
WMATA built a stub tunnel at Pentago on the possibility of a route extending westward into Arlington along Columbia Pike (referred to as the I Line, internally). See here: http://mysite.verizon.net/cambronj/wmata/sys_schematic_ars.gif

by 7r3y3r on Feb 7, 2013 1:21 pm • linkreport

@Froggie: Interesting! I was not aware of that constituent survey (we live a block off of Rt. 1, outside of the 44th District).

Thinking about it, could the extended Yellow Line be a cut-and-cover tunnel directly down North Kings Highway and Rt. 1?

by Thad on Feb 7, 2013 1:21 pm • linkreport

I still think a streetcar system with strategic extensions to VA in Rosslyn and Pentagon/Crystal City would go a huge way to easing congestion.

The biggest challenge to this philosophy is getting people to see streetcars as a viable alternative rather than a "novel" thing to do.

by HogWash on Feb 7, 2013 1:28 pm • linkreport

7r3y3r - Exactly - and the station has a rumored "fake" wall panel(s) to accommodate access to the platform. A yellow line spur would be a first step to that expansion while increasing capacity for the Union Station area development and making the connections AWalkerInTheCity mentioned.

by bmv818 on Feb 7, 2013 1:28 pm • linkreport

Why are we talking Metro expansion when ridership is consistently declining despite population growth?

by Jack J on Feb 7, 2013 1:32 pm • linkreport

@7r3y3r, @bmv818:
The stub tunnels are spurs off the existing trackways south of the station platform. Were a Columbia Pike subway to be constructed using those provisions, trains would have to share the existing tracks with the Blue and Yellow Lines (which are limited to 26 TPH and are currently operating at 20 TPH).

The problem is that the 7th Street Subway can only take 1 more train per hour and the Eye Street Subway can not take anymore trains.

The only way to use that tunnel provision for a future Columbia Pike Line would be to reduce the number of trains on the Blue/Yellow Line south of Pentagon.

There are no "fake walls" for access to other platforms at Pentagon. The station was built with 2 tracks and 2 platforms.

In order for a Columbia Pike line to work, Pentagon would need to be constructed to have 2 more platforms and 2 more tracks, but those provisions do not exist.

The bellmouths in the tunnel for a "future" Columbia Pike line were more to mollify Arlington County officials into backing the WMATA plan than they were about actually building another spur of Metro.

by Matt Johnson on Feb 7, 2013 1:34 pm • linkreport

I wasn't suggesting to use the bellmouths (or the existence of the fake walls) for the reasons you stated, only that service to Arlington County has been considered as a logical expansion of WMATA. I'm also not saying to build the Columbia Pike now - as its not financially feasible. My only point was that the yellow line shift and new tunnel would afford the system more flexibility for close proximity expansion.

by bmv818 on Feb 7, 2013 1:44 pm • linkreport

"Why are we talking Metro expansion when ridership is consistently declining despite population growth? "

because from discussing concepts, to settling on and prioritizing expansions, to plannning and approving them, to engineering, to construction is SO long, that if we want ANYTHING to happen in the late 2020's and the 2030's, we need to start talking about it now.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 7, 2013 1:45 pm • linkreport

all of that assumes Metro is growing and needs expansion

Current data and projections state otherwise

by Jack J on Feb 7, 2013 1:51 pm • linkreport

all of that assumes Metro is growing and needs expansion
Current data and projections state otherwise

Sorry, one or two quarters of drop doesn't discount the fact that in 10 years Metro ridership has increased ~20%.

by MLD on Feb 7, 2013 1:57 pm • linkreport

show me projections for metro ridership that show it not growing? Of course it will have short term fluctuations, especially when its had recent fare hikes, and service issues, which at least in part are due to deferred maintenance that is now being done.

What cost do you see in having this discussion? If it does not interest you, you are free to ignore it. You can rest assured that by the time we get around to building any of this (after 2025) we will have a much better idea of how ridership is trending.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 7, 2013 1:58 pm • linkreport

@Jack J:

I view it as a sort of chicken-egg problem. Ridership's declining because it's getting to be more difficult and uncomfortable to take trains. Core expansion will eliminate some of the complaints, which will lead to increased ridership.

I actually think ridership is going to continue to decline for another year or two, because of how poorly-run things have been of late. Then Metro will be forced to take severe course correction. Then people will become happier. Then more people will start riding again. Etc.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Feb 7, 2013 2:22 pm • linkreport

Metrorail ridership has essentially stagnated for the past 5 years, but it experience about 60% growth in that time. I think you could argue that the current economic recession has probably slowed growth (even if the region is relatively better off, it's not unscathed) and that parts of metrorail have just hit capacity. I think if Silverline produces any significant ridership growth when it opens, which I am relatively confident of, that should serve as evidence that there is untapped potential for markets.

I do think that infill stations and TOD policies around stations (especially mixed use and not just high density residential though that is a good start) needs to be looked at in addition to any expansion plans.

by Alan B. on Feb 7, 2013 2:25 pm • linkreport

er 60% growth in the 10 years before that time (1997-2007). Basically it's plateaued since then, but to say there is negative growth is like a 400 lb guy saying he's lost weight because he used to be 405.

by Alan B. on Feb 7, 2013 2:28 pm • linkreport

I'm all for separating the blue and yellow lines out from the existing structure.

Frankly, I've never paused to think about the fact that, for all intents and purposes, the core of DC is only served by three measly lines: 1. red 2. blue/orange 3. yellow/green. There simply isn't enough tunneling to serve the growth we all hope for.

by MJ on Feb 7, 2013 3:00 pm • linkreport

The current Metrorail system was built over the course of several decades, from a master plan that remained surprisingly unchanged since its conception.

With only a few logistical tweaks and extensions, the Metro system was more or less built exactly as it was designed. Considering the timeframe involved, that's pretty remarkable. The planners also had the intelligent foresight to leave provisions for several plausible future expansions. We've already taken advantage of several of these provisions -- the Silver Line I-66 flyover was built on bridge piers that were installed when the Orange Line was built, and the Blue Line was extended multiple times (at surprisingly little expense), with very little interruption to existing service.

When planning for the future, WMATA absolutely needs to draw up a second ambitious master plan, even if it's presented with the caveat that some portions of it might not get built for another 50-60 years (if ever). Even though the current plans represent a collection good short-term goals, they don't feel like any sort of coherent long-term vision. Terminating the new Blue/Yellow lines at Thomas Circle seems remarkably shortsighted, and WMATA should leave room and make provisions for other future lines within DC. Worse still, if the near-term projects are planned poorly, they'll effectively make it even more difficult to further expand in the future.

The current system is fast, modern, simple, and efficient, precisely because great care was taken to plan everything out in advance, and very few corners were cut. We need to have the same sort of vision when planning the system's next iteration. The system cannot be built as a hodgepodge of quick fixes and shortcuts -- we don't want the Metro to start looking like the NYC Subway.

WMATA needs to have some foresight and a grand vision for the future. We need to anticipate and solve tomorrow's problems, rather than focusing entirely on the issues that are facing us today.

Putting some other suburban extensions on the books (to be built after the core is fixed) will also serve as motivation to get VA and MD on board with any expansion projects in DC.

WMATA also needs to have a serious talk about reclaiming its role as the transit agency for the region. Although WMATA frequently mentions that it wants to be involved in the region's streetcar and commuter rail projects, they rarely seem to assume any sort of leadership role in those matters. They also need to be involved in Amtrak's plans for Union Station, local commuter rail, and SE HSR. Heck, Metro was barely even involved in the planning of the Silver Line. We do not want to turn into San Francisco.

by andrew on Feb 7, 2013 3:29 pm • linkreport

@Thad: already partway there. I've had confirmation from WMATA that the Yellow Line tracks actually extend 3/4mi south of Huntington in a tunnel under Kings Hwy. That gets them ALMOST to Penn Daw.

by Froggie on Feb 7, 2013 4:19 pm • linkreport

The jobs data from MWCOG is interesting. The DC area is set to add 1.6M jobs between now and 2040. Of those 1.6M, 200K (or 12.5%) will be in DC (25% growth). To justify a new potomac crossing, you would have to assume something like the following: half of the jobs (100K) are within walking distance of the new downtown line; a third of those jobs (33K) go to VA residents, and all of those folks take metro to work. That's possible but a little optimistic.

Yes, DC will grow jobs but on a percentage basis or an absolute basis it's growth will be modest. On a percentage basis Loudoun and PWC's growth is staggering. They will add 140K jobs each, doubling their number of jobs. Fairfax/Arlington/Alexandria will add 385K jobs, almost twice as many as DC.

I don't know what the grand solution is to ensuring that many of these new jobs are transit accessible. But it does seem like any proposal for a new potomac crossing would be only a medium sized piece of a much larger puzzle of how to make the new jobs transit accessible. Before selecting one of the crossing options or even committing to a new crossing at all, it would be useful to look at various alternatives to making as many of these new jobs as possible transit accessible.

Certainly, the cheapest (but not easy) way of doing that is to leverage existing capacity in the non-peak direction to move residents near the core to the forecasted new jobs just beyond the core (inside or nearly inside the beltway). Other options might be BRT or streetcars to connect people with jobs in lower density areas where heavy rail doesn't make sense. Maybe we do all of the above but my guess is that funding realities will preclude the "fanstasy transit map" as an option.

The biggest drawback of additional core capacity vs. BRT/light rail options that are more spread out is that additional core capacity doesn't do much for transportation outside of peak times. During non-peak, core capacity isn't really an issue and core capacity won't help folks run their errands or visit friends as much as a BRT/light rail system that goes more places.

by Falls Church on Feb 7, 2013 11:30 pm • linkreport

Andrew: "When planning for the future, WMATA absolutely needs to draw up a second ambitious master plan, even if it's presented with the caveat that some portions of it might not get built for another 50-60 years (if ever)."

Some interesting ideas:

https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=212103957693788773277.0004d4d82b552fc9ae6e9&msa=0

by Jason on Feb 8, 2013 9:10 am • linkreport

"To justify a new potomac crossing, you would have to assume something like the following: half of the jobs (100K) are within walking distance of the new downtown line; "

No, because ANY new jobs downtown, including those near existing metro stations, will mean more NoVa commuters by metro, and thus INCREASED congestion on existing crossings. To forego the crossings, is to accept that the number of NoVa commuters to DC does not increase, at a time when DC is gaining 200k new jobs. Assuming NoVans would get 1/3 of them thats almost 70k jobs for NoVans foregone. Thats quite large - and will mostly impact NoVans who live in the closer jurisdictions (arlington and alexandria) and in southern Fairfax. Whereas many of the new jobs in Tysons will be held by commuters from Loudoun County.

As for peak vs non peak - I am not aware of many BRT lines that get heavy non peak use. In general places with lower densities, such that heavy rail is not the favored option, auto is the preferred off peak mode for all but the car free (and a minority of trips among the carlite). OTOH, a seperate blue line will provide improved off peak access to Georgetown (where transit off peak could be competitive even for those with auto access) and to NJ Avenue, to Atlas District - and for many NoVans a more direct ride to Union Station.

I agree that A. the crossings are only one piece of the puzzle and B. Not all the items under consideration will be built before 2040.

I continue to think that the Rosslyn Georgetown crossing (to connect to a seperate blue line across DC) is quite possible, and will have significant benefits for the region, and for NoVa in particular (and again, especially for arlington, Alexandria, and southern Fairfax). If Va fails to contribute to it, it will not be built, and that will harm the economic prospects of certain parts of NoVa, significantly.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 8, 2013 9:30 am • linkreport

The solution to the Orange Crush that Ed Tennyson and I came up with is a combination of single and double track from Harrison Avenue & I-66 (a new bi-level station there, Orange & Silver at grade, Copper elevated) to the Kennedy Center, Washington Circle, Dupont Circle and the inter-lining with the Rose Line to Thomas Circle, Mt. Vernon Square, New jersey and Union Station.

The "Copper Line" would be single track on the surface (median of I-66) after the Orange Line goes into tunnel. An elevated double track station at the re-built Washington-Lee High School parking garage, again single track on the median of I-66 till within a mile of Rosslyn. Then in tunnel under Key Blvd to a second Rosslyn station.

Headways could be as tight as every 5 minutes at Peak.

Ed Tennyson was the first operations manager for the San Diego Trolley, which opened as a single track line - so he is intimately aware of single track issues.

Our write-up does not reflect our decision to go with the Harrison station as our Virginia terminus.

http://oilfreedc.blogspot.com/2012/08/copper-line-one-track-express-bypass.html

More Later

by AlanfromBigEasy (Alan Drake) on Feb 8, 2013 10:58 am • linkreport

I got really excited when I first saw this because I thought it was proposing adding new line number to the colors like NY's MTA. It's not really correct to call Shady Grove-Glenmont and Grovesnor-Silver Spring the "Red Line." Why not, instead, the "A" and "B" train, both colored Red.

All the odd rush-plus configurations also deviate from the standard line route, and should be noted. The Mt. Vern-Huntington and Mt. Vern-Franconia could be "4" and "6", like the MTA regular and rush-hour orange trains.

It's cool that we have colors for the 5 (soon 6) lines. But we should also have specific letters or numbers for the different routes based ON each line.

by Ronald on Feb 8, 2013 12:14 pm • linkreport

"enough with the Tyson's Corner boosterism already" -- the same MWCOG projections mentioned above still have more people working in DC than in all of FC (Fairfax County, City, and Falls Church) in 2040. Only one-fifth of the latter will be working in Tysons even at full build-out.

by Payton on Feb 8, 2013 5:22 pm • linkreport

One interesting wrinkle, that Ed does not yet endorse until the risk of cascading delays has been mitigated, is triangle service.

Service could go from Vienna through a new tunnel towards the Pentagon (skipping a stop @ Arlington Cemetery) and terminating at King Street. Then King Street to Mt Vernon Square, reverse and then use a new tunnel from the 14th Street bridge back to Vienna. Reverse for afternoon Peak.

Two of the three legs would be strong, versus the usual strong in (in the morning) and weak out.

by AlanfromBigEasy (Alan Drake) on Feb 8, 2013 10:13 pm • linkreport


Metro's biggest problems start with the use of tunnel boring machines. These allowed for a 28' wide bore, sufficient only for 2 tracks. Another problem: tunnel boring machines dig tunnels too deep in the ground, requiring expensive machinery to move people from stations to the street.

Consequently, there are capacity strictures: too few tracks, too few trains, jams caused by single-tracking, no express service, too few cars on the trains (b/c Metro cannot afford all the cars it needs), too few doors per car (3 per side per car rather than 4 as in most NYC subway cars), too many seats/not enough room for standees.

Even when jammed to capacity there are not enough riders to support the cost of the system particularly when the various gadgets have to be replaced/repaired repeatedly: escalators, elevators, ejector pumps, lighting systems, sign boards, fancy tilework, card readers, card issuers, etc, etc, etc.

Metro was built as a tourist ride/attraction rather than a plain-vanilla, high capacity transit system ... like New York City's.

Any new capacity has to be near street level, cut-and-cover, across downtown from Georgetown with four tracks, 2 in each direction. This would give Metro at least one line within the city with sufficient capacity, to relieve jams on the other 2-track lines. Metro needs a line with four tracks, stairs instead of escalators, platforms instead of art museums, 10 car trains as standard, 4 doors per side per car, bench seats along the sides of each car ... Motormen and conductors, light signals instead of computer control, single-swipe turnstiles instead of the tricky-freaky two-touch pass system.

BTW, the suburban line should run out Columbia Pike in Va. to Bailey's Crossroads and Annandale ... that's where the people are.

by steve from virginia on Feb 10, 2013 10:26 pm • linkreport

The next phase of Metro must include a new east/west tunnel north of the Blue/Orange/Silver line.

A new tunnel could be built under Rosslyn and "blend" with the Key Bridge, meaning the bridge could be rebuilt to accommodate Metro trains, without visually compromising it. The train would zoom under M St. to a Georgetown and West End station before connecting to Farragut North. It would temporarily run on Red Line until additional sections can be built north of the existing Red Line to connect Thomas Circle, Mt. Vernon Square and Union Station. It would eventually go down H St. towards reuniting with the Blue/Silver lines over the river. This is a great option because it could be built in three sections depending on funding and still be useable while connecting some of the busiest Metro stations while relieving the Orange Crush. This makes less sense for Blue because it would run too far north time wise to make it worthwhile for Blue train riders whereas Georgetown is less of a detour for Orange Line.

Metro also needs to add new rolling stock with fewer seats near the doors. This could even be retrofitted today. And new rolling stock should have a four doors instead of three. And all eight car trains by say 2020.

by Zack Rules on Feb 11, 2013 2:47 pm • linkreport

Thank you, Matt, for an excellent analysis and diagrams. The problems of interlining become much more apparent with this sort of diagram, and it quickly becomes clear no single improvement would make much difference to system capacity; rather, a complex combination of expansions is needed.

However, I can't help but wonder how much cheaper it would be to instead focus on the rail route between Franconia-Springfield and Shady Grove. One of the problems with significant upgrades to the Commuter Rail corridors is that there are a number of different transit agencies involved and state governments who do not like spending money (see how hard it was to get Dulles Rail; a Columbia Pike heavy rail seems out of the question).

What if instead WMATA were to purchase the western half of the rail ROW (in addition to the parts it already owns for Metrorail), build one or two more tracks between Franconia and Shady Grove, electrify them, buy a bunch of EMU trainsets and operate on 5 or 10-minute headways all day and on weekends? MARC and VRE could continue to operate on their current routes, but WMATA would add its own intra-regional rail service within its existing operating area.

Here are some things that would need to happen:

* 3-4 tracks along the entire length (except perhaps from L'Enfant to Union Station): 2 for WMATA and MARC/VRE, 1-2 for CSX and Amtrak

* Fly-under from eastern platforms at Union Station to connect with new Brunswick Line tracks.

* High-level platforms at each station within the service area.

* Integrated fare structure, on-board payment with Smartrip

* Simple transfers at all transfer stations: Franconia-Springfield, King Street, Crystal City, L'Enfant Plaza, Union Station, Fort Totten, Silver Spring, Rockville, Shady Grove

Such a service would accomplish a number of goals:

1. Significantly increase capacity from Virginia into the District without the complexities of separating the Blue and Yellow Lines, and without building any new tunnels.

2. Add an express service parallel to the Metro, allowing commuters from the northern and southern ends of the system a much faster ride into the city.

3. Provide a new multi-jurisdictional service provided by a single agency that already has an appropriate governance structure.

4. Lay the groundwork for further MARC and VRE expansions.

5. Tie into infrastructure improvements that have already been proposed: new tracks on the Brunswick Line, new tracks across the Long Bridge, a new station at L'Enfant Plaza, a next-generation Union Station...

6. Connect the two ends of the Red Line with reasonable headways.

It seems like this would be way cheaper than two new tunnels and would serve the Washington Region's growth needs in the medium term.

by Andrew Marcus on Feb 16, 2013 7:40 am • linkreport

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