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Breakfast links: Ride and learn

Image from WMATA.
Better understand the Silver Line: WMATA answers questions about the Silver Line and plans 3 open houses to educate riders. And wait, is that a draft of what the new map will look like with the Silver Line joining Orange and Blue in DC? (PlanItMetro)

Gripes on the Metro: Riders were frustrated with major delays on Blue and Yellow yesterday; Metro also screwed up Daylight Saving again and wrongly charged peak fares. (Post)

Transfer delays dissuade transit riders: Delays are the biggest reason people stop riding transit, says a UC Berkeley study, especially delays en route or while making a transfer. Bad real-time info or overcrowding also topped the list. (Streetsblog)

Drive-by wounds 13 in NoMA: As a group of cyclists ride to DC from Newtown, Connecticut to ask for action on guns, 13 people were wounded in a drive-by shooting in NoMA. The BID president says not to fear the neighborhood in general. (DCist, WBJ)

KIPP wants to build at Randall: KIPP wants to build a new school at the Randall Recreation Center in Southwest. They would pay to renovate the center's pool, fields and building, but the school would then get priority to use the center. The developer of nearby condos also opposes a KIPP school nearby. (Post)

Too many schools?: Are we building too many schools? Richard Layman calls the rush to build schools even though enrollment is relatively flat "the market run amok."

Washington isn't richest: Our area has 8 of the 10 counties with the highest median income, but that doesn't mean Washington is the "richest area." We have a better-off middle class and fewer millionaires than the New York or San Francisco areas and similar average income. (TNR) ... Rob Pitingolo and I made a similar point last year.

And...: A bicyclist was killed in downtown Silver Spring, apparently while doing several dangerous things. (WashCycle) ... Bike shopes outnumbered car shops 7 to 1 in 1903. (WashCycle) ... How about digital libraries on buses and trains? (Atlantic Cities)

And and...: Shady Grove will get a multi-purpose arena to hold high school graduations and much more. (Gazette) ... A "super stop" opens along Columbia Pike. (ARLnow) ... Rockville's mayoral and council races (this November) are getting in gear. (Gazette)

Your name here: You might have noticed that Thaddeus Bell has stepped down from doing the links. Interested in curating interesting news for your fellow readers a couple days a week? Let us know at

And meanwhile, please help by submitting tips!

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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About the Silver Line posts, I hope that is only a draft of the new map. I see a spelling error.

by Transport. on Mar 12, 2013 8:46 am • linkreport

I find it odd that they are keeping the 5a Rosslyn-IAD buss. You would think that they would move the bus to Wiehle-RestonE or somewhere else along the silver line.

by RJ on Mar 12, 2013 8:48 am • linkreport

Thank god they are saving the 5a!

DC, thanks to goverment spending and a heavy reliance on service, has been pretty immune to globalization. I'd say it is a good model of what the country SHOULD be looking like.

by charlie on Mar 12, 2013 8:59 am • linkreport

The Arlingotn Super Stop is beautiful, and should be an excellent expmple for other communities who aspire to balance design and infrastructure.

by John P on Mar 12, 2013 9:03 am • linkreport

@John P

At $700K a pop, I don't see many communities jumping at this one.

by RJ on Mar 12, 2013 9:06 am • linkreport

I would not count that map mockup as proof that they are keeping the 5A bus route as-is. PlanitMetro says they will have an upcoming post about bus route changes.

If anything it would be beneficial to riders to have the bus go to Weihle Ave if it means more frequent service. Once every 40 minutes on the weekends is terrible.

by MLD on Mar 12, 2013 9:06 am • linkreport

@MLD, well, they are going to have to keep it until Phase 2 gets built. Whenever that is.

by charlie on Mar 12, 2013 9:12 am • linkreport

Why doesn't WMATA seek partners to build up Shady Grove? Tear down some of the parking garages and rebuild with mixed use, including parking? That area has a ton of potential for large scale development.

by Redline SOS on Mar 12, 2013 9:15 am • linkreport

Riders were frustrated with major delays on Blue and Yellow yesterday

I wrote a long message to WMATA yesterday and told them they need to focus on more information.

* Inform passengers going to stations in a bus that there are delays. Personally, I could have switched to the FFX395 that leaves from the Gambrill Park and Ride. That would have saved me time, and metro a seat on a very full train.
* Inform passengers at metro stations before they enter. There are always buses to nearby stations. These might be a good alternative for passengers going only a few stops.
* Inform passengers at the platform and in trains. I was not aware that the 10A goes from Braddock to the Pentagon. I would have taken it.
* Point out alternatives such as Capital Bikeshare.

*Inform people about the expected delay, so that people can make alternative travel plans. Give a time estimate of the delay. Be honest.

* Strike, delete and outlaw the word 'momentarily' from the vocabulary of metro employees. First of all, say 'soon' in stead. Then, stop lying about anything happen 'momentarily', when it does not. For 20 minutes. In short: Stop lying to your customers. They are not stupid. You loose credibility. Fellow passengers yesterday were merely laughing in disbelief when hearing so so-manieth announcement of the train 'momentarily'. There will be a day when a train operator gets strangled for it - even though I acknowledge the operators probably lack information as well.

* Provide express buses as an alternative when single-tracking during rush hour. Yesterday buses from Franconia-Springfield straight to the Pentagon would have been an option. They could have easily hopped on the HOV lanes.

* Work out a better way to single-track. Standing at Braddock for 30 minutes is not single-tracking. That is zero-tracking.

by Jasper on Mar 12, 2013 9:22 am • linkreport

Delays are the biggest reason people stop riding transit,

Funny. Delays on the road are exactly the reason why many people start riding transit.

A "super stop" opens along Columbia Pike.

Has anybody noticed that such a superstop does exactly that? It is super at stopping pedestrian traffic on the side walk, taking up most of the space.

by Jasper on Mar 12, 2013 9:29 am • linkreport

@MLD: I agree that having a loop from IAD to Wiehle would be nice from a frequency service but I'd venture to guess that WMATA will probably just add Wiehle as a stop and not remove any of the current ones. As it is now, the 5A goes to L'Enfant after Rosslyn even though both are at Metro stops.

by 7r3y3r on Mar 12, 2013 9:41 am • linkreport

@RJ: You're probably right. HOK's Super Stop design is beautiful, but very, very expensive.

I've noticed the super stop does not appear to be much of a shelter however--from the wind, rain, and sun. But the buses come fairly frequently so waits should be short.

by John P on Mar 12, 2013 9:53 am • linkreport

* Work out a better way to single-track. Standing at Braddock for 30 minutes is not single-tracking. That is zero-tracking.

How do similar systems like BART and MARTA handle single tracking? Off the top of my head I can think of the following alternatives:

-Alternate directions through the single track more frequently (so that one train heads south, then one north, then one south, etc.) rather than bunching 3-4 trains at a time each direction.

-Set up one shuttle train to run back and forth through the single track

-Get supplemental bus bridge between the start/end of the single track section while moving trains through the single track as best as possible.

-Operate a full bus bridge and no trains through the single track.

On paper some of these seem fine, but I'm not sure they'd play out well in real life.

by Rider on Mar 12, 2013 9:54 am • linkreport

For once, I agree with Jasper.

Metro also botched the Saturday night closing, and provided similarly terrible information. They do themselves no favors by trying to cover up delays and their underlying causes. Stuff happens, and people are generally very sympathetic of that. However, when a line is going to be out of commission for an extended length of time, most of us prefer accurate information over hollow reassurances.

Apart from the unnecessary early closing, the second-to-last Red Line train ran about 35 minutes before the last scheduled train of the night (which was also itself a bit late). That's a pretty long headway through a non-work-zone The PIDs weren't working, and the announcer told us (rather early on) that the last train of the night "would be arriving at the station momentarily." A few minutes later, we were told (at Dupont circle) that said train was departing Twinbrook. Not exactly "momentarily."

After that, we went to Metro Center, where we waited for another 40 minutes, during which time there was absolutely zero communication from our conductor other than that we were waiting for another train, and would be "moving momentarily." I later learned that the last Vienna train of the night still hadn't departed New Carrolton when my train arrived at Metro Center.

There are a number of late-night bus routes that pass through Metro Center, as well as a Capital Bikeshare station. Had Metro actually communicated that my trip from Dupont Circle to NoMa would take well over 90 minutes, I would have left the station, taken a bus, rented a bike, or just walked the 4 miles on my own.

Metro needs to hire a PR firm to work on its communication strategy. They're certainly better at it than they were 3 years ago, but they remain terrible at communicating to riders who are actually on board trains at the time of an incident.

by andrew on Mar 12, 2013 9:55 am • linkreport

@ andrew:Metro needs to hire a PR firm to work on its communication strategy.

Please not. Just get somebody with a brain and provide information.

by Jasper on Mar 12, 2013 9:59 am • linkreport

The only thing I want to see is the revised timetable before the Silver line opens. This timetable would also include AM and PM peak service.

I also want to know if WMATA has though about running trains on the new route between Wiehle-Reston East and McLean between the trains that run through the urban core.

by Sand Box John on Mar 12, 2013 10:10 am • linkreport

@Jasper: I agree. "Momentarily" is a joke.

I was stuck at Huntington for an HOUR yesterday before moving. An HOUR. And then there was a further 20-minute delay at the airport. I was an hour and 20 minutes late to work yesterday; it's screwed up my hours for the week, and this is a week I can't afford to have them screwed up. Had someone on the platform informed me that there would have been even a half-hour's delay, let alone an hour's, I would have marched right back up to the garage, liberated my car and driven to work. Yes, it costs more to find parking, but I can usually get here in about 45 minutes, versus the hour it takes door-to-door when I ride Metro.

And what did I get from the driver? "We will be moving momentarily." Garbage. A few weeks ago - I think it was the day of the Gallery Place suicide - I was stuck on the train, and the operator was falling over himself explaining and apologizing. Made it a bit more pleasant, knowing that someone within Metro hierarchy cared enough to recognize that people were being inconvenienced.

As an aside: I saw one gentleman who got off the train while it was sitting there so he could sit on the platform and get some fresh air instead. When the operator sounded the "all-aboard", he didn't hear the first time (not surprising; I could barely hear it, and I was on the train). The second time he scrambled to his feet and tried to run for the train, but the doors closed before he got there. The driver didn't open them for him; she decided to take off instead. Ugliest example of lousy customer service I've seen for a while from a system that's rife with them.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Mar 12, 2013 10:11 am • linkreport

@Sand Box John, is there a pocket track or viable place to turn around Silver Line trains between McLean and where the line merges with the Orange Line? I have wondered that once Phase 2 is completed, whether there would be enough Ashburn <-> Tysons traffic to sustain an isolated Silver Line service that does not go to EFC and the core. But obviously not in the operational plans for the SL at all.

As for the preview portion of the new map, I thought I saw somewhere recently on a WMATA site a snapshot of the full map with the Silver Line, thinner lines through the core, and the Silver going to Largo Town Center and no Orange Rush.

5A bus: wouldn't it make sense to keep the 5A with stops at L'Enfant and Rosslyn, but add a stop at Wiehle Ave Reston East so those in Tysons and west of Rosslyn don't have to backtrack to Rosslyn to get the bus to Dulles?

by AlanF on Mar 12, 2013 10:30 am • linkreport

@ Ser: the operator was falling over himself explaining and apologizing.

Oh, I forgot about that one. "We apologize for the inconvenience this may be causing." May? You think sitting in a train for 20 minutes does not constitute an actual inconvenience? Again, too many words, and avoiding actual responsibility.

Better: "We apologize for the delay." That avoids the whole inconvenience question, and leaves it exactly at what WMATA is responsible for: the delay.

by Jasper on Mar 12, 2013 10:48 am • linkreport

A 40 minute delay? Ridiculous. I hope they refunded fares.

@Redline SOS - Shady Grove could use some development, but which parking garages are you suggesting they tear down? I don't think there are any near the station.

by Chris S. on Mar 12, 2013 11:21 am • linkreport

@ Ser: When the operator sounded the "all-aboard"

That's another pet-peeve of mine. In Franconia-Springfield, we now have two trains: Blue and Yellow. Many people wait for one or the other. However, as a train turns around, it is often unclear what train it is. No problem. All an operator needs to do is announce the color of the train, allow people to get off and on, and leave. A lot of 'm do. But there are still too many operators that get to the front, announce the train, and immediately close the doors. All I can think is: it giving people 30 seconds to get in or out too much?

I wonder if we have a train operator here that can give his perspective.

by Jasper on Mar 12, 2013 11:24 am • linkreport

A lot of the land around Shady Grove is used by and presumably owned by MoCo. It's a shame that it hasn't been recycled for new office development, like the new building NCI occupies on Shady Grove Road.

by Rich on Mar 12, 2013 11:28 am • linkreport

@Chris S. I hope they refunded fares.
Aha. Ahahahahahahhaha. Hahahahahahahahahahahaha.


Yeah, no. (Sorry. Can you tell I'm still bitter?)

@Jasper: Yeah, I hate the whole "apologize for the inconvenience" thing, too. But this guy went further; he was as close to abjectly sorry as I've ever heard on Metro.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Mar 12, 2013 11:30 am • linkreport

Re: KIPP, you gotta' love it. A mixed-use developer is going all NIMBY because this highly-regarded charter school wants to locate on a former public school site next to I-395. He's concerned that the students will detract from the "cultural" atmosphere of his planned condos and restaurants nearby. Oh, the urbanist irony!!

by Alf on Mar 12, 2013 11:55 am • linkreport

@Rich I think development around Shady Grove would have some unique challenges. You have a lot of infrastructure that would be impossible to move (the WMATA railyard) or politically difficult to move (the MoCo garbage transfer station). You could focus on redeveloping south, into Derwood, and rezoning a somewhat down on its heels light industrial area.

by JustinD on Mar 12, 2013 11:58 am • linkreport

@Chris, there are two parking garages at Shady Grove. One has 3 levels, the other 8. That's in addition to (somewhat limited) surafce parking.

by Birdie on Mar 12, 2013 12:14 pm • linkreport

@Alf: We should probably ban school groups from the Smithsonians also - kids definitely interfere with my ability to enjoy these major cultural institutions.

by Ann on Mar 12, 2013 12:35 pm • linkreport

developers generally pursue their own interests - im sure most would be delighted to see NIMBYISTs stop developments built by OTHER developers. Just because development is needed as a tool to reach to urbanist goals, does not mean developers are motivated by urbanist ideology.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 12, 2013 12:43 pm • linkreport

RE: Metro refunding fares after delays...

Does VDOT refund your gas usage when you sit on I-395 for 40 minutes each morning? I'm always surprised how people focus so much blame on Metro but then think no one is to blame when they suffer though delays on freeways.

by recyclist on Mar 12, 2013 1:23 pm • linkreport

@recyclist:I'm always surprised how people focus so much blame on Metro but then think no one is to blame when they suffer though delays on freeways.

Does I-395 charge a fee to get on it?
Meanwhile, the I-495 HOT lanes guarantee a certain speed if you pay.

I'm always surprised how people focus so much effort on unfair comparisons.

Also, ever thought how much you would suffer on a highway if all those metro riders would join you on the freeway?

by Jasper on Mar 12, 2013 1:33 pm • linkreport


The Falls Church Yard lead could be used. However I think using the double crossover at Anderson Road would suffice as peak headway for trains to and from the urban core during peak are going to be 6 minutes.

I happen to believe that a plurality of the passenger boardings generated by the Silver line in the Dulles corridor will never leave the Commonwealth, I also believe that a significant number from that plurality will not be traveling to or from points east of Tysons Corner.

We are going to have to wait and see if my believe turns out to be in fact reality.

The map I linked to is my creation, it was created as part of the process for my submission to the Redesign Design the Metro Map contest. My submission was map D.

by Sand Box John on Mar 12, 2013 2:11 pm • linkreport

I'm always surprised how people focus so much blame on Metro but then think no one is to blame when they suffer though delays on freeways.

Typical freeway delays are caused by other drivers -- that is, more cars on the freeway than the capacity of the road. That's not a problem with the operation of the highway. By contrast, the problems with Metro we're discussing are based on incompetent operational management, not insufficient capacity.

If you're a transit supporter, you'll do your best to hold WMATA accountable for their operational failures so that it improves. Metro's biggest advocate (Sen. Mikulski D-MD) is also WMATA's harshest critic.

by Falls Church on Mar 12, 2013 2:23 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church: +1

I DO blame someone when I'm driving and get stuck. Usually it's some idiot up the road who can't be bothered to follow the rules. There's nothing Virginia state authorities can do short of pulling him over if he's violating the law. Metro, on the other hand, CAN control certain aspects of the commute disaster. Personally, I think if they started issuing refunds to people in cases of massive failure such as this (and I believe it was discussed once, even), the loss of revenue would give them greater incentive to see that it doesn't happen again.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Mar 12, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

@ Ser:I think if they started issuing refunds to people

Not gonna work. In the end you got where you wanted, so you got your transportation.

Dutch Railways got forced to refund delayed travelers. I think it was 50% for 30-60 minute delays and the whole ticket price for delays of more than an hour.

It led to a disaster of slow paperwork and denial of truth. I applied several times and got some money back, usually after 3 or 4 months. But I also got denied just because they decided my 45 minute delay was only 29 minutes according to their logs. Rejection letters never referred to which specific delay they were denying so appeal was impossible - I usually had several cases running in parallel. But they did apologize for any inconvenience they might have caused.

Metro does not need a financial incentive to work better. They are underfunded as it is. There is no need to push more bureaucracy on them.

by Jasper on Mar 12, 2013 2:56 pm • linkreport

@ Jasper

How about WMATA just not lie about delays.

Momentary, Minute, Short, Slight plus many more words have definitions that don't seem to be understood by WMATA. If there is a momentary or short delay I except it to be less than 20 minutes but really less the 15. When something goes to 30 to 60 minutes that is not a short delay; that could cost people missing connections to WMATA buses or other trains or buses which depending on the time of day may be the last one.

I remember one time I missed a bus for what WMATA said was a short delay which turned to about 35 minutes causing me to miss the last bus which made caused me to spend $35 on a cab.

by kk on Mar 12, 2013 3:38 pm • linkreport

@ kk:How about WMATA just not lie about delays.

That's what I said @ 9:22am this morning. See above.

by Jasper on Mar 12, 2013 3:41 pm • linkreport

Whatever formula WMATA is using to calculate its delays it sure as hell doesn't reflect the actual conditions on the ground. Their initial reports said delays of "20 minutes" when in reality it was MUCH longer. I assume they just don't count the time you might wait on the platform just for a train to come.

by MLD on Mar 12, 2013 3:42 pm • linkreport

Another ride on Metro, another delay. At least I can't really blame Metro for this one - some poor soul trying to play chicken with a train again. Sequestration must really be getting people down.

by Chris S. on Mar 12, 2013 4:09 pm • linkreport

I wouldn't mind something like Metrorail is having a delay you can take Metrobus for free that day or they refund my rail fare to take the bus. I remember back in the early to mid 90's when a bus broke down they use to just send another one, now you just wait for the next one.

There have been several times I have walked into a station and right after I went through the fare gate they announced a delay causing me to be mad as s**t.

How about giving refunds if you have been in the station for 5 minutes or less. You can not travel to another station and make it to the exit in 5 minutes even at Gallery Place and Metro Center.

Im sick of the PID's and the website listing trains as Train 10 or 15 minutes without nothing what line it is. This is especially pissing when you have to sometimes wait 20 minutes for Blue or Orange lines trains on weekends. If I know what train it is I can either wait for the train its mine, go take a bus or go to Starbucks, McDonalds or anywhere else.

by kk on Mar 12, 2013 4:29 pm • linkreport

@ kk:causing me to be mad as s**t

Have you told them (in polite terms)?

The only way to get WMATA to change is to flood them with good suggestions in stead of profanities.

by Jasper on Mar 12, 2013 8:44 pm • linkreport


Went to the Capitol Height Silver line open house this evening. I asked if WMATA intended to operate trains on the new route between the Loudoun county terminal and the McLean station between the trains that run through the urban core. I was told if boardings were great enough to justify such a service they might consider running it.

I suggest using the yard lead as a point for turning trains, the WMATA staff member shot that idea down because the lead would be needed at the beginning and end of peak to dispatch and return train to and from the yard.

The Anderson Road double crossover would be where those train would be turned.

He told me that when WMATA introduced Rush Plus they use the pocket track at West Falls Church to short turn some Orange line train, they quickly discovered that those short turn Orange line trains were interfering with the trains being dispatch from the yard at the beginning of PM peak.

by Sand Box John on Mar 13, 2013 12:23 am • linkreport

@Sand Box John, I find it interesting that WMATA staff has considered running a short Silver Line service between Ashburn & McLean in the future, even though I don't recall seeing it anywhere in design or planning documents. If they can turn trains around at Anderson Rd, just east of the McLean station, that would save time over dead-heading down to the WFC yard and back.

A short SL run is not going to make sense until Phase 2 is complete and Tysons grows into a big enough destination from Reston to Ashburn that it could be justified. What would the "short" trains be called? Silver Plus (or Minus depending on your point of view)?

by AlanF on Mar 13, 2013 10:24 am • linkreport

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