Greater Greater Washington

Virginia can't manufacture demand at Dulles

If a shrinking number of people want to fly in and out of an airport, is the solution to spend a billion dollars to build a road there? Or is the better approach to build infrastructure where people do want to go?


Photo by Adam Fagen on Flickr.

The former doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, but that's exactly what we're hearing from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) and Virginia officials about the proposed Bi-County Parkway from Prince William County to the airport.

The Post explored the question in the July 14 Metro article "Could a Pr. William-Loudoun road revive Dulles?" The basic issue is that people seem more eager to fly in and out of Reagan National Airport than Dulles. Congress recently added exemptions to Reagan's perimeter rule that has allowed airlines to add more long-distance flights, helping to spur a 5 percent increase of passenger traffic last year. Meanwhile, Dulles saw 2 percent growth in international traffic, but domestic traffic dropped 8 percent.

Continue reading my latest op-ed in the Washington Post.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. 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 loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

Comments

Add a comment »

Once metro reaches Dulles I will be significantly more likely to fly there. Sure it's a longer ride, but to me making the trip without renting a car and driving on the congested highways is the main selling point of DCA.

by orulz on Jul 19, 2013 11:36 am • linkreport

There is no need to revive Dulles. It seems to be doing just fine. If they want to do anything, they should allow Dulles employees to take advantage of pretax commuter benefits to keep costs down.

by Richard B on Jul 19, 2013 11:41 am • linkreport

"Virginia and airport officials seem to behave as though their mission is to make more stuff happen at Dulles, whether that stuff wants to happen there or not."

Well, yes, this is actually the mission of the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA). Airports earn their revenue through concessions (more passengers at Dulles means MWAA can charge higher leases), rental car fees, Passenger Facility Charges, among other sources of revenue. Given the way that airports are financed, it makes perfect sense that MWAA wants more passengers at Dulles.

Second, I think one of the reasons for the decline in passengers at Dulles is that, to the extent that the recent recession affected the DC metro region, it was the more distant suburbs and exurbs, especially Prince William County, that suffered the effects of higher unemployment and the housing downturn. These are also the potential passengers that would be more likely to use Dulles instead of Reagan.

by 202_cyclist on Jul 19, 2013 11:42 am • linkreport

You mean that faced with a 22 mile drive vs. a 3 or 4 mile metro ride they'd choose the latter? Shocking.

Plus I thought the justification (by McDonnell at least) was that the Bi-County was crucial to help all the struggling freight businesses and cement Virginia's reputation as "pro-business" which means spending whatever it takes to shave minutes off of a truck driver's schedule. Damn the ROI (or the fact that if you can get commuters out of their cars you'll also speed up delivery times), full speed ahead.

by drumz on Jul 19, 2013 11:44 am • linkreport

With the Silver line, everyone is focused on Tysons but not Dulles. There will be three metro stations within three miles at Dulles and a single landowner (MWAA) owns 4,000 acres of land. I don't think the focus should be to discourage growth around Dulles airport but should be to make sure it is smart growth that is served by transit.

I would also like to see light rail in the median of Route 28, connecting I-66 and Route 7. Route 28 is a fairly dense (dense at least for western FFX and Loudoun County) corridor of office parks, hotels, and the Air & Space museum.

by 202_cyclist on Jul 19, 2013 11:45 am • linkreport

It's frankly pretty absurd that we waste so much prime real estate on Reagan National airport. We shouldn't be encouraging more people to use it, we should be weaning them off it and pushing more people towards Dulles. Imagine what we could do with the space currently wasted on the airport if we got people to rely on Dulles instead.

by Jon M. on Jul 19, 2013 11:47 am • linkreport

Phase II of the Silver line costs what, $4B? There should absolutely be dense development around the three Dulles-area stations to help recover this investment. That is not to say, however, that I support the Bi-county parkway.

by 202_cyclist on Jul 19, 2013 11:48 am • linkreport

What do you propose MWAA do to accommodate more growth at National? It's practically at capacity.

As it stands now, if I understand correctly, the terminals are the problem, not the runways. MWAA could spend hundreds of millions of dollars completely rebuilding the terminals (except A, with its historic designation), but that's expensive, and eventually, you'll need more runways and/or more apron space.

Personally, I think building Dulles was a mistake. I think the federal and local governments should have focused either on finding ways to squeeze more out of National or to build a closer airport. Maybe turning Andrews into a joint civil-military facility would have been a good idea (especially since it's so close to the green line now). But we have Dulles, and it had a lot more space than National.

by Tim on Jul 19, 2013 11:50 am • linkreport

I recently went to the Orioles game at Camden Yards. I missed the MARC train from Greenbelt and had to take the 30 bus to BWI and then take light-rail from BWI to Camden Yards.

Admittedly, BWI is owned and operated by the state of Maryland and Dulles is owned and operated by MWAA but the former seems like a much better fit for air cargo facilities. Baltimore actually has manufacturing. Like Dulles and MWAA, BWI owns several thousand acres there and this area is also well-served by transit.

by 202_cyclist on Jul 19, 2013 11:51 am • linkreport

The main reason we don't need the bi-county parkway is not because that Dulles is actually doing fine or whatever. It's that the traffic problems in DC are still in Farifax/Arlington and mostly East-West. It's not a significant distance in mileage to go up to 495/toll road vs. 234/28 if you're coming up to Dulles from 95S.

by drumz on Jul 19, 2013 11:52 am • linkreport

Not that the Bi-County parkway is the correct solution, but there are important reasons to steer flight traffic to Dulles. Dulles has far more runway capacity than Nat'l, and a much greater safety buffer. There is far less worry about proximity of air traffic to the Monumental Core of DC or the high rises of Rosslyn at Dulles. Nat'l is much better suited for shorter flights and smaller aircraft, which tend to be less efficient cost (energy, labor, etc.) per seat.

Two projects underway should help Dulles quite a bit: the Silver line, and eventually, the new terminal buildings should both help Dulles' appeal to travelers.

by Hookd13 on Jul 19, 2013 11:55 am • linkreport

I do think the United/Continental merger is partly to blame for the decrease in traffic at Dulles. The merged airline shifted to the Newark hub (which is FRUSTRATING) and has completely changed up the direct flights to Europe. Also, United lost part of the Federal carrier contract and I am sure that will also impact flights at Dulles. With United refocusing elsewhere, it was bound to have a large impact at Dulles.

And of course the AIRLINE AUTHORITY wants to build business at the airport. They just spent how much $$$ on renovations at that airport...trains, security plaza, bathrooms, etc. They want to build on that investment. DCA simply cannot take up that slack.

by ArchStanton on Jul 19, 2013 11:56 am • linkreport

Tim:
"Personally, I think building Dulles was a mistake. I think the federal and local governments should have focused either on finding ways to squeeze more out of National or to build a closer airport"

As of 2011, there were 1.1M residents in Fairfax Co, 420,000 in Prince Williams Co, and 325,000 thousand in Loudoun County. This is nearly 2M passengers for whom Dulles is closer and more convenient than Reagan (there are 630,000 DC residents, 300,000 Arl Co. residents, and 150,000 Alexandria residents). There are 1M Montgomery Co. residents.

I know this blog is Greater Greater Washington and focuses on DC issues but it is not clear at all that Dulles is inconvenient for many of the residents in the DC metro region, especially with the forecasted growth at Tysons and the Reston-Dulles corridor.

by 202_cyclist on Jul 19, 2013 11:58 am • linkreport

Admittedly, BWI is owned and operated by the state of Maryland and Dulles is owned and operated by MWAA but the former seems like a much better fit for air cargo facilities. Baltimore actually has manufacturing. Like Dulles and MWAA, BWI owns several thousand acres there and this area is also well-served by transit.

If Baltimore needed a freight terminal, Martin State Airport is pretty well located and has room to grow.

by Richard B on Jul 19, 2013 11:59 am • linkreport

I really don't understand how anyone could say this is needed given that the airport has pretty robust highway infrastructure already? It's hard not to see this as anything other than a sprawly construction industry give away. Probably not a bad idea to focus on finding good uses for the land around the airport since facilities expansion is probably not in the cards and it would be in keeping with the long term development plans for Loudoun. And in terms of passenger travel it's going to continue to be the most convenient airport for millions of domestic and international passengers so I don't think it's in danger of failing.

by Alan B. on Jul 19, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

As of 2011, there were 1.1M residents in Fairfax Co, 420,000 in Prince Williams Co, and 325,000 thousand in Loudoun County. This is nearly 2M passengers for whom Dulles is closer and more convenient than Reagan (there are 630,000 DC residents, 300,000 Arl Co. residents, and 150,000 Alexandria residents). There are 1M Montgomery Co. residents.

About half of Fairfax county is actually closer to Reagan. For instance from Huntington is 6 miles from Reagan but 36 miles from Dulles.

Also PG county has over a million residents as well.

The MWAA is supposed to service Maryland, DC, and Virginia

by Richard B on Jul 19, 2013 12:03 pm • linkreport

Richard B:
"If Baltimore needed a freight terminal, Martin State Airport is pretty well located and has room to grow."

BWI is closer to the 5.5M residents in the DC metro region and the runway at Martin State Airport is less than 7,000 feet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_State_Airport), not nearly long enough for trans-Atlantic air cargo flights.

by 202_cyclist on Jul 19, 2013 12:04 pm • linkreport

I think it maybe says something about changing media preferences that your article is getting more comments on this site than on Washington Post dot com?

by Greenbelt on Jul 19, 2013 12:06 pm • linkreport

Richard B:
"Also PG county has over a million residents as well."

My mistake but the point is still valid-- Dulles is not in the sticks either.

by 202_cyclist on Jul 19, 2013 12:06 pm • linkreport

A: I was told that Dulles was to be originally located in Burke (what's now Burke Lake Park) which would have put the Airport closer to DC and 95. I was also told that local opposition was part of the reason why that didn't happen. Nevertheless it was put at where it is today (and thus the rise of Herndon/Reston/Tyson's and the development around DTR that probably would've stayed on 95.

B: I think that MWAA is right to try and get Dulles busier because it can handle much more capacity so its costs are lower on the margin. But I think the bi-county parkway is a bad idea and the argument that its needed to help dulles is similarly bad.

by drumz on Jul 19, 2013 12:06 pm • linkreport

David, you're wrong. Dulles is realizing that the demand for domestic passenger traffic in Dulles is falling. So what they're doing is reevaluating what their strengths and advantages are and seeing how they can market their strengths to alternative customers-- in this case, cargo carriers who aren't put off by Dulles's inconvenient location and poor transit access but would be attracted by its infrastructure. That seems logical to me-- Dulles can concentrate on international flights, cargo, and domestic customers who live out beyond the Beltway. National can expand its core services of offering flights for passengers who live in the metro-accessible inner core of the DC metro area, and Dulles can offer services that play to its own advantages.

by JustMe on Jul 19, 2013 12:14 pm • linkreport

When Tysons grows to 200,000 residents, the Reston-Dulles corridor continues to grow, and Loudoun County continues to grow, could there actually be a need for another road around Dulles or is Route 28 sufficient to handle all of these vehicles? As I mentioned above, I would like to see light rail built in the median of Route 28.

I am as skeptical of building more roads as anyone here but if western Fairfax and Loudoun grow by another 300,000 - 500,000 residents, will there be a need for more roads to accommodate them?

by 202_cyclist on Jul 19, 2013 12:15 pm • linkreport

The first half of your column, where you oppose the Bi-County way, can be used equally to oppose the Silver Line to Dulles.

Other than that, 202_cyclist is right. There are a boatload of people in Fairfax, Loudoun and MoCo for whom Dulles is way better than Reagan or BWI. For starters, Reagan does not fly international, other than to Toronto and Montreal.

by Jasper on Jul 19, 2013 12:16 pm • linkreport

Just a transit nitpick.
Dulles was built with construction materials hauled in on the W&OD... which no one thought to keep to provide service to the new airport.
Sure it'd have needed upgrading, but it was an electric railroad through now very dense area in nova.

by scratchy on Jul 19, 2013 12:16 pm • linkreport

One of the central problems for Washington National is that it's basically at its current capacity. The reason why MWAA is pushing people towards Dulles isn't by choice, it's because that's the only way to expand air travel to the region (their goal). Alpert fails to address the core challenge that DCA is at capacity.

Now, I'm all in favor of more traffic using DCA. I think it's a centrally located airport and there just aren't enough of those in the USA. I also think that, while at capacity, it is severely under-utilized. How so?

Generally speaking, most of the aircraft at DCA are regional jets (about 60%). Even though the airport is effectively at its capacity, smaller aircraft prevail. While regional jets have taken on an increasing traffic share at most airports, the perimeter restriction at DCA, coupled with the number of business travelers (who tend to favor more frequent flights) means that while DCA's runways have no more room, there's a lot of unused capacity.

I think one way you could solve the problems would be to get rid of the perimeter restriction and raise the landing fees and other charges. Basically, you'd be encouraging fewer flights with bigger planes and to more destinations. Newer aircraft generate less noise, and anyways since there would be fewer flights, the higher noise levels of individual flights would be less of a concern.

In addition, I personally think that DCA should invest in customs handling facilities to enable a few international flights per day. Despite the limited space, there is adequate space near the south end of the field for a small international terminal. Washington National will never become a large international hub, but even two or three international flights per day would definitely help out downtown.

by Aaron Z. on Jul 19, 2013 12:18 pm • linkreport

202_cyclist
So first it is good to put a freight terminal near Baltimore because it has manufacturing but then we need to get it closer to DC to serve DC's population.

BWI is far better located to serve Baltimore's (and some of DC's) population with Amtrak, MARC, Light Rail, and numerous interstates(95, 97, 295 etc).

Martin State does have a poorly served small MARC station and could add Amtrak stops but will never be as good for most of the Baltimore/DC population nor will roads ever be as good.

Martin also is surrounded by cheap industrial zoned land that could be(some is already) used for manufacturing and warehouses.

If the runway isn't long enough, it could be extended. It looks like it might have to destroy a marina but it could be done.

The point is, BWI has a profitable passenger business right now. Martin State Airport has a small national guard station that is likely gone in the next decade anyway. If you wanted to add a freight terminal it would be easier to extend a runway at Martin than build an additional runway a BWI.

by Richard B on Jul 19, 2013 12:20 pm • linkreport

Jasper:
" For starters, Reagan does not fly international, other than to Toronto and Montreal."

Correct but there is no reasone for this other than the ridiculous perimeter rule (which was a separate discussion here recently). Without the perimeter rule, Reagan could have flights the Caribbean and Mexico, especially with the more fuel efficent 737s and A320s that are planned.

by 202_cyclist on Jul 19, 2013 12:21 pm • linkreport

There may be a need for a road to handle the pop. increase of Reston/Tysons but the Bi-County parkway won't cut it. It'll just provide a stop-light free route between woodbridge and Ashburn via Dulles.

by drumz on Jul 19, 2013 12:22 pm • linkreport

VA DOT and the airport are not really talking about passenger demand. The latest reationalization for the road is that it will faciliate more freight at Dulles, by opening up a truck route from the south and southwest. I'm not sure why route 28 is inadequate for this purpose. I suspect that the real reason is to open up access to land on the east side of the field for development of freight warehouses, etc. In reading the article, it didn't seem that MWAA's leadership was all that enthusiastic in their support.

by Bob on Jul 19, 2013 12:22 pm • linkreport

@Jasper
The first half of your column, where you oppose the Bi-County way, can be used equally to oppose the Silver Line to Dulles.

Umm, how so?

The Bi-County parkway would connect a low-density place and Dulles. The silver line connects Dulles to Tysons (which is going higher density) and downtown DC along a route that is already heavily traveled.

by MLD on Jul 19, 2013 12:26 pm • linkreport

I personally think that DCA should invest in customs handling facilities to enable a few international flights per day. Despite the limited space, there is adequate space near the south end of the field for a small international terminal. Washington National will never become a large international hub, but even two or three international flights per day would definitely help out downtown.

I'm not sure a few flights to Europe/mexico would really justify the cost of customs. I think people are also more price sensitive when it comes to international flights and are more willing to add 30-60 min to their ground commute when the flight is 6 hours rather than 2 hours.

by Richard B on Jul 19, 2013 12:26 pm • linkreport

I keep hearing about this "Reagan" airport. Is it anywhere near National?

by Crickey7 on Jul 19, 2013 12:26 pm • linkreport

@202_cyclist:

"As of 2011, there were 1.1M residents in Fairfax Co, 420,000 in Prince Williams Co, and 325,000 thousand in Loudoun County. This is nearly 2M passengers for whom Dulles is closer and more convenient than Reagan (there are 630,000 DC residents, 300,000 Arl Co. residents, and 150,000 Alexandria residents). There are 1M Montgomery Co. residents."

Arlington County's population is not at 300,000 residents. It's near 220,000.

by revitalizer on Jul 19, 2013 12:30 pm • linkreport

Aaron Z.
"Washington National will never become a large international hub, but even two or three international flights per day would definitely help out downtown."

Absolutely right. International passengers tend to spend a lot more during their travel here. Additionally, this would benefit the DC economy my having more direct non-stop flights to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. International traffic is also the fastest growing segment of aviation.

Robert Puentes of Brookings had an interesting report, "Global Gateways" about this last year: http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2012/10/25-global-aviation .

Aaron Z.:
"Generally speaking, most of the aircraft at DCA are regional jets (about 60%). Even though the airport is effectively at its capacity, smaller aircraft prevail. While regional jets have taken on an increasing traffic share at most airports, the perimeter restriction at DCA, coupled with the number of business travelers (who tend to favor more frequent flights) means that while DCA's runways have no more room, there's a lot of unused capacity."

This is also absolutely correct. Reagan has some of the smallest aircraft size and load factors of any large airport: http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648378.txt .

by 202_cyclist on Jul 19, 2013 12:30 pm • linkreport

Richard B:
"Also PG county has over a million residents as well."

I think BWI is probably just as competitve as Reagan-National for many of these passengers, especially when you consider that BWI has lower fares than Reagan.

by 202_cyclist on Jul 19, 2013 12:33 pm • linkreport

As a Prince George's County resident, I think BWI is more convenient for MoCo and DC. The terminal is excellent and the lines aren't long. Flights out of Dulles seem to be more expensive than out of BWI for some reason. I flew out of Dulles only once to go to Cali on JetBlue, never again. That trip is a haul. And I imagine it would be a haul for those in DC as well. National is great for short trips where you don't have a lot of luggage. You can hop on the metro and be there in 30 minutes from some points around the beltway. As far as cargo is concerned, Baltimore has the bay as an advantage. They already receive millions of tons of cargo from ships. I'm not sure a full cargo airport is necessary.

by adelphi_sky on Jul 19, 2013 12:43 pm • linkreport

"I am as skeptical of building more roads as anyone here but if western Fairfax and Loudoun grow by another 300,000 - 500,000 residents, will there be a need for more roads to accommodate them?"

1. A new road WEST of dulles does not accommodate people in western Fairfax, period.
2. Any significant new growth in western fairfax is going to be TOD locations, since western Fairfax is almost built out. While folks at TOD locations do own and use cars, for the most part supporting that growth will mean more transit - beyond the Silver line, and BRT or rail on I66, it means transit on rte 28.
3. Its questionable how much growth in the transitional zone in Loudoun is desired by Loudoun, and how much is good for the region
4. If there is a lot of growth in that part of loudoun (further east is approaching build out, and further west is off limits under Loudoun county zoning)it will mostly need east-west capacity, not north south.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 19, 2013 12:43 pm • linkreport

The problem of getting to Dulles is its far, and there is a lot of traffic. Building another highway won't relieve the congestion on the beltway and is more likely to increase it. Lets see things after they finish the Silver Line.

Another thing they could also upgrade the airport. National is still far nicer and more convenient to get around inside.

by SJE on Jul 19, 2013 12:44 pm • linkreport

"Virginia and airport officials seem to behave as though their mission is to make more stuff happen at Dulles, whether that stuff wants to happen there or not."
-----
Well, to be honest, finding ways to increase traffic - and thereby revenue - at Dulles IS MWAA's job.

by ceefer66 on Jul 19, 2013 12:52 pm • linkreport

Dulles is big, cumbersome and a pain in the ass. I live 15 minutes closer to Dulles and still drive to Reagan National when I have the chance to avoid the endless security, stupid trams and buses, carpeted concourses, etc. How is an airport that we have dumped billions into in the last 20 years still be so so outdated and inefficient?

by Christopher Butler on Jul 19, 2013 12:53 pm • linkreport

@SJE:The problem of getting to Dulles is its far, and there is a lot of traffic.

That all depends on where you live. I have rarely seen traffic jams on the Dulles access road.

by Jasper on Jul 19, 2013 12:58 pm • linkreport

I think BWI is probably just as competitve as Reagan-National for many of these passengers, especially when you consider that BWI has lower fares than Reagan.
It really depends on where you are in PG county and what method of transportation you are planning on using to get to the airport.

National Harbor to the airport by taxi?

by Richard B on Jul 19, 2013 1:04 pm • linkreport

I don't see this improving access to Dulles for anyone other than those who live within 2 miles of the path of the proposed road. And the last mile or two of the approach to Dulles would be awkward, compared to that from VA 28. I don't see how this road would generate a significant number of new passengers for Dulles.

It seems that a better approach would be to build the Manassas Bypass between Prince William Parkway and I-66, and upgrade I-66 between there and VA 28.

by Frank IBC on Jul 19, 2013 1:04 pm • linkreport

Richard B.:
"I'm not sure a few flights to Europe/mexico would really justify the cost of customs. I think people are also more price sensitive when it comes to international flights and are more willing to add 30-60 min to their ground commute when the flight is 6 hours rather than 2 hours."

Businesses do try to place themselves closer to those international gateways. Look at the development of the Dulles corridor, or the the rapid development in Rosemont near Chicago O'Hare (or numerous other examples). When the big international gateway is out in the suburbs, businesses will try to relocate along the corridor from the "old" downtown and the new gateway.

Even if passengers are willing to travel a bit further, they will try to minimize that. For large businesses, that might mean moving closer to the big airport so that each trip to/from there is shorter.

As for cost; in an ideal world, they'd build up a small pier terminal near the current terminal A at the site of the old (demolished) American Airlines Concourse (it's currently being used for overnight aircraft storage).

Runway length at DCA is sufficient for a Boeing 767 or 757 with a full passenger load and medium cargo load (the latter would probably be limited by range to United Kingdom or Latin American destinations). A 787 could conceivably operate from DCA, but it'd have a more limited payload and would be pushing at FAA minimum runway length limits even with a relatively light payload.

by Aaron Z. on Jul 19, 2013 1:17 pm • linkreport

"I keep hearing about this "Reagan" airport. Is it anywhere near National?"

I know, right?

by Aaron Z. on Jul 19, 2013 1:18 pm • linkreport

Easy solution.

Many of the National flights are very short shuttle types - NYC, Boston etc.

Take the road money, put it into rail, allowing you to speed up travel and have more trains.

That way the air slots open up longer distance flights and larger planes.

by JJJ on Jul 19, 2013 1:21 pm • linkreport

Ceefer66
"Well, to be honest, finding ways to increase traffic - and thereby revenue - at Dulles IS MWAA's job."

Technically MWAA is responsible for Dulles *and* Washington National (and maximizing revenue from both), but that's a bit of a nitpick.

MWAA does focus more on Dulles because, to an extent, growth there is really easy to implement. At Washington National, the FAA has a ton of jurisdiction in terms of flight slot allocations, and you also have local pressures such as Alexandria and Arlington that fight growth based on noise concerns.

By comparison, Dulles is far removed from those neighborhood concerns and has runway capacity to spare, with MWAA having a lot more control over how to allocate slots (plus, they can offer good deals to entice new flights). So basically, faced with challenging political battles on the one hand or basically no challenge at all on the other, MWAA focuses its energy on Dulles.

by Aaron Z. on Jul 19, 2013 1:25 pm • linkreport

Imagine what we could do with the space currently wasted on the airport if we got people to rely on Dulles instead.

And imagine how much quieter Rosslyn and NW DC would be as well.

by kookinelli on Jul 19, 2013 1:28 pm • linkreport

202_cyclist,

The biggest problem that DCA faces in getting additional international flights, besides aircraft capacity, is insufficient space for customs and immigration processing. That was the main reason that flights to SFO diverted to Seattle and LAX, instead of Oakland and Sacramento, during the recent crash because they has the capacity to handle immigration and custom demands of international flights.

by RJ on Jul 19, 2013 2:02 pm • linkreport

National is hardly a wasted space. It adds tremendous efficiency to many many trips in the region and is definitely good for tourism and business.

In terms of international trips, your time flexibility is going to be greater because it's already a long trip. National's efficiency is getting to/and from the airport quickly for short flights. Most international flights are going to have connections anyway so what does it matter if the connection ends up being Atlanta or New York or LA rather than London or Rekjavik or Abu Dhabi. I can't have a connection somewhere

by Alan B. on Jul 19, 2013 2:05 pm • linkreport

I'm sorry, what is this "Reagan Airport"? Who are these people?

by nativedc on Jul 19, 2013 2:14 pm • linkreport

I can't believe nobody's mentioned the dismal state of (all together now, United frequent flyers!) the C and D concourses at IAD. These structures, "temporary" since 1982 or so, are a pretty horrible place to wait for a flight: not enough space, not enough windows, a poor selection of concessions. It's basically the Penn Station of airport terminals.

And you either have to wait for a mobile lounge to reach them from the main terminal or trek about a quarter-mile back from the Aerotrain stop built under where C/D's replacement is supposed to go.

My other gripe with IAD is getting to and from there. The Silver Line will help a lot, even in its first phase; now that the second phase is officially underway, MWAA needs to get with UA to replace C and D.

by Rob Pegoraro on Jul 19, 2013 2:14 pm • linkreport

Aaron Z.
Businesses do try to place themselves closer to those international gateways. Look at the development of the Dulles corridor, or the the rapid development in Rosemont near Chicago O'Hare (or numerous other examples). When the big international gateway is out in the suburbs, businesses will try to relocate along the corridor from the "old" downtown and the new gateway.

Im sure they do, but adding 3-5 international flights a day isnt going to make DCA an international gateway airport. If we could pave over the entire potomac add 3 additional runways there and on Boiling Airforce Base we might be able to add enough international flights to get that international gateway effect. DC itself isnt much of an international gateway compared to NYC, Chicago, LA, or SFO.

The international flights take more space and so are probably best served out in Dulles or BWI

by Richard B on Jul 19, 2013 2:22 pm • linkreport

"The market has spoken clearly. People want to live in walkable communities, whether a smaller suburban town with a concentrated center near a Metro line, or a booming neighborhood in the center city. They want grocery stores and restaurants and hardware stores and bars and gyms and playgrounds and schools and churches in close proximity."

This may be true, but it doesn't fit the article.

by Andy on Jul 19, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

"I keep hearing about this "Reagan" airport. Is it anywhere near National?"

Amen brother. I guess the force is still strong with the Gipper.

by Chris S. on Jul 19, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

Wow, Dave, I think you really missed the mark with your argument on this one. There are a lot of good reasons to object to this road project. "You can't create demand," is not one of them. It flies in the face of your oft repeated induced demand argument. If Dulles represents stranded supply for air travel, then inducing demand through increased transit options to the terminal is exactly what MWAA should be doing (and is exactly what the silver line represents). Whether this particular project is the one that should be favored is another discussion.

by CJ on Jul 19, 2013 2:39 pm • linkreport

I know this is a shade far afield from the discussion we've been having, but has anyone thought about incorporating general use airports into the mix? Manassas has one - the largest regional airport in Virginia - which I've often thought might be made into a small hub for business travelers with sufficient rail links. (There's a VRE station there, for instance.) Also, there's the airport in College Park that could be of use.

I'm sure moving some small-aircraft traffic to one or the other would be quite feasible, no? Manassas isn't much farther afield than BWI, at least for travel to and from DC.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jul 19, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport

The comments are a fascinating discussion on the state of the region's airports.

But I understood Mr. Alpert's editorial to be an attack on Virginia's intent to move forward with the Bi-County Parkway.

The population in Manassas, South Riding, and Ashburn continue to grow, and there's no good way to move north-south, west of Sully Road. The airport certainly can make good use of this road, but I think it probably should be built, regardless of whether IAD is a major port for frieght.

by Rich on Jul 19, 2013 2:46 pm • linkreport

Also, there's the airport in College Park that could be of use.
I'm not sure college park's airport can service jets. Its runway is a third the size of BWI's or DCA's. It could make for a nice heliport, if people wanted to go all the way out to college park to take a helicopter to baltimore/eastern shore

by Richard B on Jul 19, 2013 2:51 pm • linkreport

"I know this is a shade far afield from the discussion we've been having, but has anyone thought about incorporating general use airports into the mix? Manassas has one - the largest regional airport in Virginia - which I've often thought might be made into a small hub for business travelers with sufficient rail links. (There's a VRE station there, for instance.) Also, there's the airport in College Park that could be of use.

I'm sure moving some small-aircraft traffic to one or the other would be quite feasible, no? Manassas isn't much farther afield than BWI, at least for travel to and from DC."

These airports do not have the parking, terminals, and other infrastructure to support commercial flights. Additionally, the smaller regional jets often are necessary in the airline hub & spoke system. Many of the passengers are Reagan or Dulles are connecting passengers. You need the passengers from Toledo or Norfolk to make some of the other routes feasible.

by 202_cyclist on Jul 19, 2013 2:53 pm • linkreport

wrt the many good comments by 202_cyclist...

There were lots of omissions in the recent GGW piece on transit to Dulles and in this piece too. Where is the call for regional transportation planning as it relates to both freight and airports?

This entry has links to some of those kinds of plans in Puget Sound and SoCal.

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2013/07/more-on-transportation-to-dc-area.html

The reality is that MWAA is going to want to develop those 4000 acres. And Virginia is going to promote what it sees as its interests first and foremost, whether or not they make any sense.

In my entry I suggest that it would be interesting for the BMC and the MWCOG TPB to do a joint regional transpo plan for all airports (as suggested by 202_cyclist). I can't remember if I said the same thing for freight planning through the "I-95 Corridor" but that should be done jointly by BMC-TPB also.

by Richard Layman on Jul 19, 2013 3:02 pm • linkreport

... it could also presage a joint planning effort regarding consolidation of regional railroad service between the states.

by Richard Layman on Jul 19, 2013 3:04 pm • linkreport

@Richard B and 202_cyclist: Sorry, should've clarified a bit. I wasn't talking about jet aircraft, but business craft - I understand a lot of business jets use Manassas as it is. And I know quite a few use National, at least as far as I can recall.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jul 19, 2013 3:04 pm • linkreport

@Ser Amantio di Nicolao:

Actually only a handful of business jets use National after the security restrictions following 9/11. This is one of the reasons why National/Reagan has available unused capacity now. The GAO report that I linked to above discusses this.

by 202_cyclist on Jul 19, 2013 3:13 pm • linkreport

Richard B:
"Im sure they do, but adding 3-5 international flights a day isnt going to make DCA an international gateway airport....
The international flights take more space and so are probably best served out in Dulles or BWI"

You don't need to turn DCA into a major international airport, you'd just have a few daily international flights to support companies that would rather locate themselves closer to downtown DC than Dulles. Even a few international flights can impact that decision-making from an individual company's perspective.

Yes, Dulles is the primary international airport, but that doesn't negate the possibilities for DCA to be an interesting secondary airport. Let's not forget that BWI has only one daily flight to London and a seasonal flight to Germany; DCA easily could support daily flights to London, Paris, and probably Amsterdam, plus some Latin American destinations.

by Aaron Z. on Jul 19, 2013 3:14 pm • linkreport

The airport in College Park is a tiny GA airport. It's also inside the Special Flight Rules Area so it's basically useless for even that.

by Wilson on Jul 19, 2013 3:16 pm • linkreport

College Park is more for recreational use. You'd have a tough time convincing the city of College Park and even the University to ramp up operations at that airport. Besides, I'm not sure College Park is an important enough waypoint for people who need to fly. Why wouldn't they just continue on to BWI or National?

by adelphi_sky on Jul 19, 2013 3:20 pm • linkreport

@Aaron Z
Let's not forget that BWI has only one daily flight to London and a seasonal flight to Germany; DCA easily could support daily flights to London, Paris, and probably Amsterdam, plus some Latin American destinations.
If BWI cannot support more than 1 flight to Europe daily I don't know how DCA is. Yes there are people who would like to take a convenient trip to a nearby airport and take a nonstop flight to London/Paris but how many of them are willing to pay the premium of higher airfare to do so? Even with the added continence of DCA over IAD, with IAD having more flights it will allow for more options on departure times.

by Richard B on Jul 19, 2013 3:24 pm • linkreport

@Ser Amantio di Nicolao
Sorry, should've clarified a bit. I wasn't talking about jet aircraft, but business craft - I understand a lot of business jets use Manassas as it is. And I know quite a few use National, at least as far as I can recall.

Pretty sure business jets are jet aircraft.
I was talking about College Park, which is too small for jet aircraft.

It's runway is really short, like twice as long as an aircraft carrier short. There is also now a 14 story building directly in its flight path. It's not of much use for much other than recreational aircraft, where speed and continence aren't all that important.

Manassass has a nice long runway and is fine for business jets, but as 202_cyclist says, it doesn't have the amenities to make it a commercial success and it is further out than Dulles for most people and Dulles has plenty of room.

by Richard B on Jul 19, 2013 3:31 pm • linkreport

Richard B:
"If BWI cannot support more than 1 flight to Europe daily I don't know how DCA is. Yes there are people who would like to take a convenient trip to a nearby airport and take a nonstop flight to London/Paris but how many of them are willing to pay the premium of higher airfare to do so? Even with the added continence of DCA over IAD, with IAD having more flights it will allow for more options on departure times."

Airfares probably wouldn't be that much higher. The new United Airlines flights to SFO point to the fact that in reality there would only be a maybe $100-150 increase (IAD-SFO vs. DCA-SFO price difference is about $50 all else equal last time I checked). For many people who would otherwise take a cab out to Dulles and who are in downtown DC or points east/northeast, you'd actually stand to save money overall.

The Silver Line will change the equation somewhat since it will make travel to Dulles cheaper and reasonably quick (on the order of 45-75 minutes from downtown depending on where exactly you start and waiting time), but DCA would still be far easier to get to.

In addition there's also the fact that the international markets out of DC are basically controlled by United Airlines right now. A few American Airlines flights from DCA to Europe could actually lower prices across the board.

by Aaron Z. on Jul 19, 2013 3:42 pm • linkreport

Baltimore doesn't just have manufacturing, it also has a vast intermodal port, sits on I-95, and is closer to population centers further north. Same goes for Wilmington, Philadelphia, and Newark, and all four sit in the relatively less-congested midpoint of the DC-NY corridor. If I were a shipper, I wouldn't want to send goods to IAD and deal with the inevitable Beltway traffic to distribute goods further north.

by Payton on Jul 19, 2013 3:55 pm • linkreport

@ MLD:Umm, how so?

It argues against spending transportation money to a place where apparently nobody wants to go.

@ Richard B:I'm not sure a few flights to Europe/mexico would really justify the cost of customs.

Many Carribean islands would be happy to let customs happen on their island. The (US)VIs do it (ok customs). Aruba does it.

by Jasper on Jul 19, 2013 4:02 pm • linkreport

It's fair to say that they are not adding immigration/customs facilities at DCA anytime soon, but it's worth noting that the only reason the BWI-LHR flight exists at all is because it's heavily subsidized by the state:
http://www.bizjournals.com/baltimore/news/2012/09/17/bwi-british-airways-subsidy-contract.html

The best you might get in the future is a few more flights to vacation destinations with pre-clearance at the overseas airport.

by alexandrian on Jul 19, 2013 4:07 pm • linkreport

@Jasper
DCA already has flights to Canada because Canada is willing to do customs and immigration in Canada. I'm sure any Caribbean island that is willing to could set up flights to DCA if it did the customs and immigration there rather than here. The problem is London/Paris/ even Mexico City are unwilling to. I really don't think there is much of a market for a quick weekend getaway flight to Aruba(6 hour trip?) because it is too far away and the additional cost would push too many people away.

The US virgin islands is US territory, no customs or immigration needed, although many flights go through Puerto Rico which is also US territory.

by Richard B on Jul 19, 2013 4:12 pm • linkreport

@alexandrian
BWI use to do a lot more international flights before 9/11. The costs of customs and immigration shot up after that.

by Richard B on Jul 19, 2013 4:14 pm • linkreport

We usually fly Dulles - mainly because we live right off the access road. But I can say this - airlines are scaling back for domestic travel. They are flying smaller aircraft - mostly RJ (Embraer or equivalent). These days something like a 737 would seem like a wide-body.

A couple of years ago, we had to fly to Newark to make an international connection. The plane we were on was a small turbo-prop - I called it a flying coke can. Not only was it small and cramped, but the ride was bumpy and there was no heat. On our return we bailed at the airport and took Amtrak home. We arrived back at Union station before the original flight back had even taken off (due to mainly to a long layover, but the flight left late as well).

by JackRussell on Jul 19, 2013 4:17 pm • linkreport

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is the answer...as long as it doesn't burst into flames.

by Jim McNerney on Jul 19, 2013 4:29 pm • linkreport

It argues against spending transportation money to a place where apparently nobody wants to go.

Is that all you got out of reading it? Perhaps you need to read more closely. I provided the basic difference between the two but you chose to ignore that apparently.

by MLD on Jul 19, 2013 4:31 pm • linkreport

The reduced demand at Dulles is also an argument against extending Metro that far west. The Silver Line should've terminated at Tysons and the money redirected to a separated Blue Line through DC for extra capacity.

As for TOD, Tysons is an obvious place to do it, but Dulles isn't as obvious. The problem is that it's so far away from preexisting density that any development there is going to mostly serve people who live at very low density, have car ownership rates approaching 100%, and are unlikely to take transit. So the development would be transit-adjacent but not transit-oriented.

The ideal Tysons would be a new Crystal City. With that density, at least the inner part of the line could get enough ridership to justify the cost. The DC area is growing very quickly, so there are opportunities to shape growth along sustainable lines: this means DC height limit repeal, more TOD near existing Metro stations (e.g. Braddock Road is pretty dreary), and choice Metro extensions to do sprawl repair in Tysons and other sites that are ready for TOD. I just don't see how Dulles can be one of those sites - too far and sprawly.

by Alon Levy on Jul 19, 2013 4:32 pm • linkreport

As for TOD, Tysons is an obvious place to do it, but Dulles isn't as obvious.

Here's the thing-- an airport near a metro area requires a direct rail connection to the center of the city. This is, IMHO, a non-negotiable feature of such an airport.

by JustMe on Jul 19, 2013 4:41 pm • linkreport

the TOD site on Silver Line phase 2 are Reston (where RTC is already a WUP island, with potential for higher non auto mode share) Herndon (a pre auto era village center) and two proposed from scratch TOD zones in Loudoun.

Even if none of that ends up being true TOD, phase 2 contributes to TOD at Tysons - it makes it possible to achieve job growth at Tysons without as big an increase in auto trips to Tysons as would otherwise take place. The alternatives would have been to try to repair tysons with only residential and no more offices - I dont think the numbers work for that. Or a "gold standard" BRT in an attempt to get equivalent transit share - I dont know even gold standard BRT could match the transit share of heavy rail.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 19, 2013 4:45 pm • linkreport

If Tysons is supposed to be a transit-oriented commercial center, how can it be so if the Metro only extends downtown from there and not toward where a large chunk of people actually live?

A large chunk of the money for phase II is coming from increased Greenway tolls and so isn't available for other projects.

by MLD on Jul 19, 2013 4:46 pm • linkreport

Here's the thing-- an airport near a metro area requires a direct rail connection to the center of the city. This is, IMHO, a non-negotiable feature of such an airport.

Then let the airport pay for it out of air passenger fees. From the perspective of the transit network, airport access is perfectly negotiable, and often there are better ways to spend limited money. The JFK AirTrain for example is a total boondoggle: at current ridership, it cost $150,000 per daily rider in 2010 dollars, versus $23,000 for Second Avenue Subway Phase 1 according to ridership projections, and about $35,000 for the unfunded Phase 2 according to the original budget. In Los Angeles I can see a useful airport connector - LA Union Station-LAX via the Harbor Subdivision, with local trains serving Inglewood and South Central in addition to some intercity trains running express - but that's because the airport happens to be next to a good rail corridor. DCA is also next to a good rail corridor and is justifiably served. Dulles is not.

by Alon Levy on Jul 19, 2013 4:56 pm • linkreport

Dulles phase 2 is not an airport connector. Its a heavy rail line tying Tysons corner to the rest of the commerical corridor of which it is the eastern end, and which is also its most important residential feeder zone - Reston-Herndon-Eastern Loudoun. Some riders will access via park n ride, but as TOD grows - EXISTING development at RTC, and planned growth at Herndon, Innovation, and in Loudoun - the proportion accessing it by foot and bike will grow.

That it also serves the airport is a bonus (and one which helped justify MWAA allowing use of the DTR ROW)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 19, 2013 5:02 pm • linkreport

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-05-26/local/35457540_1_redevelopment-newest-rail-line-task-force

the above is actually at Wiehle ave, which is part of phase 1, but illustrate TOD impact west of tysons

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 19, 2013 5:04 pm • linkreport

Eventually, a major north-south road connecting Loudoun County to southern Prince William County will be built. It's just a matter of time, not if but when.

Substantial population growth is continuing in both counties and is unlikely to abate anytime soon. By 2020 the population of the two counties is projected to exceed 1 million. Robust growth, too, is continuing in adjacent Stafford and Fauquier counties, as well as the eastern counties of West Virginia. Following in the footsteps of this growth will come added political pressure (and power) for more road miles to be constructed, either expanded or new.

The pertinent question to ask is not if but when the Bi-County should be built. Is it truly needed now or in the near future? When placed in a needed soon paradigm, the proposed road doesn't make a lot of sense. The population growth is not yet there. But 25 hence, the picture may be much different. With this in mind, wouldn't it be wise to continue the planning process and set aside land, but postpone construction until the road is truly needed.

In the meantime, Northern Virginia, namely Fairfax County, is best served by pursuing development projects that enhance the region's major commercial centers, first and foremost Tysons. And this means moving beyond simply building roads, and more toward developing walkable, mixed-use communities. The number one project that would lift Tysons to economic powerhouse status is extending the Purple LIne across the Potomac through McLean into Tyson, with further expansion to either Vienna or Merrifield. The $1.5 billion allocated to build the Bi-County Parkway would go a long way in moving a Purple Line extension forward.

by Sage on Jul 19, 2013 5:08 pm • linkreport

@Alon Levy:
"Then let the airport pay for it out of air passenger fees."

Federal law prohibits airports from doing this. They can pay for a station if it serves the airport but they can't pay for the entire Phase II segment. Federal regulations limit what Passenger Facility Charges can be used to finance.

http://www.faa.gov/airports/resources/publications/federal_register_notices/media/pfc_69fr6366.pdf

by 202_cyclist on Jul 19, 2013 5:10 pm • linkreport

oh and BTW, Mr Levy, Mr Weiner now loves bikes and bike lanes, so I guess it wasn't principled opposition. Chuck Schumer seems to be strongly pro transit, if not enamored of the PPW bike lane

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 19, 2013 5:11 pm • linkreport

@Alon Levy:
"DCA is also next to a good rail corridor and is justifiably served. Dulles is not."

If the purpose of a rail connection to Dulles is just to serve the airport, then yes, perhaps it is not justifiably served. As I mentioned above, however, MWAA has 4,000 acres of land at Dulles and there will be three metro stations within 3 miles of the airport (http://www.dullesmetro.com/stations/). There are significant transit-oriented development opportunities at the airport.

At the same time, federal funding for large-hub airports will be constrained in the near and medium-term. As with other modes of transportation, local governments will be looked towards to finance more of their operating costs and capital investments. MWAA is going to have every incentive to development this land to ensure revenue-generating uses, rather than just have surface parking lots surrounding the airport.

by 202_cyclist on Jul 19, 2013 5:20 pm • linkreport

AWalkerInTheCity:
"Dulles phase 2 is not an airport connector. Its a heavy rail line tying Tysons corner to the rest of the commerical corridor of which it is the eastern end, and which is also its most important residential feeder zone - Reston-Herndon-Eastern Loudoun. Some riders will access via park n ride, but as TOD grows - EXISTING development at RTC, and planned growth at Herndon, Innovation, and in Loudoun - the proportion accessing it by foot and bike will grow."

Exactly right-- the purpose of the Silver line has been primarly to develop Tysons and the Reston-Dulles corridor, and second, provide a rail connection to the airport.

Admittedly, some of the stations in Loudoun County are difficult to justify but I suppose this is the price to pay in order to get their political support for the funding. I also think that the development around the Loudoun stations will certainly be denser than that found next to some of the outer Green line stations (Greenbelt, Branch Avenue). I seem to remember that Greenbelt has cow pastures within a 1/2 mile of the metro station.

by 202_cyclist on Jul 19, 2013 5:27 pm • linkreport

The JFK AirTrain for example is a total boondoggle

Which is significantly different in structure from the Silver Line. The JFK AirTrain is, at best, a local rail loop the allow travel within and around the airport. The Silver Line is a rail connect to Tyson's, Arlington, and Downtown DC. An analogy would be a direct rail line connecting JFK to Penn Station or Lower Manhattan, which would undoubtedly get a lot more passengers.

by JustMe on Jul 19, 2013 5:30 pm • linkreport

"I'm sorry, what is this 'Reagan Airport'? Who are these people?"

Inorite? I call JFK Idlewild, too, because I am just allergic to the names of random dead presidents.

by J.D. Hammond on Jul 19, 2013 5:30 pm • linkreport

A few points about decreased passenger traffic at Dulles:

• Dulles is a hub fortress for United; hence why fares are high and why passengers have been looking and going elsewhere

• the ICC has eased getting to and from BWI, drawing off some travelers from Frederick and upper Montgomery County who previously used Dulles; moreover, the principal air carrier at BWI, Southwest Airlines, is a tough competitor with a loyal following, and offers fares that are hard to beat

• the security screening system at Dulles still is not up to par, and needs improvement; this is an annoyance to all travelers, but particularly those on business with tight deadlines

• the merger between United and Continental produced a system with two major hubs on the East Coast, EWR and IAD; previously United fed its hub traffic through Dulles, but now there's several options

• due to the Great Recession, as well as rising fuel prices, the major airlines trimmed service to force up fares and to increase load factors; Dulles has felt the impact of this more sharply than many other airports because United has trimmed and trimmed

• the new outside-the-perimeter flights at Reagan National have bled some flights and traffic from Dulles; travelers who have business in DC itself prefer to fly into Reagan National as it's very convenient to downtown

As the population grows in Loudoun and Prince William counties as well as elsewhere, passenger numbers at Dulles will rebound and grow. The opening of the Silver Line will, of course, help too.

by Sage on Jul 19, 2013 5:41 pm • linkreport

According to PDF-p. 37 of this document, "The
introduction of the Silver Line by 2020 will have a significant effect on ridership. The new Silver Line stations would comprise approximately 44,000 daily boardings." The cost is $6.8 billion, which means that depending on what percentage of Silver Line trips end at preexisting stations, this is between $75,000 and $150,000 per daily rider.

Granted, there are worse ways to use the money, like burning it, and even worse ones, like building the Bi-County Parkway (because what NoVa really needs is more pollution infrastructure, or something). But there are way better ones.

As for TOD, I'm not aware of successful TOD this far away from preexisting density. The main examples of success I know are Crystal City and Arlington in Washington, and Metrotown in Vancouver. These are about 10 km from the traditional primary CBD, give or take. Dulles is 40 km away.

by Alon Levy on Jul 19, 2013 5:58 pm • linkreport

"I'm sorry, what is this 'Reagan Airport'? Who are these people?"

"I call JFK Idlewild, too, because I am just allergic to the names of random dead presidents."

That's OK, I still call my local drugstore "Peoples" even though CVS bought them 19 years ago, and the actual building wasn't built until 5 years after they were gone.

by Frank IBC on Jul 19, 2013 5:59 pm • linkreport

@Richard B Actually, you do need to go through Customs to leave the USVI. While they are a US territory, they're not in the US customs zone. St Thomas happens to have its own customs station because of the flights to other islands/countries.

I'm also just generally confused by the number of people who say Dulles is so difficult to get to and security is a problem. I've never had a problem with security at Dulles--unlike Reagan--and many of us in NoVA prefer Dulles. There are various buses from different metro stations that go the airport. Also, I never understand the lovefest with BWI...talk about an airport that's difficult to get to. Not in terms of roads, but if you need to get to it during any normal time of day (not early morning or late night), who knows how long it will take. Thanks, but no thanks, I'll use Dulles.

by Restonite on Jul 19, 2013 8:48 pm • linkreport

DCA is pretty unlikely to ever greatly expand its capacity, in part because of the limited approaches. IAD's proximity to job creation corridors and the new Silver L:ine should maintain its position if not grow it in the long run. The domestic trade would improve if United made known its commitment to the airport--it's the smallest of United's pre-merger hubs and has never made much money. Ironically, the Cleveland hub (which was profitable) that Continetal took over was the foundation moved to IAD to take advantage of DC's greater potential for passenger growth.

The drawback to IAD as a freight destination is that the logistics hubs for the region closer to BWI. Some very large airports are surprisingly weak in the freight arena--ATL, which is #1 in passenger traffic, is one of these. ATL is near what used to be a hub for Atlanta area logistics, but with the decline of of areas S of downtown, most of that has shifted northward and the airport is close to one of the most congested corridors in the metro area which adds to its unattractiveness. The logical place for new logistics development near ATL has tremendous brownfield issues which means that even the less congested, genetrifying areas near ATL can't help it as a freight destination despite Atlanta's long regional role as a distribution center in the South. At best IAD could better serve the sectors that are in NoVa.

More roads, at this late date, won't help NoVa traffic or the compensate for IAD's regional limitations as a freight destination. It will take a long time for Tyson's to be anything other than the dystopia it is now and places with less potential for dnesity (most of post-50s NoVa) will require a rethinking of infrastructure rather than dusting off long planned highway plans. But an op-ed needs to provide a vision of what that might take and how it can accomodate people better than what exists now.

by Rich on Jul 19, 2013 9:04 pm • linkreport

scratchy, yeah that W&OD railroad thing is a real heartbreaker. They actually built a spur from the W&OD all the way to the current airport site - then they tore it out when construction was done. If only we knew then what we know now. Somewhere I've seen a photo of the railspur terminal at the airport, but I can no longer find it. I love the W&OD trail, but if that were still an active rail line, I think the whole region would be better off.

by David C on Jul 19, 2013 10:10 pm • linkreport

@Rich 9:04 pm

"The domestic trade would improve if United made known its commitment to the airport--it's the smallest of United's pre-merger hubs and has never made much money."

Yes, the smallest pre-merger hub, but not a money-maker? Do you have reference to back up that claim? I've heard that IAD is quite lucrative for United.

by Sage on Jul 19, 2013 10:53 pm • linkreport

@Alon Levy. the estimated cost for the complete Silver Line extension is $5.6 to $5.8 billion. With the low bid for the primary Phase 2 construction contract, the total may come a little lower. No need to add an extra billion to the cost of the Silver Line. Which will be a lot more than just a line to the airport, but a major Metro line in its own right with 10 other new stations.

by AlanF on Jul 20, 2013 12:11 am • linkreport

@Alon Levy

Given there are parts of the existing metro system that don't yet have TOD, you have to think on a 20-30 year horizon for the kind of development being contemplated. With that said, even the number of riders anticipated in the short term mean a corresponding reduction of singe occupancy vehicles on existing roads, which translates to more room to roam for those whoc continue to choose to drive.

by Andrew on Jul 20, 2013 7:22 am • linkreport

I fly in and out of the DC area several times a yea. In the last twenty years, I have made perhaps 40 trips.

Everyone of them has been through BWI. I am outside the DC National perimeter, and I will not pay taxi fares in & out of Dulles.

I try to arrive & leave on weekday so I can take MARC (120 mph for $6 :-) but Amtrak will do on weekends. A short free shuttle and then a quick train ride, use the bathroom if I need to at Union Station and then turn right and down to Metro.

Southwest in & out of BWI (great service & low fares, no cancellation fees) and time to my hotel is comparable to Dulles.

by Alan Drake (AlanfromBigEasy) on Jul 20, 2013 7:40 am • linkreport

Dulles is suffering from the stranglehold that United has on domestic flights. Discount airlines are almost non-existent. Southwest and Jetblue have largely pulled out of Dulles for National. Consolidation of the legacy airlines is also a factor. United uses Dulles as a fortress hub, jacking up fares while deterring other airlines from going there. Dulles will continue to lag behind National where fares are often cheaper. As funding cuts reduce spending for DOD, CIA and other intel agencies based in N/VA, traffic will be reduced even further. Unemployment is rising in VA, all of which bodes ill for Dulles.

by Smith on Jul 20, 2013 8:10 am • linkreport

Alon Levy

are you familiar with Reston Town Center? Its already got most of the characteristics of TOD, minus the transit.

also thats 2020 ridership. Phase 2 will not be completed till 2018. So thats only two years after phase 2 is opened, and its relatively early in the Tysons redevelopment project. Ridership will increase from that.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 20, 2013 9:51 am • linkreport

I've been flying to and from SFO a lot lately. The direct flight to SFO from National is pretty decent, timing wise (leave around 8 AM, arrive around 11 AM PT) but the return kind of sucks for me (leave around 1:30 PM PT, arrive around 10 PM ET). So yesterday I tried flying into Dulles, since there are a lot more nonstops.

The airport seems pretty hostile to people using it as an endpoint, though, and it took me a solid 45 minutes to get from my gate to the exit. There was no signage at all directing me to the exit, so I went further into the D terminal which then required me to take a "mobile lounge," i.e. shuttle bus, to reach the main terminal. Once I got there I still didn't see any signs pointing to the exit but I at least picked the right general direction and made it out.

It seems like the airport is still oriented toward people transferring there en route to elsewhere. So either they should accept that role or actually do something to make it friendlier to people trying to get in and out. As it is, I'm back to flying through DCA, since for all its troubles I really like (a) being able to exit quickly and (b) having the option of either taking a cab or riding Metro to and from the airport. Not to mention that it's a lot closer to my house.

In the end I got home a bit earlier but I don't think it was worth the hassle.

by Gray on Jul 20, 2013 12:00 pm • linkreport

Gray: Maybe you're a United elite and set on using them, but Virgin America has an 8 am flight from SFO to DCA, landing at 4:10 pm. Their DCA-SFO flight leaves at 5:05 and lands at 8:05.

Personally, when I go to SF I have the opposite preferences from you, since I don't like early morning flights - I'd like to fly out in the evening, like on the Virgin America 5:05, but not have to wake up so early to come home, and would prefer the United 1:30 pm getting back before bedtime here. (Or, better yet, an 11 am landing at 7:30ish, but there isn't one.) But everyone is different!

by David Alpert on Jul 20, 2013 1:51 pm • linkreport

Imagine what we could do with the space currently wasted on the airport if we got people to rely on Dulles instead.

And imagine how much quieter Rosslyn and NW DC would be as well.
-----

And we could have taller buildings - and more people - in Rosslyn and Crystal city.

by ceefer66 on Jul 20, 2013 4:19 pm • linkreport

@DA

My wife and I are heading to SF in September for vacation, and are heading out early Saturday morning, and then taking the red-eye home after the OSU vs CAL game the following Saturday. Seems great to us to get into SF early in the day, and then get to take advantage of the whole day and the red-eye home.

by Kyle-W on Jul 20, 2013 5:19 pm • linkreport

Connections to Dulles are a real problem for business travellers. If I am meeting in London, I can get an express train directly to Heathrow. But if clients from London are meeting in DC, there is no express to DCA, no train at all, and the airport road only starts at Tysons. So, a 30 minute trip can easily balloon to 90minutes. Then there is the mess of the TSA etc. Most leave by 5pm to catch an 830pm flight, which is exceesive.

by SJE on Jul 20, 2013 5:31 pm • linkreport

IF a $1.5 billion parkway that makes it easier to reach Dulles is a poor idea, then why would it be a good idea to spend another $2.7 billion to extend a train to Dulles? Especially insofar as the train is useful to a much narrower range of people -- those who live near the rail network, namely -- its higher costs seem to make it a poorer deal than the road.

If the $2.7 billion train -- $5.8 billion if you count Phase I as well -- is really about spurring taller development in Reston, then why is it bad to instead spend $1.5 billion on a new road that will also allow new development in other areas? Unlike the costly, family-unfriendly sort of urban density that the train would permit, the road would probably allow more reasonably priced single-family housing with yards, something we know is in short supply in the region.

And as the road is paid for by taxes paid by people who drive on it, while the train really ought to be funded by higher property tax revenue on the increased values within walking distance of the stations, how exactly is the road a problem for anyone?

by I Also 95 on Jul 20, 2013 5:51 pm • linkreport

We'll use Dulles voluntarily when the silver line is running[1]. I currently only use it when travelling on business where the decisions are based on which airports our selected carriers use rather than something I have a say in but the limited transit options and perpetual gridlock mean that we fly DCA unless it's massively more expensive and then use BWI. For most of the eastern seaboard, it's just not worth your local travel taking longer than the flight!

by Chris Adams on Jul 20, 2013 7:11 pm • linkreport

David Alpert: Yeah, I need the morning flight out to SFO, so I can't get a roundtrip out of Virgin.

I think my preferences are very similar to yours. I don't mind the midday flight out of SF, but would like to be back a few hours before 10. The 11 AM that lands at Dulles around 7 PM would be pretty ideal, except that it's Dulles. After experiencing how hard it is to get home from Dulles though, I'll just accept the limited offerings to DCA from now on. I might reconsider post-Silver Line, but even then they really need to work on making it possible to enter and exit the airport quickly to make it worth traveling all the way out there.

by Gray on Jul 20, 2013 8:15 pm • linkreport

Now that loudoun is committed the line will extend beyond Dulles. This will really cement the silver line as Tyson's transit link that will also help you get to the airport. It is expensive but that's because it's going through an already incredibly dense area compared to the bi county parkway which is mainly upgrading of intersections and building of new lanes through low density areas (and the Manassas battlefield).

There is a property tax surcharge to pay for many Tyson's improvements and that's also how Loudoun will finance its stations as well. Rail is financed by fares and taxes of people who ride it. It's a fallacy to think that roads are not massively subsidized.

It seems to me that there are way more houses with yards in NoVA (especially in Loudoun and PWC) than whatever is deemed "family unfriendly" since apparently no families ever live in anything but a house with a big yard.

Still, the main difference is the most of the bi county parkway is already built, but there are some lights and weird turns. That takes care of some cost compared to brand new everything needed for the silver line. Moreover, there are other projects in already crowded areas that could use $1.5B before a road on the extreme western edge of the metro area.

by drumz on Jul 20, 2013 10:45 pm • linkreport

Anyone who doesn't think there is north-south traffic in the Northern Virginia suburbs on both sides of Dulles Airport, has never driven on Routes 28 or 15 during the afternoon rush hour. Forget about future growth...if you look at APPROVED development in Loudoun County in the Ashburn, Brambleton, South Riding Area, its obvious that traffic on these roads is only going to increase. In my opinion traffic on 28 south is far worse than any afternoon commute inside the beltway in Virginia, 66 east towards Arlington a close second or tie.

That aside, one of the reasons for the calamity on Route 28 is that they turned it into a limited-access highway right up until the interchange with 66. Until they solve that problem with another interchange, which will cost well over $100,000,000 by the times its all said and done, they don't need to be talking about any other road widening or building projects. And...they should be putting the cost of any new roads at least partially on the developers who want to build there. Thats how they are going to build a street grid in Tysons...if it ever happens.

by xtr657 on Jul 21, 2013 8:33 am • linkreport

The cost is $6.8 billion, which means that depending on what percentage of Silver Line trips end at preexisting stations, this is between $75,000 and $150,000 per daily rider.

Granted, there are worse ways to use the money, like burning it,

The cost is more like $5.8B. The resulting property value increase for *just Tysons* is $5B. That's a really good ROI for an infrastructure project.

And as the road is paid for by taxes paid by people who drive on it, while the train really ought to be funded by higher property tax revenue on the increased values within walking distance of the stations

The train and other related improvements are primarily financed through increased tolls on the road (DTR) that runs along the train and various special tax districts near the metro stations that work exactly like you describe above.

As for TOD, I'm not aware of successful TOD this far away from preexisting density.

The development of Tysons into TOD is the first of its kind, which if successful, will be used as a model for other edge cities across the country. While there's no guarantee of success, a lot of "smart" institutional money is betting on a successful transformation.

In my opinion traffic on 28 south is far worse than any afternoon commute inside the beltway in Virginia, 66 east towards Arlington a close second or tie.

Check googlemaps traffic during the afternoon and you'll find that 66 in the *reverse* commute direction and the American Legion Bridge are typically the biggest bottlnecks in NOVA.

by Falls Church on Jul 21, 2013 12:09 pm • linkreport

"The train and other related improvements are primarily financed through increased tolls on the road (DTR) that runs along the train."

That seems particularly perverse. You peel yet higher tolls out of drivers to fund the mode that they are not taking, instead of spending the money to increase road capacity. Yes, I grasp that at least notionally, the train takes cars off the road. Right: Except there are something like 140,000 cars a day on the toll road, with people still moving to exurbia. If all the train will carry is 44,000 a day and this is the optimistic case of new, congested downtowns springing up to support that traffic, we can suppose the drivers will see no relief in exchange for paying tolls projected to hit $11 a day.

So, no: The train is being paid for by people who drive, leave aside what other Virginia taxpayers are shelling out for an indulgence they'll seldom use.

I am not here raging against rail transit, which has its place. Rather, it is a poor use of money when it substitutes for adequate road-building in areas growing for precisely the reason that they offer land enough to let people get around by driving -- if only the pavement were laid.

by I Also 95 on Jul 21, 2013 3:58 pm • linkreport

Where does rail have its place if its not straight through the center of Northern Vas biggest job center?

The 11$ tolls (that's a round trip) is on the greenway and MWAA doesn't set those rates. MWAAs toll went up to about $2.25 which is cheaper than a metro ride I at least was glad to pay when my wife commuted that way.

But "who pays" probably isn't the best way to measure project worthiness (especially here since its MWAAs project and they own the road that had its tolls raised) but rather how efficient it is at moving people and on that count rail does far better in dense environments.

by drumz on Jul 21, 2013 8:17 pm • linkreport

The $11 I mention is not today's toll to Leesburg but, rather, the DTR toll projected in last year's study by CD Smith: http://bit.ly/12ai8vp

Again, I remind you, the subject is not how many people can be shuttled through what authorities hope becomes a Manhattan-density neo-downtown spurred by rail. The subject is whether the Bi-County Parkway is a waste because, as Mr. Alpert contended, people aren't choosing to fly Dulles quite enough for some authority's satisfaction.

The question, thus, is what paying customers want. People can choose. They may choose downtown densities with rail -- see Ballston through Rosslyn. They may choose low-density suburbia in places where the Bi-County Parkway will help them move around. One choice, rail, exists adequately. The other, however, is plainly underserved by roads, given daily congestion.

But if serving one choice with a costly road is a waste, then surely inducing yet another choice -- downtownization along the DTR via Metro -- at far greater expense is still more questionable.

Especially since a parkway does not limit users to travel just to nodes on a set of lines, as rail does, but integrates into a much more widespread network and lets users link to roads that permit them drive to nearly anywhere in the region: A road is choice made concrete. (Yes, intended.)

Rail has its place, but here, in the underhighwayed land of 5-hour rush hours, new pavement has a bigger one.

by I Also 95 on Jul 21, 2013 8:44 pm • linkreport

Well then let's stick to the Bi-county parkway. It makes sense in a world with uncontstrained budgets, somewhat. You still must deal with loss of parkland at Manassas battlefield and other issues. But as you said, we live in a place with 5 hour rush hours. Building anything in the far western part of the region won't help problems in fairfax (where far more people live) therefore projects that have te potential at moving far more people with far less environmental impact should have priority over large roads in less populated areas.

In both scenarios you are seeing lots of development. With density + rail projects in places like Tyson's you see greater marginal tax revenue, less loss of green space, lessens environmental impact and less increases in traffic. This is what happened in Arlington. Plus you're able to better preserve the space for houses and yards that many people do value.

Meanwhile development will come to the bicounty parkway but the low density/ease o movement model has finishing returns as more and more development sprouts along the corridor and brings car traffic. And since alternative modes if transportation aren't considered in this model it pretty much limits you to only traveling via car which not everyone can do.

by drumz on Jul 21, 2013 8:59 pm • linkreport

And I can't check the CD smith report on this machine so I don't know under what conditions the toll would hit that.

by drumz on Jul 21, 2013 9:06 pm • linkreport

"The train and other related improvements are primarily financed through increased tolls on the road (DTR) that runs along the train."

That seems particularly perverse. You peel yet higher tolls out of drivers to fund the mode that they are not taking, instead of spending the money to increase road capacity.

The fairest way of funding the Silver Line would be to tax the property along the Silver Line/DTR rather than increase DTR tolls. Unfortunately, that wasn't politically feasible except in a few spots like Tysons but even there, the special tax district should cover more of the cost. That said, the vast majority of DTR users are either going to or coming from property near the DTR/Silver Line, so tolls on the DTR are a reasonable proxy for taxes on property along the DTR.

Bacon's Rebellion has a good analysis of why the Silver Line should have been funded more with special tax districts rather than tolls:

And who will benefit from Rail to Dulles? Commuters will receive some benefit, to be sure, in the form of reduced congestion. The METRO line, which will run down the Toll Road right of way, will divert some traffic from the highway to rail cars. But the biggest winners will be the owners of land near the 11 new rail stations...Add it all up, and the increase in property values for just Tysons Corner could well exceed $5 billion. But the contribution of commercial property owners to Phase 1 METRO financing would be capped at $400 million...sufficient economic value will be created that everyone can come out a winner. There is no need to plunder the mostly middle-class commuters who ride the Dulles Toll Road. The tools exist to make commercial property owners pay the full cost of the project and still come out ahead...it would near-criminal folly for state and county policy makers allow landowners like Macerich to reap 90 percent of the economic value created by construction of the rail line paid for with 90 percent public funds.

http://www.baconsrebellion.com/Issues06/05-15/Bacon.php

by Falls Church on Jul 22, 2013 12:32 pm • linkreport

Originally posted by Frank IBC: "It seems that a better approach would be to build the Manassas Bypass between Prince William Parkway and I-66, and upgrade I-66 between there and VA 28."

Amen to this! If you want to improve access to Dulles from Prince William County, a bypass from PW Parkway to connect with 28 near Centreville is the way to go. It could be done much like Rock Creek Parkway through NVRPA land with a bike trail parallel and graceful arched bridges (again, think the bridges in Rock Creek Park, similar topography). As is, people line up like sardines every morning to snake along Clifton Road (over 14,000 cars a day cross the 2-lanes Yates Ford Bridge!!) By comparison, VA is spending billions to construction a new Richmond to Norfolk highway paralleling 460, which has LESS volume than this 2-lane road in Nova.

I'm not sure I have an opinion either way with regards to a Bi-County Parkway. Admittedly, it will be a housing development and airport traffic tool and not an element to ease existing congestion, so objectors are right in that sense. But on the other hand, north south access to Dulles is difficult, especially for travelers coming from central VA or points north.

With regards to why people do not use Dulles, that is easy. Once you are actually at the airport, it takes FOREVER to get from the parking lot to your gate. At National, you park or metro, get out of your car, and you are at your gate in 5 or 10 minutes after security. At Dulles this is at least half an hour...it takes forever to walk around that enormous place.

by stevek_occoquan on Jul 22, 2013 10:47 pm • linkreport

Amen to Stevek Occoquan's plea. Yates Ford has no business being the reliever for a crash-plugged I-95, but it is because 28 south of Centreville is madness.

by I Also 95 on Jul 22, 2013 11:21 pm • linkreport

@ stevek_occoquan
@ I Also 95
@ Frank IBC

Take a look at the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority improvements list for FY14...Widen 28 from Route 50 to DTR & Widen 28 from Linton Hall Rd to Faquier County Line...That 56.1 million could go a long way to improving Route 28 South of Centreville.

http://www.thenovaauthority.org/PDFs/HB2313%20Working%20Groups/7.10.13/NVTA_PIWG_FY14_List_Summary_07-08-13.pdf

by mcs on Jul 23, 2013 11:33 am • linkreport

With regards to Route 28 in PW County just south of the Fairfax line, I think there are simply too many property owners to make substational volume improvements without real complications. A bypass would make the most sense, and the most effective connection would be from aproximately PW parkway at Buckhall, cross Bull Run on count owned land over to NVRPA land between Hemlock Overlook and Centreville, then connect to a 28 south of Centreville improved to freeway standards. The bypass section could be built to conform to the topogrophy and a 40 mph speed limit much like Rock Cr3ekparkway with 2 lanes in each direction and a bike trail snaking along Bull Run.

Bull Run Parkway.

by stevek occoquan on Jul 23, 2013 2:04 pm • linkreport

@ stevek occoquan

Below is a link to my thoughts on a solution to traffic issues on Route 28.

http://g.co/maps/reaas

There needs to be transit element to connect PWC to activity centers in Fairfax and Arlington County.

by mcs on Jul 23, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.

or