Greater Greater Washington

How might the new Metro loop work?

Last week, WMATA planners released a proposal for a new Metro loop downtown to help relieve capacity issues on the other lines. How might this new line operate? Details are scarce, but we can talk about some possibilities.


Map from WMATA.

The proposal is to build a new Metro line that would loop through downtown DC. Starting at Rosslyn, the tracks would tunnel under the Potomac to Georgetown. They would then follow M Street and New Jersey Avenue to Union Station. The tracks would turn south along 2nd Street to cross Capitol Hill, and then parallel the Green Line under I Street. The loop would complete itself by joining to the existing Yellow Line bridge over the Potomac River.

Metro's proposal indicates that the loop line will be fed by the current Blue and Yellow lines, which would enter at the Pentagon station, and a new "express" line in northern Arlington, which would enter near Rosslyn.

Why build a loop?

Metro's team of planners looked at a variety of solutions to the core capacity issues, including new lines. The alternative they settled on was this loop. Why did they pick a loop?

Essentially, a loop solves most of Metro's problems relatively cheaply. The primary issue facing Metro over the next few decades is core capacity, espcially in terms of train throughput. The Blue/Orange subway through downtown is at capacity, and no more trains can be added.

Untangling the Gordian knot at Rosslyn is the most complicated part of this. What is most clear is that Metro needs a new Potomac crossing near Rosslyn to increase capacity on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines.

But Metro also needs more capacity around the southern side of downtown DC. Because the Green and Yellow Lines share the 7th Street subway, which is operating very close to capacity, each line can only be increased at the expense of the other line. In other words, WMATA can't add Green trains without subtracting Yellow trains. So Metro also needs a new subway for the Yellow Line.

However, Metro's studies found little need for a new subways outside of downtown based on the expected travel patterns in and density of those areas in 2040.

Essentially, Metro sees the need to build an east-west subway across the north side of downtown and a north-south subway across the east side of downtown. But they don't see a need for the east-west subway to continue east or the north-south subway to continue north.

For that reason, Metro thinks it makes the most sense to just connect the east-west and north-south subways at Union Station and operate them as a loop.

Operating patterns

It's not exactly clear how the new subway loop would work, and since this project is decades away from completion much could change. But there are a few likely ways it could operate.

For now, let's only consider the Blue and Yellow Lines. We will discuss the proposed North Arlington Express line in a later post.

Operating an inner and outer loop is one of the obvious choices. In this scenario, one of the lines would run clockwise around the inner loop, while the other line runs counterclockwise around the outer loop.


Scenario 1. All maps by the author unless noted.

So Yellow Line trains coming from Huntington would cross the Potomac north of the Pentagon, as they do today. Then they would continue east to Capitol Hill before turning north toward Union Station and going around the loop to return to Huntington via Arlington Cemetery. Blue Line trains would do the reverse.

One of the advantages of operating the Yellow and Blue lines as a loop through downtown is that the loop can actually carry more capacity. If the Blue and Yellow didn't need to share tracks with the Orange and Green lines, each could run at a frequency of 13 trains per hour (TPH) in each direction. And that means that the outer loop would have 13 TPH, as would the inner loop. Since Metro's track capacity is 26 TPH, there's actually room to add two more lines to the loop.

One of the disadvantages, though, is that riders who have a short one-seat ride in the morning have a long one-seat ride in the afternoon. Someone who commutes from Franconia to Georgetown has a pretty direct trip in the morning. But in the afternoon, they either have to face a long ride on the Blue Line via Union Station and Potomac Park or take a two-seat ride by riding the Yellow Line to Pentagon and changing.

"Transforming" loop trains would resolve that problem, though it would be more complicated and difficult to show on the map.


Scenario 2.

In this scenario, a Blue Line train leaving Franconia would run as far as Pentagon and then continue toward Arlington Cemetery. At some point on its journey, the train would magically transform into a Yellow Line train bound for Huntington. Yellow Line trains would operate similarly, becoming Blue Line trains during their journeys.

This way, a person who commutes from Franconia to Georgetown would have a short, one-seat ride on the Blue Line in both directions. The same would be the case for Yellow Line riders.

For anyone waiting for trains at a station on the loop, trains on the outer loop would always be bound for Franconia, but would have come from Huntington. On the inner loop, trains would be bound for Huntington, but would have come from Franconia.

To avoid confusion, trains bound for the loop would just be signed with their color and a destination of "Downtown." The change of color and destination on the loop wouldn't matter for the passengers on board, since the train would continue around the loop. This is, incidentally, what Chicago L trains do as they arrive at the Loop: they change their headsigns from "Loop" to whichever destination they're headed back to.

Alternatively, trains don't have to "loop" all the way around the loop. Instead, the Blue and Yellow lines could just be interlined on the new tracks.


Scenario 3.

In this scenario, Blue Line trains would operate onto the new tracks for a certain distance. On the map above, I've shown trains going as far as 4th & Eye, but they could stop at any point along the line (Union Station, for example). Then trains turn back around and run over the same tracks back to Franconia. Yellow Line trains would operate similarly.

Anywhere the two lines overlap would max out the capacity of the new line, just as the other lines in the core are currently topped out at 26 TPH. The reason this is true for the interlined scenario but not for the loop scenarios is because in the loop scenarios, trains run around the loop once. In the interlined scenario trains run over the tracks twice, once inbound and once again outbound.

North Arlington Express trains

As noted above, the new loop would also carry trains from the North Arlington Express line. We haven't discussed those trains yet, but we're going to cover how they might work with the loop in another post soon.

Metro's vision for the future is still decades away, so we have no idea what the final product will look like exactly. It might look like one of the operating patterns shown here, but then again, lots can change in 25 years. But Metro's core is approaching capacity, and expansion is desperately needed. Metro's new vision will set the stage for building the system's next generation.

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

Comments

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My one question: those pedestrian tunnels linking stations shown on the maps, are those actual plans? A real tunnel connecting F North, F West, and Longfellow? The same for the other two? Actual pedestrian tunnels?

I've always thought that a pedestrian tunnel linking Metro Center and Gallery Place would be a huge boon tot he system.

by RDHD on Dec 12, 2013 10:34 am • linkreport

I really think the loop should go a little further north, hitting Dupont Circle instead of Farragut North. Farragut square is dense and there is a lot of demand there, but it isn't going to develop much further, even if you do change the height limit. In fact more mixed use buildings are replacing some of the pure office locations which will decrease the demand in the area.

by Richard on Dec 12, 2013 10:35 am • linkreport

A ped tunnel between F north/west and one between Chinatown/Metro center is in the planning. They would be pretty expensive and thus difficult to finance unless they are added into the price of a new station.

I really hope they do a good job with union station, with plenty of exits that actually take you to the VRE and MARC commuter platforms more directly instead of leaving you with a 15 minute walk through the massive(but beautiful) train station.

by Richard on Dec 12, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

@RDHD: Real pedestrian tunnels at Farragut and Metro Center/Gallery Place are actually in the Momentum plans, which are intended to be carried out before these expansion items. Of course, the problem is always finding money to pay for those plans.

by Gray on Dec 12, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

Why does Virginia get the Silver Line as well as this proposal for a new loop and Maryland is getting nothing new (from WMATA)? Is the red line not busy enough?

by bk on Dec 12, 2013 10:41 am • linkreport

Or you let Yellow and Blue lines alternate between Franconia-Springfield and Huntington as an end station. Or, you just change trains in the Pentagon.

by Jasper on Dec 12, 2013 10:43 am • linkreport

Really, similar to option 3, is to end each line at Union Station. It wouldn't operate as a loop, but it would make the train signage much easier (yellow and blue line trains would each have "Union Station" as their destination inbound, and outbound they would have Franconia and Hunington outbound. The map would be clear.

With no overlap of yellow/blue on the loop you don't lose capacity, you can run yellow and blue at 13 TPH leaving room for another line (silver/orange express for instance!). The only downside would be a person going from say Supreme Court to Georgetown would have a two-seat ride.

by Jim D on Dec 12, 2013 10:43 am • linkreport

@bk

I had the same thought, but if you think about it, VA is much much closer to the dense parts of DC than any part of MD. Where would an alternate red line go? MD is pretty well covered by metro.

by Nick on Dec 12, 2013 10:45 am • linkreport

I like scenario #2. It seems to me the logical location for changing colors would be Union Station. It's roughly half way, it connects to the Red, and it's a well-known landmark. It makes sense for a train to advertise itself as terminating at Union Station because there is (and will be even more) many transit connections there.

by dcmike on Dec 12, 2013 10:50 am • linkreport

@bk
Why does Virginia get the Silver Line as well as this proposal for a new loop and Maryland is getting nothing new (from WMATA)? Is the red line not busy enough?

Because MD has so many underdeveloped metro stations in PG county. MD is currently trying to fund the purple line by itself that should help a lot.

The loop will also really help the Chinatown transfer, which is a horrendous transfer that affects mostly MD commuters(and NE DC residents)

I would expect that the loop, as proposed would be funded mostly by DC and VA. Something like DC 50% VA 40% MD 10% or DC 50% VA 35% MD 15%

by Richard on Dec 12, 2013 10:52 am • linkreport

With regards to option 1 (I think easily the least confusing option), while the one-seat ride is desirable, as the system grows more complex, you may just need to let the riders know that a transfer may be involved in their trip.

If the frequency is there (and hopefully frequency across all of the NOVA lines can be increased with these additions in capacity), the transfers won't be too daunting.

by Former MPC on Dec 12, 2013 10:54 am • linkreport

@dcmike essentially the same as what I proposed...although instead of turning around at Union Station, the trains go through Union Station. Would look the same on the map and on the train signage. The only difference is people could go from that hypothetical example I had of Sumpreme Court to Georgetown without chaning trains. However I'm not sure how on the map you could show the trains go through Union Station if they are chaning colors. A rider unfamiliar may get off there expecting to change trains.

by Jim D on Dec 12, 2013 10:54 am • linkreport

@bk and @nick, WMATA had nothing to do with the Silver Line. The construction and planning is paid for by the MWAA, and operating it will come from VA's portion of the annual subsidy.

As for why MD isn't getting any new trackage, this was discussed in the article:

However, Metro's studies found little need for a new subways outside of downtown based on the expected travel patterns in and density of those areas in 2040.

by dcmike on Dec 12, 2013 10:54 am • linkreport

Great work spelling this out, Matt. I was thinking some of the same issues. What might be clearest for passengers is the Yellow=Outer Loop, Blue=Inner Loop concept. Just as you've drawn them in your Scenario 1.

I could see the Orange/Silver express service doing the same thing on top of Scenario 1. Orange/Silver Express split at the new Rosslyn station. , Silver=Inner Loop (to Georgetown First), and Orange=Outer Loop (to Arlington first). They would also have to have a new Pentagon station annex as shown on Metro's map for Orange/Silver service there, to complete the loop.

Total capacity is 26 trains per hour in any one direction. Thus, Loop service in any direction would have a maximum service of 4-5 min headways.

Give 13 TPH to Orange/Silver. Give 13 TPH to Blue/Yellow.

Evenly split, the maximum service would look like this.

From Rosslyn (all four lines):

Orange Express (Outer Loop to Arlington), 6 TPH = 10 Min Headways.
Blue Line (Outer Loop to Arlington) 7 TPH = 8-9 Min Headways
Silver Express (Inner Loop to Georgetown) 7 TPH = 8-9 Min Headways
Yellow Line (Inner Loop to Georgetown) 6 TPH = 10 min headways

Altnernatively, in terms of Loop service, from Rossyln:

Orange X/Blue (Outer Loop to Arlington), 13 TPH = 4-5 min headways
Silver X / Yellow (Inner Loop to Arlington), 13 TPG = 4-5 min headways

Looks pretty interesting.

by Michael on Dec 12, 2013 10:55 am • linkreport

@dcmike
I like scenario #2. It seems to me the logical location for changing colors would be Union Station. It's roughly half way, it connects to the Red, and it's a well-known landmark. It makes sense for a train to advertise itself as terminating at Union Station because there is (and will be even more) many transit connections there.

Agree
Union Station would be the obvious choice even if you go with option 1# You wouldn't announce a northbound yellow line train at King Street as going to Franconia.

In almost any systems you would want to announce trains as going to some midpoint in the system(like union station) and then have it change. You could have it transfer destination multiple times enroute. You could also list multiple stations served.

It would also probably be nice to note somewhere that trains do not go out of service at particular station listed.

by Richard on Dec 12, 2013 10:57 am • linkreport

Awesome work - looking forward to the future post including the orange/silver lines.

I could see including pocket tracks so you could build this loop and operate scenario 3, and then add in the express orange/silver trains later.

Scenario 2 could also be accomplished by diagramming and operating the route as the initial blue/orange lines were in 1980. Blue trains would start at Huntington and end at Franconia, Yellow trains would start at Franconia and end at Huntington. So someone would take a Yellow train to work and a Blue train home, if you live on one of the branches. Not sure if that is less confusing or not.

by MLD on Dec 12, 2013 10:57 am • linkreport

Also, I worry about losing the Pentagon to L'Enfant route via the Yellow Line. Couldn't they run either 3rd Yellow Line train to mid-town via L'Enfant?

by Former MPC on Dec 12, 2013 10:57 am • linkreport

@Jim D, I agree (I didn't see your reply before I posted). I concur trains should not turn around, but rather simply change colors. Yes it may be difficult to convey this to visitors but I think on-board announcements and signage would mostly tackle the confusion.

by dcmike on Dec 12, 2013 10:58 am • linkreport

Why does Virginia get the Silver Line as well as this proposal for a new loop and Maryland is getting nothing new (from WMATA)? Is the red line not busy enough?

First, VA paid for the Silver Line within the state. While the idea of a Metro line to Dulles has always been out there, it was VA actors that got the deal done, not WMATA (hence, why MWAA is building it).

Second, the reason WMATA is promoting an investment in the core is that any future extensions or expansions cannot happen unless we increase system capacity in the core. That's ultimately what this loop proposal is looking to solve.

by Alex B. on Dec 12, 2013 10:58 am • linkreport

It also might be time to retire color-only based systems, and introduce a color to represent trunk route, and then a letter/number to signify service.

by Former MPC on Dec 12, 2013 10:59 am • linkreport

Yellow Line to Midtown via L'Enfant
Yellow Line to Midtown, Northern VA via Loop

I think that people could easily interpret that distinction.

by Former MPC on Dec 12, 2013 11:15 am • linkreport

Farragut North/West Ped Tunnel: http://wmata.com/about_metro/docs/PD_Farragut_Final_082304_Drawings.pdf

by recyclist on Dec 12, 2013 11:15 am • linkreport

Really, similar to option 3, is to end each line at Union Station. It wouldn't operate as a loop, but it would make the train signage much easier (yellow and blue line trains would each have "Union Station" as their destination inbound, and outbound they would have Franconia and Hunington outbound. The map would be clear.

Yes - and depending on how Metro built the actual track, you could preserve the opportunity to extend both the Yellow and Blue lines to the North and East, respectively.

For example, if you built a four-track station at Union Station (or whatever the overlap point may be), you wouldn't have to worry about 'stealing' capacity from the other line. You could have both Blue and Yellow lines terminate there, but provide cross-platform transfers for those wanting to continue on the loop (similar to how London's Circle Line is no longer a Circle, but allows an easy transfer at Edgeware Road).

by Alex B. on Dec 12, 2013 11:18 am • linkreport

#1 train starts at F-S
#2 train starts at Huntington

Same trunk line, so one color on the map (think NYC map)

#1 train follows current Blue Line, continues to loop via Rosslyn, Union Station

#2 departs to east at Pentagon....some trains continue to loop via Union Station, Rosslyn, others continue to Midtown via L'Enfant. Return trip to Northern Virginia from Midtown for people commuting from DC to Northern VA.

by Former MPC on Dec 12, 2013 11:18 am • linkreport

Thanks for show this. I'm a big fan of the idea that the blue and yellow go to union station and switch colors there. You could even triple track the platform (or pocket track nearby) so trains could just end there or continue on. I wouldn't worry too much about the signage either. I think an announcement when entering the station would suffice "Welcome to Union Station the End of the Blue Line, this train will be continuing as a Yellow Line Train, destination Huntington, Leaving in 3 minutes". It seems like a delighter to me.

I wonder what would become of the green line. While quite a lot of the traffic would be replaced by the loop, I would think that the high usage segment between (say) Fort Totten and Navy Yard. I suppose that area also has a ton of bus transit and the possibility of a streetcar. Would they do something like they do on the redline with short-turn trains?

by RyanD on Dec 12, 2013 11:23 am • linkreport

First off, I'm really glad Metro is thinking seriously about the issue of core capacity and I'm glad there are some practical ways to implement a new downtown loop line.

Having said that, can we talk about station placement for a second? Why on Earth should we build a new station at Potomac Park, where almost nobody lives or works and which can't be developed in the future? It would mainly serve a trickle of tourists heading to the Jefferson Memorial.

I also wonder about the need for a new station at the Supreme Court when Congressional and Court staff already have two stations and the rest of Capitol Hill will probably stay rowhouses. I guess I can't object to better access to the seat of government of the United States, though, and it might free up some capacity at Union Station.

The rest of the new stations look like they'd definitely add capacity where it is or will be needed, so kudos there.

by JewdishoowarySquare on Dec 12, 2013 11:25 am • linkreport

Does it make any sense to push the loop further into Arlington? It seems like a waste of development potential to have it go through Arlington Cemetary.

by Thayer-D on Dec 12, 2013 11:25 am • linkreport

Nice article, I am seeing some potential in this proposal. Maybe it's too much to absorb but it seems to me that the loop could be couple with a southern extension of the blue line along the congested I-95 corridor toward Woodbridge. Also eventually you could still decouple the yellow and blue if you managed a separate alignment from Alexandria to L'enfant letting the blue loop run in both directions (clockwise and counterclockwise is one way I've seen them designated). In the meantime they could continue a blue yellow rush plus where every say 4th peak train went the opposite direction for blue and yellow allowing more potential one seat rides.

by BTA on Dec 12, 2013 11:28 am • linkreport

@Thayer

Development potential? *eye roll* Last time I checked, northeast Arlington near the Pentagon and Rosslyn is pretty well built out....

by Former MPC on Dec 12, 2013 11:29 am • linkreport

Does it make any sense to push the loop further into Arlington? It seems like a waste of development potential to have it go through Arlington Cemetary.

Maybe it doesn't maximize development potential, but it makes good use of existing infrastructure.

by Alex B. on Dec 12, 2013 11:31 am • linkreport

@AlexB

"depending on how Metro built the actual track, you could preserve the opportunity to extend both the Yellow and Blue lines to the North and East, respectively."

I was thinking that too, that it would be expensive but you could have 3 levels of track underground: the current red line, then one each for the blue and yellow to allow them to be extended N and E

by Jim D on Dec 12, 2013 11:35 am • linkreport

Re NE Arlington

There's a section along Rte 50 between Pentagon and RB corridor that in theory could take higher densities. It would be a pretty big political fight to get that past the SFH owners nearby though, and would undermine the "social contract" ArlCo made with SFH homeowners, that higher density zoning along the Orange line and Blue/Yellow line corridors would mean hands off the remaining SFH neighborhoods. As such it would probably elicit opposition not only near the new station, but in SFH neighborhoods across the County.

But even if there were no such opposition, one would have to consider if there is enough possible development near one or two such new stations to justify the cost of over a billion dollars for the rail line and station(s). Note the estimated cost of this is already over 25 billion. If Arlco and NoVa want another location for TOD, and want it there, they should of course raise the idea, but WMATA I think is trying to show the most economical way to relieve the operating issues.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

@BTA

There's already a commuter route that runs between Woodbridge and DC - VRE.

Separate alignment in Alexandria up to L'Enfant is almost certainly a non-starter...where do you suggest the right-of-way will come from?

by Former MPC on Dec 12, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

Arlington is built out? That's news to me.

Alex, I thought the whole issue with affordability was to maximise development potential to aleviate a lack of supply. Now you are saying that we should not be concerned with the development potential of new transit investments? I think the redundancy to avoid bottlenecking is important, but what about killing two birds with one stone?

by Thayer-D on Dec 12, 2013 11:39 am • linkreport

Does it make any sense to push the loop further into Arlington? It seems like a waste of development potential to have it go through Arlington Cemetary(sic).

Once you get to the Pentagon you have pretty much committed to going in via Arlington cemetery and then into Rosslyn. You could eventually have a more expansive loop start at Pentagon city and then go west to hit more of the Ballston corridor but then you miss the Pentagon.

by Richard on Dec 12, 2013 11:39 am • linkreport

@Thayer

I don't know of any slums or vacant lots in northeastern Arlington...which neighborhoods specifically were you thinking of uprooting in order to "add development"?

by Former MPC on Dec 12, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

What about another station in VA after Rosslyn(NW of it) before the potomac crossing. There are plans to deck over Lee Highway and Curtis memorial highway and some of the apartments over there could be redeveloped to add density.

by Richard on Dec 12, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

I think the redundancy to avoid bottlenecking is important, but what about killing two birds with one stone?

I'm with you on expanding transit, but put yourself in metro's shoes: you're not proposing to kill two birds with the same single stone, you're propsing to kill two birds with one larger and much more expensive stone.

For WMATA, the primary purpose of this loop is to add capacity within the core of the system. As Matt notes in his post, this concept solves most of Metro's problems relatively cheaply. They're adding track in DC and Rosslyn because that's where the current track is shared between multiple lines, and that's where the capacity bottlenecks are.

by Alex B. on Dec 12, 2013 11:45 am • linkreport

Plus the next major corridor slated for development in Arlington is Columbia pike and that's getting the streetcar.

by drumz on Dec 12, 2013 11:46 am • linkreport

"Arlington is built out? That's news to me."

not all arlington, but relevantly the place where you would put a new station between Pentagon City and Courthouse (as Richard says, if you are talking Pentagon to Rosslyn, it doesn't really make sense to go further out)

Thats basically along or just west of Washington Boulevard. Quickly looking at Google maps there really aren't any parking lots or car dealerships or other really soft development targets left within a half mile or so of Washington Blvd. There WAS one at 50 and Wash Blvd, but its been redeveloped, I think as a 6 story mixed use building. I don't think there is even much 1 story retail there.

So unless you tear down the SFH's, yeah, its built out.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2013 11:47 am • linkreport

I hear you Alex.
@ MCP, I don't think of adding density as "uprooting" nor do I think of slums as the only neighborhoods worth developing, but not being a VA expert, I defer. It was more a question since affordability is always being sought visavis adding supply and also the loops I'm familiar with tend to be a bit bigger, but maybe this is exactly what the doctor ordered. I'm not qualified to say.

by Thayer-D on Dec 12, 2013 11:50 am • linkreport

but yeah, if Louis Napoleon ran Arlington, you could tear those SFHs down, build a new Clarendon in Lyon Park, and tell the voters to go hang.

As it is Pike Rail is seeing opposition, a good part of which is people opposed to redevelopment - despite it having lots of soft target sites to develop, despite parts being semi-slum, despite the lovely form based code and six story height limit.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2013 11:51 am • linkreport

" don't think of adding density as "uprooting" nor do I think of slums as the only neighborhoods worth developing, "

Basically slummy areas are about the only ones in NoVa where you can densify at the expense of existing residences, esp existing SFH's, without folks manning the barricades to stop you.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2013 11:53 am • linkreport

Thayer

Bottom line is that Arlington already has lower-hanging fruit with regards to development (right now the big one is Crystal City/Potomac Yards). There is no clamor at all for adding density between the Rosslyn and Pentagon axes. There are built-out residential neighborhoods with most single-family homes, with the occasional garden apartment or low-rise mixed in.

There is nothing that surface transit can't solve in that soft spot between the Rosslyn and Pentagon axes.

by Former MPC on Dec 12, 2013 11:54 am • linkreport

I find the fear of re-developing single family neighborhoods wierd. I know it's not popular and I wouldn't want my close in S.S. neighborhood to be re-built, but that dosen't mean they can't be grown at the edges, especially when near transit and commerce. Way too much of DC was built when the assumption was we could extend SFH neighborhoods out indefinatly. Now that we can't or won't, there's going to be some re-development of certain hoods.
What I've always called for is building up the commercial cores in these neighborhoods. The way Bethesda has crept into it's surrounding SFH neighborhoods or for that matter may others. They simply can't be sacrosanct, and that's where good planning would help greatly.

by Thayer-D on Dec 12, 2013 11:55 am • linkreport

The downside in these scenarios is that riders from south Arlington and Alexandria do not have a direct one-seat ride into the heart of downtown DC. Right now they can take the yellow line straight up 7th Street through L'Enfant Plaza to Gallery Place/Chinatown. In the new scenarios, the yellow & blue lines route them around the edge of the downtown core, forcing riders to always transfer to reach the core. If we're going to force them to transfer to reach the core, at the very least a more convenient transfer to the green line at a new station at 7th & I SW should be provided, as transferring at 4th & I to the Waterfront station doesn't seem particularly convenient, especially during the morning rush.

by Aaron on Dec 12, 2013 11:57 am • linkreport

"What I've always called for is building up the commercial cores in these neighborhoods"

yes, and thats been proposed in some parts of Fairfax, and I gather in parts of Arlington (but search GGW on Bluemont Safeway to see opposition). But where do you see a commercial core between Pentagon City and Courthouse? (note the part of Col Pike where the street car alone will probably be enough to fill the zoning envelope, and where the commercial properties are too far out for an inner loop near Wash Blvd to work anyway)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2013 11:59 am • linkreport

I appreciate that but VRE is limited stop and has almost zero reverse commute capability at the moment. Also partially I was thinking of the previous discussion on I-95 capacity issues in that area and the fact that there is some ROW of there possibly to work with already meaning significantly lower costs. Obviously it would all be entirely incumbent on Fairfax putting in a lot of development near any new stations so the math would be very close but if you're going to put in a lot of new capacity by separating the blue line you might need to expand the commute shed as well.

by BTA on Dec 12, 2013 12:01 pm • linkreport

Good luck with that Capitol Hill/Supreme Court stop. Past studies have been conducted in relation to moving the VRE and CSX tracks away for security purposes. I highly doubt that additional metro access in this vicinity will be permitted.

by stw on Dec 12, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

You mention VRE's lack of reverse commuting capability, but does anyone reverse commute there?

At some point, you need to recognize that not every corridor deserves rail...figure out a way for the Prince William commuter buses to take on commuters on the return trips.

by Former MPC on Dec 12, 2013 12:04 pm • linkreport

Like I said AWITC, I'm not a Virginia expert. It just seemed like the loop is hugging the Potomac when it could be dragged out further, but I get Alex's point that it's not about increasing development opportunities. Bad idea.

by Thayer-D on Dec 12, 2013 12:05 pm • linkreport

@RyanD
I would think that the high usage segment between (say) Fort Totten and Navy Yard...Would they do something like they do on the redline with short-turn trains?
That is not possible without adding additional pocket tracks. Unfortunately the only one built along the entire Green Line is just north of Mt. Vernon Square; that is why Rush+ Yellows turn around there instead of Ft. Totten. See Sand Box John's track schematic for more details: http://mysite.verizon.net/vzerwz11/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/sys_schematic_129_ars-2013.gif

by dcmike on Dec 12, 2013 12:05 pm • linkreport

Oops. What I meant to say is, that is why non Rush+ Yellows turn around there during peak hours.

by dcmike on Dec 12, 2013 12:08 pm • linkreport

BTA,

The thing about VRE is that the manassass line stations in fairfax are in stream valleys and fairfax has turned all of those into park land (and there is good reason for it but there are consequences). There is some TOD (barely qualifies though, I wouldn't celebrate it) around the Lorton VRE and they're redevelopingthe Springfield Mall though.

by drumz on Dec 12, 2013 12:09 pm • linkreport

Any chance GGW would do an equally comprehensive article series about funding this?

by WRD on Dec 12, 2013 12:10 pm • linkreport

@dcmike O yeah, I know. I've stared at the diagram many a time, its a great thing. ...but this is the 2040 plan. They are already looking at building a 3 mile loop under the downtown core, it seems like adding a pocket track or two would be inconsequential.

by RyanD on Dec 12, 2013 12:16 pm • linkreport

@Aaron

Speaking as a self-interested Yellow Line commuter, I noticed that too. The Waterfront station doesn't really seem well-suited to accommodating the large number of transferring passengers it will hypothetically absorb. ("Congrats King Street-Archives commuters, you now get to walk two blocks in an underground tunnel to complete your transfer!")

The tunnels are one thing. Yet another challenge will be retrofitting stations originally designed for only one line into perpendicular transfer stations (Mt. Vernon, Union Station, Capitol South). Can you fit additional stairs/escalators on a platform as narrow as Union Station?

by Hagiographer on Dec 12, 2013 12:30 pm • linkreport

re Tunnels: thanks everyone for the responses as well as that awesome pdf showing drawings.

by RDHD on Dec 12, 2013 12:33 pm • linkreport

Once again, the biggest issue with this isn't mentioned: operational reliability. A loop is inherently worse to operate because it lacks built-in recovery time without a terminus at one or both ends. Any delay then cascades down and is more difficult to deal with.

Metro needs to add more to the rapid transit grid rather than a loop. Gridded systems (London, New York, Paris, Tokyo et al) are better at moving passengers and distributing them across the network by maximising transfers rather than direct rides. They have the supplementary benefit of lacking interlining on the whole (apart from New York), which massively improves reliability as well as capacity and has redundancy built into the system.

by Phil on Dec 12, 2013 12:34 pm • linkreport

@Hagiographer
Yet another challenge will be retrofitting stations originally designed for only one line into perpendicular transfer stations (Mt. Vernon, Union Station, Capitol South). Can you fit additional stairs/escalators on a platform as narrow as Union Station?

Interesting point with existing infrastructure.

I think Mt. Vernon might be able to accommodate it if you put the transfer at the north end of the current station.

Union Station cannot handle the current transfers it has with the train station and needs to be reworked as it is.

Dupont has platforms on both sides of a central track, which is another reason I think they should make the loop interchange there instead of the north side of Farragut North which does not have any room.

I havent been to Cap south enough to know, nor do I know what the expected traffic would look like.

Obviously Rosslyn would need to be reworked to accommodate the additional blue line platform.

by Richard on Dec 12, 2013 12:38 pm • linkreport

Yeah obviously it was just a very general thought. This would be the Fredericksburge Line though I think. I guess my main thought other than demand potential that it looks like you got the ROW between the existing rail and 95 and it would be great to save that for rail expansion instead of potentially getting eaten up in adding lanes to 95 there. The only reason for going as far as Woodbridge would be potentially getting PW county into the funding stream.

by BTA on Dec 12, 2013 12:39 pm • linkreport

@Phil
Once again, the biggest issue with this isn't mentioned: operational reliability. A loop is inherently worse to operate because it lacks built-in recovery time without a terminus at one or both ends. Any delay then cascades down and is more difficult to deal with.

This design is not a circle line - in this diagram there are termini at Huntington and Franconia that every train will begin/end its run at. So there is built-in recovery time there.

by MLD on Dec 12, 2013 12:43 pm • linkreport

BTA,

Well the good news on that front is that there are plans to build third tracks in stafford and spotsylvania (that would extend service down there as well).

The last couple of links can get you started and I think it was discussed in the 95 post from this week as well.

http://www.vre.org/about/projects/cip.html

and FWIW, McAuliffe was clamoring for Va. High Speed rail back in his primary run in 2009 so there's more than just hope that he'll be friendly to even more investment than that during his administration.

by drumz on Dec 12, 2013 12:51 pm • linkreport

I don't think a ~700' connection is a deal breaker. I've done it in a number of systems and plenty of people do it in DC if you count VRE/MARC to Metro.

by BTA on Dec 12, 2013 12:55 pm • linkreport

If this is indeed a 2040 plan, it dosen't seem like the smartest investment. I'm all for adding capacity for the core, but with-in this kind of time frame it seems a wasted opportunity not ttake it around the Cemetary along Arlington Boulevard?

by Thayer-D on Dec 12, 2013 12:57 pm • linkreport

@BTA

Extending Orange/Blue and/or Yellow are being discussed but that even further away, core capacity is first priority.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-state-of-nova/post/extend-metro-to-centreville-woodbridge-and-ft-belvoir-connolly-and-moran-put-idea-on-table/2013/03/11/76d5603c-8a6c-11e2-a051-6810d606108d_blog.html

by Tom on Dec 12, 2013 1:06 pm • linkreport

I like the idea of a loop, but it seems a bit excessive on the southern side. What if instead the Blue line linked into the Green between Navy Yard and Anacostia and continued on to Branch Ave or even National Harbor? That way, you would get additional service from SE into DC without impacting the Yellow and still accomplish all the other objectives of this plan.

Illustration if it helps: http://i.imgur.com/1hwMhoq.png

by pdovak on Dec 12, 2013 1:08 pm • linkreport

Another consideration not immediately obvious from the map is finding a place to store and maintain the additional rolling stock needed to make this work. WMATA mentioned in their 2012 Fleet Management Plan they have determined a need to find more yard space closer to the core. Anyone care to hazard a guess where they might find this?

by dcmike on Dec 12, 2013 1:10 pm • linkreport

Why name the station on M Street, near Key Bridge, "Georgetown University" when it is not on that campus - and why remove "GWU" from Foggy Bottom station's name when this existing station is actually located on the George Washington University campus?!

by LoyalColonial on Dec 12, 2013 1:14 pm • linkreport

In addition to the proposed loop.
I would think a branch that separates after Union station and heads east to near H street and Benning in Trinidad and then up to NY ave near Langdon and then head out the PRR to meet up with the orange line at Chevery would be really nice. One of the problems with the orange line out that far is how long it takes to get to downtown.

If the loop is only going to have yellow and blue line trains on it, I could see having one entry/exit point. But if an express from the orange/silver is being considered I think you might want to also consider providing a more direct/express to the other side of the orange line.

by Richard on Dec 12, 2013 1:39 pm • linkreport

@pdovak - I like that Blue line idea into the green. Not entirely sure if that gives us the TPH on all lines that the loop is trying to solve but it seems like it could be close.

by NikolasM on Dec 12, 2013 4:07 pm • linkreport

With the streetcar eventually linking H Street, Union Station, and Georgetown the loop seems redundant if it runs along M Street through DC. Pushing the loop a bit north to hit Dupont/Logan Circle might make more sense and reach additional areas.

by Mike on Dec 12, 2013 4:13 pm • linkreport

"The Blue/Orange subway through downtown is at capacity, and no more trains can be added. "

Are trains running every 60 seconds?

No.

So the statement is factually incorrect.

by JJJJ on Dec 12, 2013 4:31 pm • linkreport

@JJJJ: Isn't the limitation the tunnel, which sets the minimum headway at 90 seconds?

Though of course not all trains are being run with 8 cars.

by Gray on Dec 12, 2013 4:39 pm • linkreport

With the streetcar eventually linking H Street, Union Station, and Georgetown the loop seems redundant if it runs along M Street through DC. Pushing the loop a bit north to hit Dupont/Logan Circle might make more sense and reach additional areas.
Street cars are not a replacement for heavy rail metro subway. They are slower over long distances (but faster over short distances).

I do like the idea of moving the loop a little further north to Dupont though.

by Richard on Dec 12, 2013 4:49 pm • linkreport

I, too, think the loop should be shifted slightly northward to bring access to (1) the Scott Circle area and (2) Logan Circle/lower 14th Street.

Also, the western portion of the Loop is woefully underutilized, with only two stations, one already existing -- Arlington Cemetery. Why not expand the loop down Columbia Pike in Arlington, then swing up Glebe Road to Ballston? From Ballston it could come down Lee Highway through Rosslyn, across the Potomac and into Georgetown. A true inner-core Loop of this scope would be impressive and heavily used.

Yes, an expanded Loop is a much more expensive proposal. Nevertheless, it should be seriously considered and not discounted on cost alone.

by Sage on Dec 12, 2013 5:30 pm • linkreport

@Gray, an inefficient signal system + bad regulation is the limitation, which is cheaper to fix than a new tunnel.

Also, the article indicates that the spacing is at minimum, 2:30 between trains, not 1:30.

by JJJJ on Dec 12, 2013 5:50 pm • linkreport

The system design is for a train every 135 seconds, which comes to about 16 trains per hour. My understanding is that the system can accomodate up to 90 seconds between trains, but they only use that for catching up after a delay, not for scheduled service.

by Alex B. on Dec 12, 2013 6:00 pm • linkreport

@Alex B, 90 seconds is the standard for many well run systems, like Paris and Mexico City. Why isnt it here?

Why is the only solution to more trains a multi billion dollar tunnel project, and not hiring 5 more drivers?

by JJJJ on Dec 12, 2013 6:24 pm • linkreport

90 seconds is the standard for many well run systems, like Paris and Mexico City. Why isnt it here?

It is what it is.

Metro needs other changes in order to hit 90 seconds, anyway - they need new rolling stock with more doors to reduce station dwell times that would blow such a schedule out of the water.

However, the number of trains per hour per track isn't the reason for expaning the system: the fundamental problem Metro faces is due to the interlining inherent in the system design. Metro has five lines (named for colors), but really it has three downtown trunk lines with multiple branches. The branches all divide the frequency, which means many segments are operating substantially below the max of 26 TPH.

Point being: getting Metro up to, say, 30tph would be nice, but it still doesn't solve the interlining issues they are looking to address here.

(also - typo in my post above: 135 seconds is 26 tph, not 16)

by Alex B. on Dec 12, 2013 6:48 pm • linkreport

+1 to Former MPC

If the lines don't have letters or numbers, we'll have a nightmare of lines with the same color operating in different directions on the loop to different destinations.

For example, the Blue/Yellow line can be colored blue and given new route designations, say, 1, 2, 3, 4. The odd numbers could go clockwise and the even counter-clockwise. 1 & 2 could run to/from Springfield and 3 & 4 to/from Huntington. When a passenger sees a number or letter, he will know the exact route (if the signage is good). The Orange/Silver lines will also have to be combined to form an Orange 5/6/,,, The Red Line can simply be designated R.

BTW, how are Silver Line trains supposed to display their line? I don't see how you can mix bright LED lights to form silver, especially since silver is not really a color: it's a reflection of all other colors in the line of sight. I guess science has never stopped some people. :-(

by Chuck Coleman on Dec 12, 2013 8:51 pm • linkreport

@ Sage, I agree that building for development capacity on the western edge of the loop makes sense, especially in a long term plan to 2040. In fact they should build more bridges between the three jurisdictions but this is a great start.

by Thayer-D on Dec 12, 2013 9:12 pm • linkreport

My feedback - everything is good - just build something, anything really as soon as possible. I just hope we don't have 20 years of fundraising, 10 years of environmental reviews, 5 years of construction, 5+ years of NIMBYisms because all the DC millennials will be old and grouchy by then.

by dave on Dec 12, 2013 10:55 pm • linkreport

Some observations on running the loop via M Street NW vs. P Street NW as it relates to a Red Line transfer: The Farragut North station platforms and adjacent Red Line tunnels are relatively close to street level, compared to the Dupont Circle station platforms, which are deep under the Connecticut Avenue underpass.

So if the Blue/Yellow loop ran via P Street NW to allow a Red Line transfer at Dupont Circle, the loop line and its station would have to be even deeper. The time it would take to go from the surface to the Dupont Circle Blue/Yellow loop station platforms would be incredibly long.

A Blue/Yellow loop running via M Street NW would probably be more cost effective. M Street is wider than, say, P Street or N Street (which I think has been tossed around as a route option, too. A cut-and-cover pedestrian tunnel under Connecticut Avenue to allow an in-system transfer between the Red Line, Orange/Silver and Blue/Yellow loop would probably be less expensive and the transfer would not too deep, compared to a Dupont transfer.

A loop alignment via M Street NW would also allow for a station in the West End, which is very dense. A Dupont alignment would probably mean tunneling beneath Rock Creek Parkway from P Street NW and through Rose Park to M Street NW into Georgetown. The lower density of eastern Georgetown wouldn't be worth building its own station stop.

With the loop's new Potomac River crossing near Key Bridge, it seems like there's no escaping deep tunnel-boring for this project. As the Second Avenue Subway and 7 extension in New York have shown, deep-bore construction is the least disruptive to the surface, but it can be very expensive compared to cut-and-cover. Blasting and excavating train halls for stations deep below the surface can be even more expensive. Maybe the loop will necessitate dual tubes for stations, like at Forest Glen, Wheaton and Glenmont?

Though I support two stations in Georgetown, I wonder if the deep, deep nature of the construction along M Street and the necessary tunnel curve near Key Bridge would make consolidating two stations in Georgetown more cost effective. (Yes, this whole project is super expensive at it is.)

by Michael_G on Dec 13, 2013 1:09 am • linkreport

Ed Tennyson and I considered the operating economics of any Metro expansion. Ed has a a superb reputation for ridership estimates and operating economics.

Our proposals would increase ridership while reducing the overall WMATA operating subsidy. WMATAs proposal would not.

The 4 track section of the Rose Line - Washington Circle, Dupont Circle (2nd station), Thomas Circle, Mt. Vernon Square, New York Avenue, NOMA (2nd subway station) and the 2 track section under 2nd Street (NE & SE) - Union Station, Hart Office Bldg, Capital South and Navy Yard - would function as a half loop around the Core and provide better transfers that WMATAs proposal for a majority of transfers.

We would also solve the Orange Crush with the Copper Line from the median of I-66 through Kennedy Center to Washington Circle (then interline with the bottom two tracks of the Rose Line).

by Alan S. Drake on Dec 13, 2013 8:48 am • linkreport

Since everyone is talking about the Yellow and Blue lines switch at a specific point you also need to figure out a way where it is explained to passengers.

I can see it being problems with the blind and the deaf as they both would only know half of the story by listening to the operator or reading the map only unless all information was told by the operator and on the map.

by kk on Dec 13, 2013 10:16 am • linkreport

I don't understand why there this all this talk about adding different tunnels and no talk of easy changes to car design that would increase capacity. Remove doors between ends of cars (like extended buses) to increase passenger area. Wider doors to increase exit/entrance capacity. Seats that fold up for more people to stand. The new 7000 series cars have the exact same bad design as the current ones, just in different colors.

You can watch a train that takes 30 seconds for everyone to get off, and the doors close before anyone waiting can get on. That is an inexcusable disaster of poor rail car design.

by jeff on Dec 14, 2013 1:40 pm • linkreport

I like @pdovac's idea of joining the blue line with green, but that brand new blue line tunnel will still only be operating at half-capacity (13 TPH). And that particular green line corridor is not nearly as heavily used as other portions of the system, so extra service there makes less sense. But perhaps the Silver Express could share the same tunnel as far as Union Station, and then branch out and rejoin Orange at Stadium Armory. Doesn't solve the interlining problem, though.

The best long-term solution to maximize capacity is to remove all the interlining in the system: split orange and silver (one becomes express), split green and yellow (one heads further east), and probably also split blue and yellow. However, a full split requires more tunnels downtown and much more right-of-way in Alexandria.

Alex Barclay's proposal (http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/21096/can-metro-add-capacity-without-a-downtown-loop/) does this pretty well, but it fails to add more capacity at Union Station or Navy Yard.

On the other hand, there is much discussion in this thread about VRE. What if 3rd and 4th tracks were built on VRE and MARC connecting Rockville, Silver Spring, College Park, New Carrolton, King St, Franconia-Springfield and L'Enfant Plaza, Union Station were expanded, and a new rail service operated frequently along that portion of the corridor? It would add a huge amount of capacity and express service to the existing lines without any new tunnels downtown.

by Andrew on Dec 17, 2013 2:01 pm • linkreport

How about instead of a loop altogether, we have multiple lines shape a loop? Then we would not have to 4 track the proposed loop. This would allow us to separate all the lines to allow for maximum capacity on all lines. Keep some of the interlining, though. This, in the event of an incident, would allow trains to reroute around the incident without fear of another train not warned of the incident to come rushing through the station. The Blue Line would be rerouted as proposed to Union, but instead turn south onto 2nd St. NE with a new station close to Capitol Hill, then turn east onto East Capitol Street w/ a station at Lincoln Park, then turn NE to a 4 track station near Oklahoma Ave w/ a transfer to the Orange Line and the Silver Line. The Silver Line would run on it's own tracks with it's own station deep underneath the Orange Line between VA-267 at East Falls Church and when the Orange Line submerges and turns toward the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, then run along I-66 until US 29 runs alongside I-66, then run underneath Scott St/Key Blvd with a new Rosslyn station in addition to the new Blue Line station underneath Fort Myer Drive, 2 blocks west of Lynn Street, the street for which the current Rosslyn station is underneath. It would then run underneath H Street after crossing the Potomac with a station with a connection to the Farraguts. Then run along H some more with a station connecting to both Metro Center and Gallery Place-Chinatown, and another near Union Station. It is here that an Airport Express would end. It would have it's own tracks to terminate on and turn around. The Airport Express would serve all stations the regular Silver trains do between EFC and the Airport Express' terminus at Union Station, even running on the same tracks. The Airport Express would then have it's own tracks beyond the 267/66 interchange and skip Tysons. The Airport Express would only stop once at Reston Town Center station before running to Dulles with it's own tracks, maybe even underground at the location the Silver Line might have been located for the underground station option to allow people who want to go to Downtown quick or vice versa to catch their flight.

by YoungTransitSupporter on Jun 22, 2014 4:18 pm • linkreport

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