Greater Greater Washington

Transit


As the region's core grows, Metro is forced to plan for the edges

Why isn't Metro planning more rail lines inside the Beltway? One big reason is that political pressure and federal regulations require it and other transit agencies to look only at current zoning and master plans. These predict lots of growth on the suburban fringe, not inside the core where it's actually happening.


Map of Metro expansion from WMATA.

WMATA's new plan for "core capacity" shows this dynamic at work. A new loop through downtown would connect Rosslyn and the Yellow Line bridge, and express tracks would parallel the Orange Line in Arlington.

Critics object that this only solves the problems of suburbanites who travel into the District, like the current bottleneck in the Rosslyn tunnel and the future need to get more train commuters in and out of Union Station. It does little for the District's growing population and nothing at all to support the ongoing urbanization of the inner suburbs.

As the plan's authors point out, they are required to base their plans on an official forecast of future land use prepared by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. This forecast, in practice, is prepared by cobbling together the master plans adopted by local governments, which are not anyone's best guess of the future, but mostly reflect the desires of locally dominant political forces. COG staff makes some adjustments, but they can't eliminate the biases inherent in this process.

The official forecast expects lots of growth in outer suburbs, where plans make room for decades of growth. Closer in, it predicts little change. In built-up areas, land doesn't get rezoned until its owners are thinking about building, because politicians see no advantage in angering anti-growth neighbors without pleasing a developer.

Thus COG foresees that Stafford County's population will grow 95% by 2040, and the District only 28%. In reality, the District is growing faster than Stafford.

COG recognizes this problem, and a few years ago they tried to correct it with an "aspirations" scenario that was supposed to describe a "smart growth" future. That's what WMATA planners are using in their work. But the study did not fix the underlying problem. Fearing that the mere suggestion of massive rezonings would disturb local politics, COG retained the fundamental defect of its other forecaststhe supposed smart growth scenario "maintains the existing or planned neighborhood character."

Portland offers a way to link transit and land use

Are there ways out of this dilemma? Portland, Oregon, found one 20 years ago. The state's environmental laws told regional planners to curb sprawl and reduce auto use. This, the planners knew, couldn't be done without changing the zoning to allow much more building near transit stations.

For local government, this scenario was too hot to handle. Instead, the advocacy group 1000 Friends of Oregon obtained a federal grant and used the money to hire the same consulting firm that was working for the planning agency. In effect, another scenario was added to the study, but government officials couldn't be accused of plotting zoning changes.

The 1000 Friends report, known as LUTRAQ (for Land Use, Transportation, and Air Quality), won public acclaim and was a key to setting Portland on its current urban course. Perhaps a similar approach could give Metro a vision for the future to match the boldness of the system's first planners.

Ben Ross was president of the Action Committee for Transit for 15 years. His new book about the politics of urbanism and transit, Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism, is published by Oxford University Press. 

Comments

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For a DC-centric approach, I say the more competition the better. And by competition I mean more DC-run services, like more DC Circulator buses and the streetcar system it has envisioned. Lets not put all our eggs into WMATA, which will likely always remain a commuter-type system.

by JDC on Jan 2, 2014 11:49 am • linkreport

So, if you want to see that blue line extended from Union Station down H Street and reconnecting somewhere around the stadium then maybe you should consider whether DC's current height limit is optimal.

by drumz on Jan 2, 2014 11:56 am • linkreport

To be fair, the proposed loop could easily be configured/constructed to accommodate future extensions north and east of Union Station, which would address the root issue of this article.

by Froggie on Jan 2, 2014 11:57 am • linkreport

Can't the streetcar plan take care of the inter-city movement? I see Metro and the street car system part of an overall transportation strategy for the whole region.

by Thayer-D on Jan 2, 2014 12:10 pm • linkreport

Froggie
To be fair, the proposed loop could easily be configured/constructed to accommodate future extensions north and east of Union Station, which would address the root issue of this article.

True.

Also improving the connectivity to Union Station helps the entire region. Whether you are taking it as a commuter or heading up to NYC for a weekend.

Reducing the bottle neck at Rosslyn helps inner suburbs in Arlington as much as it helps further out ones in Fairfax.

Adding another transfer option for people on the green line coming down and wanting to go to Farragut Square will reduce crowding in Chinatown, which helps the whole region.

The loop is far from perfect, but it isn't purely serving people in the suburbs.

by Richard on Jan 2, 2014 12:13 pm • linkreport

@JDC

Not disagreeing with your point, but a clarification.

While there's been a lot of attention paid to WMATA's core capacity planning -- which is rightly WMATA-focused because it deals with constraints on WMATA rail system -- WMATA's regional planning for surface transit has in fact been totally operator neutral, and is not at all at odds with your support for more competitive operations in the region.

To Ben's post: the reason that unrealistic land use plans have to be followed (by WMATA or anyone anywhere) is that Federal planning regulations can not even remotely entertain the concept that Federal transportation policy might be at odds with local planning. Thus, regional planners are forced to to ask the question: how much transportation is needed to support local government-provided forecasts? This question no matter how crazy those forecasts might be or how inefficiently those plans would use scarce Federal resources. The most constraint the Feds can impose is a requirement that transportation plans be constrained by funds realistically likely to be available, and another that Federal air quality standards not be violated.

What the region needs is to set quantitative livability goals and then ask the question: what land use patterns do we need to achieve these goals? Regional transportation planning should be a process that informs that answer, and that requires regional planning approaches vastly different from what has done in the past by the Transportation Planning Board (acknowledging that COG has made great strides with the Region Forward process, and also that COG is not the same things as the Transportation Planning Board).

If WMATA can help promote regional transportation planning that is actually goal-oriented in this way instead of process-oriented, that would be an incredible achievement.

by jnb on Jan 2, 2014 12:13 pm • linkreport

Good. We need more metro in the core and at the edge.

We a separated Blue Line along M St. We need a metro line along US-50 from Annapolis to Middleburg. We need a metroline along VA-7 from the Alexandria waterfront to Leesburg. We need an extension of the Orange Line to Warrenton, the Yellow Line to Ft Belvoir, Woodbridge, Potomac Hell, Manassas and Sterling, and the Blue Line along the Fairfax County Parkway, Burke, VA-123 to GMU, Fairfax and Oakton. We need similar line extensions in MD.

by Jasper on Jan 2, 2014 12:20 pm • linkreport

I think Richard Layman has made this point -- that WMATA basically gave up on the planning function and this is the mess we are in as a result.

That is a bad summary of his take, which is more nuanced.

by charlie on Jan 2, 2014 12:25 pm • linkreport

@charlie

In 2000, the WMATA Board made it policy that any future system extension would be the funding and planning responsibility of the host system. This was done to clarify the region's stance on the Largo extension on the one hand and the Dulles extension on the other. Its other outcome was, consciously or not, an abidication from regional transportation planning.

The fact that WMATA is now re-entering the regional planning fray is a good thing.

Don't underestimate how politically challenging it is for transit planning staff to come up with analysis that comments "technically" on the merits of jurisdictionally-advocated transportation projects. The fact that WMATA staff are willing to take this on -- and that WMATA's Board is backing it -- is actually pretty admirable.

by jnb on Jan 2, 2014 12:34 pm • linkreport

...the responsibility of the host "jurisdiction", not of the host "system"...

by jnb on Jan 2, 2014 12:35 pm • linkreport

Thus COG foresees that Stafford County's population will grow 95% by 2040, and the District only 28%. In reality, the District is growing faster than Stafford.

Over the last three to four years - something you cannot extrapolate over 25 years. Go back 5 years, and yes, Stafford was growing faster than DC, and for the previous 30 some odd years before that.

This is like the people that say since it's cold out today there's no global warming. Or am I to expect that having some 260K people in Stafford by 2040 is an impossibility, but having 1.2 million people in DC is totally possible?

Stafford is a long commute to the DC core, but a short commute to the two employment centers of Fredericksburg and the Quantico Marine Base - a difference split that makes it more flexible employment options for dual income households (which is most of them). And Quantico isn't going away, BRAC will probably enlarge it. So Stafford doubling in size in 25 years? totally possible. It's what Arlington and Fairfax did as similar stages in their evolution.

by Kolohe on Jan 2, 2014 12:38 pm • linkreport

Jasper: Love your Metro wishlist, but I hope we come up with a way to live until we're 200 or so because I don't see it coming to fruition until then. Orange line to Warrenton? They can't even extend VRE from Manassas to Gainesville in a reasonable amount of time and the tracks are already there!

by Joe on Jan 2, 2014 12:40 pm • linkreport

Btw, while DC is by far the worse, I don't know if we want to aspire to improving to just the 6th worst commuting headaches in the nation. Surely we can aim higher than that.

by Kolohe on Jan 2, 2014 12:41 pm • linkreport

@Jnb; yep that it. as I said more nuanced.

Not trying to underappricate the politics of it all, but one other problem is the predictions. Just giant straight arrows leading off into the future. Not saying this a silver bullet but i'd be looking at difference merics rather than "growth"

by charlie on Jan 2, 2014 12:43 pm • linkreport

I do not know whether DCs growth will continue to exceed Staffords. I thought that was brought up to be illustrative of the planning dilemma - even if DC IS going to continue to have faster growth than Stafford, its easier to plan projects in Stafford, because its not possible to say where DCs growth will occur, since most of it will rely on future rezonings not now in place. Another reason for a detailed, nuanced, build out study, I suppose.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 2, 2014 12:55 pm • linkreport

Finally, I don't get the premise of this post at all. A proposal with something like 7-10 new stations (depending on how one counts 'new') ,all within 2-3 miles of the DC zero reference point. exclusively supports the outer suburbs but not the core and the inner suburbs one whit? A plan that has exactly *zero* growth anywhere else but the core? This doesn't make sense at all.

Right now, the biggest problem for the inner suburbs is that you have to transfer at a small number of stations to get to another inner suburb. (e.g. Alexandria to southern PG county, or even just old town to Ballston, which takes longer by Metro than it does by bicycle). Improving core flow is as useful to the inner suburbs as it is to the outer ones, if not more so, because the latter are already better served by commuter rail services that deposit people at various, and thus selectable, metro stops.

by Kolohe on Jan 2, 2014 1:00 pm • linkreport

@Kolohe
or Bethesda to Silver Spring
or College Park to New Carrolton
or Suitland to Morgan Blvd.

The purple line will help, but the problems in Maryland are worse than in VA.

by Richard on Jan 2, 2014 1:04 pm • linkreport

@Kolohe

The commuting statistics you cite are deeply misleading, since the Texas Transportation Institute considers only car commuters worthy of consideration (see http://www.humantransit.org/2013/12/my-letter-to-the-globe-and-mail.html)

When you consider all commuters, Portland does extremely well (see http://www.bloomberg.com/visual-data/best-and-worst/longest-commutes-us-cities). Commutes in Portland are substantially faster than they are here.

@Jasper: Should those suburban extensions really be metro lines? Is Metro really suited to long distance routes in highway medians with widely separated stations? I think the region would be better off by investing in Metro lines in the core and revitalizing the lousy commuter rail systems to serve the periphery.

by alurin on Jan 2, 2014 1:09 pm • linkreport

@ Joe:Love your Metro wishlist, but I hope we come up with a way to live until we're 200 or so because I don't see it coming to fruition until then.

You can not start realizing dreams if you do not have them.

Lewis Carroll/Alice: I try to believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

My point is that we need lots more metro. Lots more. So, I try to type that. And say it. The problem with WMATA is that they do not show enough of a sense of urgency. And they do not show vision. And that's why politicians do not follow them. There is nothing to follow.

by Jasper on Jan 2, 2014 1:13 pm • linkreport

@jnb makes an important point about the significance of WMATA engaging in proactive regional transit network planning, which is in accordance with it's authority under the compact. It is my understanding that they are indeed seeking to tie it to corridors with the potential for transit-oriented land use.

But yes, there are still problems with the regional forecasts and politics can result in consideration of rail transit where it isn't the right fit.

But, as others have said, we have made great progress toward more transit-oriented growth with the Region Forward plan, the more focused activity centers, and now with the draft Regional Transportation Priorities Plan.

I think we need to be more positive about WMATA's planning initiative and engage with WMATA with good recommendations. We should also strongly encourage our elected officials to commit to continued implementation of the more sustainable, transit-oriented vision promised in Region Forward.

by Stewart Schwartz on Jan 2, 2014 1:15 pm • linkreport

The area along rte 50 west of South Riding is mostly rural, and is along LoCo's transitional area (IE semi rural) and Middleburg is in the rural zone. The area closer in, with suburban density, is fairly close to the outer Silver Line stations. Even a list of 6 impossible heavy rail metro projects in NoVa could easily find better places than that.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 2, 2014 1:16 pm • linkreport

@alurin - In principle you're totally right. I'm 1000% in agreement. I just think it's a hard sell. Metro is an established and generally well-liked brand. It's going to be easier to get the land for Metro than for new heavy rail.

by Distantantennas on Jan 2, 2014 1:21 pm • linkreport

@Jasper:

Nothing wrong with having a vision for things down the road.

VRE is releasing their first Strategic Plan since 2004. In regards to the Manassas line, their vision has always been to have a branch (the NS "B" line) that serves the Gainesville/Haymarket area and also extend the existing Manassas line through Nokesville and all the way to Beatleton, Remington, and probably eventually Culpeper. When I would take the VRE in from Broad Run I rode it with plenty of people who drove up from places like Warrenton and Culpeper. It's a shame because I think there's tons of demand there but most of the upcoming expansion for VRE is along the Fredericksburg line.

@AWITC:

South Riding would be the furthest I would feel a Rt. 50 corridor-based line should go. I do think a Rt. 7 line could be justified out to Leesburg, and a I-66 one, Haymarket (though my above mention of VRE is more feasible IMO).

I think we also need to think about transit not just feeding into the core, but between employment centers outside the core as well. I think there's tons of potential for some form of transit (rail or BRT?) along corridors like Rt. 28 (Manassas to Sterling) and Fairfax County Parkway (Newington to Reston). I'd be curious to see if anyone agreed.

by Joe on Jan 2, 2014 1:37 pm • linkreport

I don't think SR justifies a heavy rail line that close to the Silver Line. Its not dense enough (and not likely to become so) for most riders to not be park and ride, and they can go to the SL stops.

I am skeptical of rail transit on rte 7 between Tysons and North reston (and apparently VDOT has dropped the notion of a managed lane for the widened route 7) for an extension from the end of the Silver Line to leesburg, the best alt is probably express bus service useing the Greenway.

For the I66 corridor west of Vienna, the best bet is probably a combo of VRE and BRT/managed lanes. Though I would be eager to see heavy rail and LRT ideas.

LRT/BRT probably makes sense for Rte 28 (and is envisioned by FFX county) and some bus solution improvement on FFX county parkway, I think.

by LinksAreNeeded on Jan 2, 2014 1:53 pm • linkreport

The comment you linked to for "critics object that" doesn't really say what you claim - or at least I didn't intend for it to be seen that way when I wrote it. My intent was to ask about the specifics and whether this plan would allow for the possibility of future extension to those areas that need metro service in DC like H street or NE/NW DC.

by MLD on Jan 2, 2014 1:54 pm • linkreport

@Kolohe: On the other hand, I agree with your second post. The loop is perhaps not the best idea, but the proposal is about adding more capacity in the core, which will be to everyone's advantage, especially those who live near the new stations, as opposed to extending the current lines further into the sprawl. The priority for Metro should be eliminating interlining, which will require at least two new tunnels.

@Disantennas: That's a point, but aren't VRE and MARC established brands as well. If they could collaborate to build something like Paris' RER, that would serve regional needs without distracting Metro from it's "core" mission. If branding is the real issue, Metro could co-brand a new electrified high speed suburban rail service.

by alurin on Jan 2, 2014 1:56 pm • linkreport

@Joe

Caution is merited with long extensions of commuter rail and Metrorail. Without effective land use planning including strong rural/agricultural zoning and focused town development, commuter rail extensions can fuel yet more sprawling development. Metrorail is particularly expensive and can't be justified for areas without a market for focused density and long-distances between stations.

A regional approach would focus Metrorail, light rail and true BRT in commercial corridors within 15 miles of the District that have the potential for good mixed-use development; expand the service hours for commuter rail and do a medium density town-center scale at the existing stations; use more express bus and dedicated BRT lanes in key corridors in the middle and outer suburbs.

For background, we did a Next Generation of Transit report found here: http://www.nextgentransit.org/ with principles for planning future transit.

by Stewart Schwartz on Jan 2, 2014 1:58 pm • linkreport

@LinksAreNeeded:

If you follow the developments regarding the RFI that VA put out for I-66, it definitely seems like they're trying to guide the narrative for HOT lanes with maybe a BRT supplement. Realistically that's all I see happening along I-66 within the next 20 or 30 years.

VRE is still the most feasible option for bringing rail to western Prince William and I think that needs to be focused on the most moving forward.

by Joe on Jan 2, 2014 2:01 pm • linkreport

Let's examine the need for a Metro or light rail linking Alexandria's King Street/Braddock Road area to Ballston. Current bus service is pathetic -- I've spent more hours than I want to think about on the 10B as it wanders through neighborhoods very, very slowly -- but that's the only choice now aside from going via Rosslyn.

Why not connect Alexandria to Ballston/Falls Church and the Silver Line more efficiently? This would avoid the Roslyn bottleneck and link two growing and public-transit focused areas.

by Willow on Jan 2, 2014 2:02 pm • linkreport

@Joe re I-66 corridor

You are right about the I-66 corridor. We are concerned that VDOT favored HOT lanes from the outset. They even pushed out new transit until local officials complained. Still, what's needed is a comprehensive/composite approach combining better land use (less sprawl, more focused, mixed-use, walkable centers) with VRE to western PW and dedicated lane express bus service as the top priorities over HOT lanes. We would have to evaluate whether land uses at Vienna, Fairfax City, Fair Oaks and the 66/28 area could later justify Metrorail extension.

by Stewart Schwartz on Jan 2, 2014 2:20 pm • linkreport

If you follow the developments regarding the RFI that VA put out for I-66, it definitely seems like they're trying to guide the narrative for HOT lanes with maybe a BRT supplement.

The problem with 66 is that even with HOV-2, the lanes are at a standstill. They should implement a modified HOT lane where HOV-3 is free, you can ride HOV-2 by paying a toll, and SOV are SOL. Then use the money raised from the toll to fund some kind of transit improvement on 66.

by Falls Church on Jan 2, 2014 2:21 pm • linkreport

The problem with 66 is that the HOV-2 is not enforced. Every time I drive it around rush hour I have my passenger count the number of cars that have less than 2 people, and most of the time it's 50% or greater. That is better than it is on most roads, but not 0. With how much VA cops like to write tickets, I dont know why they aren't on 66 ever day reaping in the $$.

by Richard on Jan 2, 2014 2:30 pm • linkreport

@Stewart Schwartz:

I agree with your conclusion regarding the corridor and that VRE and express buses (with dedicated lanes as I expound upon below) would be a much better alternative for western Prince William.

@Falls Church:

A major problem with the HOV situation on I-66 is not just HOV-2 like you mention, but that it doesn't run in a dedicated lane. Vehicles getting on and off I-66 and crossing the parkway to get in and out of the HOV lane causes traffic slowdown. Access points are few and far between as well.

by Joe on Jan 2, 2014 2:39 pm • linkreport

@Joe and @Willow re Route 7
Just fyi, NVTC is working a study for mass transit from Alexandria to Tysons. (I don't know why they didn't include the stretch out to Leesburg. And I suppose that's not a huge help in getting to Ballston.)
http://route7corridorstudy.com/

Seems like they're down to recommending either BRT or light rail. NVTC will have to work with Alexandria to decide whether it stays on Rt 7 to the King Street Station, or veers south to the Van Dorn Station. (I think the Braddock Road station was crossed off the list of options.)

by Rich 'n Alexandria on Jan 2, 2014 3:09 pm • linkreport

"Just fyi, NVTC is working a study for mass transit from Alexandria to Tysons. (I don't know why they didn't include the stretch out to Leesburg.)"

Because other than happening to be on Route 7, the projects are independent of each other and present different issues.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 2, 2014 3:14 pm • linkreport

@ Joe:VRE is releasing their first Strategic Plan since 2004.

I have not used VRE a few times, but the fact that it's only a commuter train makes it a substandard service. We need full force rail service to the far ends of Greater Washington, as well as good connections to Baltimore and Richmond. VRE (and MARC for that matter) can not deliver that. They can not deliver because they are have to share tracks with freight which actually own the rails. They are a suboptimal stopgap at best. That's why I always favor metro extension over VRE/MARC extension.

by Jasper on Jan 2, 2014 3:22 pm • linkreport

I have not used VRE but a few times....

by Jasper on Jan 2, 2014 3:24 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church, @Richard -- I would also suggest that a major problem with I-66 is the number of exempt hybrid/electric SOVs, as these seem to make up a significant proportion of the rush hour traffic (much more than the cheaters)

by Bitter Brew on Jan 2, 2014 3:44 pm • linkreport

@Bitter Brew, which is really only a problem for a couple more years as for the past several years there have been no exemptions (only grandfathering) and really is more of a focal point of those who are jealous than real critique on the impact on traffic.

by Navid Roshan on Jan 2, 2014 3:59 pm • linkreport

@Jasper

Not sure I agree that Metro would be better than VRE in the areas we're talking about. Yes, VRE is strictly commuter rail right now, but short and mid-term goals involve increasing train capacity and looking into reverse and off-speak service. If that ends up happening I think it will make VRE a more robust service than it is today.

Here's a two-page summary of what VRE is looking at moving forward. I was actually surprised to see that VRE has two open slots on each line that are not currently being used.

http://www.vre.org/about/strategic/SystemPlan/SystemPlanReadAhead.pdf

by Joe on Jan 2, 2014 4:47 pm • linkreport

@ Joe

One of the problems with additional VRE service is peak hour capacity on the Long Bridge (slide 7). Before there are any improvements for Virginia service, someone is going to have to build a bridge, tunnel or both.

by Randall M. on Jan 2, 2014 5:33 pm • linkreport

VRE is also short of rolling stock, which would also explain the open slots.

by Froggie on Jan 2, 2014 8:03 pm • linkreport

I've always wondered how much of Metro we taxpayers in DC are conned into paying for. While many miles of it are in DC and there are many stations, it's almost all suburbanites using it to get to work.

% of support should be by residence of users, not # of miles or stations.

by Tom Coumaris on Jan 2, 2014 11:05 pm • linkreport

I've always wondered how much of Metro we taxpayers in DC are conned into paying for.

Well, Metro has a budget if you'd like to check it out.

Here's a version from a few years ago: http://www.wmata.com/about_metro/board_of_directors/board_docs/033120_3ASubsidyReview.pdf

For Metrorail, DC chipped in $44 million, Maryland chipped in $51, and Virginia chipped in $38.

While many miles of it are in DC and there are many stations, it's almost all suburbanites using it to get to work.

Many of whom are getting to work in expensive office buildings that pay lots of DC property tax.

% of support should be by residence of users, not # of miles or stations.

Ridership is part of the formula.

by Alex B. on Jan 2, 2014 11:38 pm • linkreport

I've always wondered how much of Metro we taxpayers in DC are conned into paying for. While many miles of it are in DC and there are many stations, it's almost all suburbanites using it to get to work.
% of support should be by residence of users, not # of miles or stations.

Every WMATA budget contains this information - not sure how else you would have thought you might get it.
http://wmata.com/about_metro/docs/Approved_FY2013_Annual_Budget.pdf
See PDF page 60, that's where it starts.

Here is a more detailed look at the subsidy allocation too:
http://www.wmata.com/about_metro/docs/subsidy_allocation.pdf

In the 2013 budget, DC paid $53m for Metro Rail, $169m for Bus, $27m for MetroAccess, $16m for debt service, and $121m for the capital program.

by MLD on Jan 3, 2014 8:45 am • linkreport

@ Randall M:One of the problems with additional VRE service is peak hour capacity on the Long Bridge (slide 7). Before there are any improvements for Virginia service, someone is going to have to build a bridge, tunnel or both.

Not sure this is a real problem. VRE service to Union Station would be ideal, but it is not a big problem is some trains would turn around at Crystal City or King St. Not sure if they can. Passengers could use metro to get to Crystal City of Alexandria if they wanted to get to VRE. Plenty of seats on the Yellow Line available.

by Jasper on Jan 3, 2014 9:34 am • linkreport

@ Tom Coumaris:I've always wondered how much of Metro we taxpayers in DC are conned into paying for. While many miles of it are in DC and there are many stations, it's almost all suburbanites using it to get to work

Please stop this nonsensical arbitrary division of Greater Washington based on a couple of lines that were rather arbitrarily drawn on the map over a century ago.

We all benefit from metro. Those "there-be-dragon-suburbanites" would be clogging "your" streets if they were not on metro.

The notion that transportation routes are only for locals is nonsense. "Your" neighborhood is not just for you.

by Jasper on Jan 3, 2014 9:38 am • linkreport

Please stop this nonsensical arbitrary division of Greater Washington based on a couple of lines that were rather arbitrarily drawn on the map over a century ago.

It's arbitrary, but relevant. We do all benefit from Metro, but how it is paid for and whether or not it is equitable and fair is an important question - and one that should re-evaluated from time to time. If it were 100% paid for by Loudoun County, that wouldn't be very fair, for example. And if the share paid by Virginians doesn't go up when the Silver Line starts, that would probably be unfair too.

But Tom has done a poor job of showing that DC was "conned" into paying their share or that the shares paid by each jurisdiction are not reasonable.

by David C on Jan 3, 2014 10:13 am • linkreport

$53M for rail vs. $169M for bus doesn't seem outrageous but I'll bet a larger part of the capital program's $121 is for rail.

It's not divisive to think that if transit is going to be (heavily) subsidized the taxing authorities where the users reside should be paying proportionally to their residents' use. Otherwise why isn't DC subsidizing MARC, VRE and Amtrak?

Those K Street law firms and lobbyists were here way before Metro and aren't going anywhere. If anything, Metrorail makes it much easier to live in the suburbs and commute rather than live in DC. (And it makes places like Rosslyn, Ballston and Tysons viable as business centers too).

Residents of DC have a terrible public transit system for a major city. Especially for the amount of tax money we spend on it.

by Tom Coumaris on Jan 3, 2014 10:41 am • linkreport

t's not divisive to think that if transit is going to be (heavily) subsidized the taxing authorities where the users reside should be paying proportionally to their residents' use.

Did you read the rest of what we wrote? The formula takes into account population, ridership BY JURISDICTION OF RESIDENCE, and stations in each jurisdiction. DC pays a bit more for rail than just ridership would dictate, but it saves on regional bus based on that metric.

by MLD on Jan 3, 2014 10:57 am • linkreport

The subway loop is a waste of money. When Union Station is added on to, the H St overpass can be done away with and the tram can continue West along H to Mass Ave, up Mass to M, West on M to the Key Bridge then across the Key Bridge to Rosslyn.

by Rik on Jan 3, 2014 11:20 am • linkreport

My point is that jurisdiction of residence should be given much more relevance than it is now.

by Tom Coumaris on Jan 3, 2014 11:58 am • linkreport

Doing that would decrease DC's rail subsidy but increase the regional bus subsidy.

The argument for giving population weight is that you pay for the people the system serves, even if they don't ride. In theory that encourages buildup around station areas.

The argument for giving station location weight is that you get a benefit from people outside your jurisdiction being able to access your jurisdiction. Obviously DC gets a huge benefit from the fact that people from outside DC are able to take Metro into the city for work. It makes the land inside the District much more valuable than it would otherwise be - before Metro downtown had much smaller buildings.

by MLD on Jan 3, 2014 12:13 pm • linkreport

And providing decent transit to DC residents fits into this how? As a side consideration?

by Tom Coumaris on Jan 3, 2014 12:41 pm • linkreport

They have a subway that can take them all over the city?

by drumz on Jan 3, 2014 12:43 pm • linkreport

And providing decent transit to DC residents fits into this how? As a side consideration?

LOL what does this even mean? You want the formula to be more touchy-feely or have a mission statement? The rail formula includes station location - in theory that reflects service offered. The bus formula incorporates vehicle miles and hours offered in each jurisdiction, which are measures of how much service is offered.

by MLD on Jan 3, 2014 12:59 pm • linkreport

drumz- The subway in DC will indeed take one all over the city- making transfers to get anywhere. If you are lucky enough to live next to a station and a line that goes where you need to go you are lucky.

MLD- I'm sure they know what % of rail users are DC residents and that's the % DC should be paying. Transit funds above that should be used for transit for DC residents.

by Tom Coumaris on Jan 4, 2014 8:58 am • linkreport

I'm sure they know what % of rail users are DC residents and that's the % DC should be paying.

And what I said was that if the rail formula and the regional bus formula were both based on that metric alone, DC would pay more overall than it does now.

by MLD on Jan 4, 2014 3:36 pm • linkreport

Oh, and the other part is that the revenue is not divvied up by formula, and if you went to a metric based solely on ridership there would be an argument for that as well. DC would lose out there too.

As for the capital program, capital spending on bus and rail was about equal in 2012 (maybe 45/55 bus/rail) so it's not like that's 95% rail spending.

by MLD on Jan 4, 2014 6:35 pm • linkreport

"I'm sure they know what % of rail users are DC residents and that's the % DC should be paying."

They probably do by registered smartrip cards and or tracking smartrip/farecards based on usage at stops and the times over a few weeks to weed out tourist/visitors.

That does make me wonder if DC paid more could they make some trains end at the DC borders or stations just beyond them or extend service inside of DC earlier or later(Friendship Hieghts, Deanwood, Rosslyn, Capitol Heights, Silver Spring, & Naylor RD)it would be a real eye opener to see what kind of travel patterns there are.

by kk on Jan 5, 2014 3:20 pm • linkreport

They probably do by registered smartrip cards and or tracking smartrip/farecards based on usage at stops and the times over a few weeks to weed out tourist/visitors.

Actually they determine riders by jurisdiction using the information from the extensive passenger survey done every few years.

SmarTrip is not accurate enough as it requires that people have their addresses updated on their cards and that the people the card is registered to are the ones using the card.

by MLD on Jan 6, 2014 8:36 am • linkreport

Thanks for the information MLD. Do they also track passenger-miles per jurisdiction's residents? (DC's would be much smaller).

If we'd pay more because of bus use I guess a new formula wouldn't provide more money for DC transit after all.

by Tom Coumaris on Jan 6, 2014 9:50 am • linkreport

This is just a silly argument. First of all, the new circular blue/orange/yellow line will create 12 to 16 new stations insided DC, will provide a vital north to south link betwen north capitol hill and south capitol hill, bring two stops to Georgetown, and provide an alternative rail connection in the city should part of the red or current orange/blue line close. So what about this is not beneficial to those who live in DC?

ps. add in the streetcar system and the total rail system in DC would be arguably one of the best in the U.S.

by pjwjr on Jan 6, 2014 11:18 am • linkreport

pjwjr- Come to 14th and S and try to find anywhere that walking to Metro and changing and walking again makes any sense. And the Metro buses are full in the a.m. rush and won't let passengers on. Plus they just took our bus stop away and now they want to raise fares on the Circulator which is the ONLY decent transit we have.

DC is a long way from having even decent transit for residents.

by Tom Coumaris on Jan 6, 2014 1:02 pm • linkreport

The difference is that 14th & S is in the middle of everything, and in the middle of good bus service. There are plenty of bus routes within walking distance that give you a transfer-free ride to lots of places in DC. Most people in DC do not live in those areas.

The loop Metro line will open up more of DC to those people in DC who have to take multiple buses and transfer now; they will be able to more easily take Metro to Capitol Hill, Union Station, Etc.

Complaining about raising circulator fares is ridiculous - no big city can operate a bus system that charges $1 per trip. The low fare is making it difficult for DDOT to increase service and open new routes.

by MLD on Jan 6, 2014 1:18 pm • linkreport

Thanks for pointing this out, Ben. Hopefully, the introduction of LRT to this region, and better commuter rail service, will begin to disabuse people of this notion that Metrorail is a one-size-fits-all solution.

Once upon a time, when Uncle Sam was paying and construction was cheaper, it was economically feasible to send subways through DC's fairly low density inner neighborhoods and near suburbs, but no longer.

by Payton Chung on Jan 6, 2014 9:00 pm • linkreport

MLD- The neighborhood was built on the Columbia Streetcar line- a fast and cheap way to get up and down 14th between Columbia Heights and downtown. Everywhere we need to go or make a transfer at is on this route.

But these transit planners from whatever planet don't realize that's what we know we need back- a cheap reliable method to go up to 12 blocks up or down 14th. Circulator fits the bill even if it's stops are limited. $1 is a fair price for such short trips.

The DC Inner Loop isn't just a dream; it's fantasy at the LSD tripping level.

by Tom Coumaris on Jan 7, 2014 10:34 am • linkreport

Sorry the DC Loop doesn't help YOU, Tom, but it will help many other people who take Metro and will help DC in the long run.

WMATA has done studies on the 14th street line and there is a final report with recommendations (including an express 59 route), but it will probably be a few years before full implementation:
http://metrobus-studies.com/52-53-54/52-53-54.htm

They do get that what YOU need is better bus service. But not every project they propose is going to be tailored to your exact needs.

If you want more circulator service I suggest you talk to DDOT about that.

by MLD on Jan 7, 2014 10:43 am • linkreport

clearly metro stations downtown are heavily utilized by suburban commuters. The district does not capture income taxes or residential property taxes on those people. It only captures property taxes on commercial property, and that only to the extent its taxable buildings. Ergo, metro rail downtown needs to either be funded heavily by the federal govt (as the original system was) or by some value recapture mechanism impacting downtown commercial property owners. If its not, and the existing formulas are not altered, DC will always have an incentive to oppose investments like this.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 7, 2014 10:44 am • linkreport

MLD- The Loop would help me but I'm saying it's chances are absolute zero of being built.

by Tom Coumaris on Jan 7, 2014 11:48 am • linkreport

AWalkerInTheCity: "...metro rail downtown needs to either be funded heavily by the federal govt (as the original system was)..."

Following the discussion with fascination from far-off Atlanta, I agree. The nation as a whole has an interest in developing a less auto-dependent transportation system, and in that way the DC area is low-hanging fruit.

To put it another way, I wish Atlanta (among others cities) was faced with a rail transit capacity problem. :/

by Tom Marney on Jan 7, 2014 12:14 pm • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris et al.

What 14th Street (and 16th Street and 7th Street and many others) need are dedicated transit lanes. Most of the region needs these. Without them, buses and streetcars and really, every mode of transportation are doomed to suffer in the same traffic every day. The inequity of that is staggering. I share a lot of your pro-DC bias (I just moved from 14th between R and S to S between 13th and 12th), but the real inequality is how much surface area is still given over to private automobiles from Maryland, Virginia, and DC.

The loop doesn't go far enough, because of the aforementioned land use issues. And with politicians unwilling to force policy changes that would require dedicated transit lanes (or at least remove restrictions on them; looking at you, VDOT), there are pretty severe institutional barriers to getting anything actually done.

What we have isn't good enough. What we're looking at doesn't go far enough. There's a lack of vision and willpower all at once and I'm not sure how we overcome that.

[Also just for good measure: headways on all modes are awful right now and in serious need of improvement.]

/rant

by LowHeadways on Jan 7, 2014 2:32 pm • linkreport

LowHeadways- Totally agree on dedicated lanes and headways. Those few parking spots on main streets aren't worth as much as good transit and loading zones can be put on the side street portion of the commercial zone. And that means headways have to drop too since it'd be dumb to have dedicated lanes for buses that seldom come.

But until that the peculiar difficulty of old streetcar neighborhoods is that we don't have reliable short distance service other than Circulator. We need to easily get up and down lower 14th.

by Tom Coumaris on Jan 8, 2014 9:36 am • linkreport

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