Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Streetcar, streetcar, streetcar


Photo by BeyondDC on Flickr.
Big interest in streetcar: Over 500 people applied for 34 jobs working on DC's new streetcar. The biggest hiring challenge will be operators who will have to learn to "cohabitate with traffic." (Post)

Streetcar is a cash cow: Portland witnessed $3.5 billion in development within two blocks of its streetcars. The District is expecting $18 billion in development within 10 years around the streetcar network, with demand for office space leading the way. (Post)

Do streetcars count?: Are streetcars really an integral part of the transit network or just development catalysts? Analysis of 7 cities shows that streetcar ridership is a small percentage of total transit ridership, except in New Orleans. (Atlantic Cities)

Not just red light cameras anymore : DC's traffic cameras will now issue $250 tickets to drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians or drive through intersections at unsafe speeds. Drivers who block intersections or roll through stop signs can get a $50 fine. (Post)

Misleading poll question?: Was there misleading wording in the Post's poll question that found 59% of DC residents oppose the DC United soccer stadium deal? Also, polls from 2004 show only 40% of residents supported the Nationals Park deal, but now that number is 70%. (City Paper)

The transit Super Bowl: Super Bowl organizers hope the few hundred thousand visitors to the New York/New Jersey area this weekend use trains and buses. Transportation agencies will increase service and offer Super Passes. (Post)

Why transit remains Balkanized: Except during major sports events, trains from New York and Connecticut don't run through Penn Station to New Jersey and vice versa. There are historic reasons for this, mostly political. And a lot of them also apply to why MARC and VRE don't run between Maryland and Virginia. (Capital)

And...: Several colleges in southwestern Virginia will get electricity from methane that comes from local landfills. (Post, Dave Murphy) ... The chapel at St. Elizabeths will become an "interim innovation hub" while DC works on getting the rest of the campus ready for people and offices. (WBJ)

Thanks, Guardian!: The Guardian launched a new city-focused site, Guardian Cities, and named Greater Greater Washington to its list of the "best city blogs around the world." Thanks Guardian, and thanks to all our readers, commenters, and contrbutors!

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Chad Maddox grew up in Atlanta, Georgia where living a car-free lifestyle is almost impossible. In 2010, he moved to the Washington area and currently lives in the vibrant DC neighborhood of NoMa.  

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"Are streetcars really an integral part of the transit network or just development catalysts?"

Again with the false choice. It's both and always has been, if properly done. Part of the development potential means it's also part of the affordability solution. Oh, and it's also environmentally sound.

by Thayer-D on Jan 28, 2014 8:54 am • linkreport

Out of the seven cities listed in the Atlantic Cities article only one (New Orleans) has more than one streetcar line. I'd hope that that overall ridership on one line didn't absolutely dominate the dozens of bus lines present in those cities. If that were the case it'd say far more about the bus service than the streetcar service.

Now, what does this have to do with DC/Arlington? Not much, I'd say. All the corridors identified for streetcar service here have been done so because the extra capacity provided by a streetcar can handle the expected growth in those corridors (which are already heavily traveled via transit). So in the DC area, its both. It's about absorbing the future growth/demand.

by drumz on Jan 28, 2014 9:01 am • linkreport

+1 Thayer and Drumz. That was a poorly written and poorly thought out article.

Rick Laubscher's comment on the article nailed it.

by h st ll on Jan 28, 2014 9:04 am • linkreport

@drumz
Out of the seven cities listed in the Atlantic Cities article only one (New Orleans) has more than one streetcar line
Wrong, Portland opened their second modern line in September 2012.
@Streetcar is a cash cow: Portland witnessed $3.5 billion in development within two blocks of its streetcars.

Interesting revisionist history. Look up the portland development commision. There are many factors at play in Portland, Oregon. The first of which is the mass influx of Californians fleeing taxes and retiring in Portland, topographical conditions, heavily corrupted land tax abatment, government manipulation of the peripheral suburbs land use. But yeah, lets assume all the development magically happened in the Pearl District, Alphabet district, downtown, and SoWa, because of the construction of the [what was] free streetcar that travels about 4 miles....

by Bill the Wanderer on Jan 28, 2014 9:12 am • linkreport

Bill, I assume you are aware that most of DC's neighborhoods developed on the back of street cars.

by Thayer-D on Jan 28, 2014 9:16 am • linkreport

"Bill, I assume you are aware that most of DC's neighborhoods developed on the back of street cars."
----

True. By 1940. Not sure what your point is,

by ceefer66 on Jan 28, 2014 9:24 am • linkreport

The University of Maryland is still looking for funding for it's CHHP which will turn garbage and yard clippings into electricity, heat and hydrogen(for buses or commercial vehicles)

http://www.eng.umd.edu/html/news/news_story.php?id=6537

by Richard on Jan 28, 2014 9:25 am • linkreport

Good to know that there is a second line now in Portland.

Still the best way to judge the DC programs is to look at the alternatives in those corridors (meaning: extra buses, a new metro line, no-build, etc.) than to look at just one facet of a different cities program that may be in an entirely different context.

It's great to look at what other cities do (especially as people still worry about mixed traffic operation) but it's similarly important to recognize where the comparisons end as well.

by drumz on Jan 28, 2014 9:34 am • linkreport

How much potential ridership really can there be on a run-through commuter rail network of MARC + VRE?
I suppose if you cut off the MARC trains at Crystal City...that gives MD riders access to both Yellow/Blue in VA. All you would need then is a West-Southeast Wye at Rosslyn and run some trains from Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor down to National Airport and then turn them around there.

We don't know, but there could be a lot of possibilities even if only 1/2 or 1/3 of the trains made the full trip.
The Camden line currently only has 50% reverse service and the Penn line maybe 85-90%

What if Baltimore was only an hour from Crystal City? What if The Pentagon was seamlessly connected with Aberdeen proving ground?
Even having the access to L'Enfant would be a great possibility.

by Richard on Jan 28, 2014 9:38 am • linkreport

At what point does a traffic camera determine whether a driver has failed to yield to pedestrians? The software will have to recognize a moving pedestrian as well as vehicle.

This is relatively new capability http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/publicroads/09septoct/01.cfm

How far will they take this?

by kob on Jan 28, 2014 9:39 am • linkreport

Here is the link to the NJ NY "Regional Transit Diagram" for Super Bowl XLVIII. (976 KB PDF file)

by Sand Box John on Jan 28, 2014 9:42 am • linkreport

@Thayer-D

Yes, that is correct Mr. Thayer, after the horse and buggy ran it's course, the next step was PROFITABLE privately run streetcars and interurbans that created Takoma Park, Mount Pleasant, Chevy Chase, all of which were marketed and developed for RICH FOLKS. I still don't know what an aging inner urban core of the 21st century has to do with sprawl development in the late 19th early 20th century.

by Bill the Wanderer on Jan 28, 2014 9:42 am • linkreport

There isn't that much demand for transit through New York though. I mean there might be the occassional traveler from Westchester to Newark and vice versa but I suspet 99% of those people will just be driving. The only case I could see would be LIRR through to say Newark but they run frequently enough you could connect. Actually the only project I could see make sense would be another Path Line from north Hudson/south Bergen to Port Authority Bus Termina and Grand Central and then running the existing line north from the Penn Terminus to connect. But we're still talking additional tunnels in midtown and under the river which will be very expensive.

by BTA on Jan 28, 2014 9:42 am • linkreport

What about the connection of NoVa (and its two airports) more directly to BWI? That should be worth something when thinking about run-through commuter rail traffic.

by Thad on Jan 28, 2014 9:46 am • linkreport


This piece is relevant to DC's new ticketing cameras

>Bratton’s Pedestrian Ticket Blitz Won’t Save Lives<

http://www.streetsblog.org/2014/01/20/brattons-pedestrian-ticket-blitz-wont-save-lives/comment-page-1/

Since stories abound of DC police pinning tickets on the hospital pillows of bicyclist and pedestrians, I thought this was particularly interesting:

>Where is the traffic safety global success story that relies on punishing pedestrians? Name one.

In fact, the proven model — exemplified by the Netherlands — does not hold pedestrians at fault in the event of a collision, even if they disobeyed the letter of the law. By applying a “strict liability” legal framework to traffic crashes, the Dutch have codified the notion that when you drive a multi-ton vehicle, it’s incumbent upon you to do everything possible to avoid striking pedestrians and cyclists. This has saved lives: Fewer than half as many people are killed in traffic per capita in the Netherlands as in the U.S.<

by kob on Jan 28, 2014 9:48 am • linkreport

Bill,
There are many ways to move people, it's a matter of which is the most practical, regardless of when they first appeard. And the inner core has everything to do with turn of the last century developments in that they are part of the same outward growth. In case you where wondering.

by Thayer-D on Jan 28, 2014 9:49 am • linkreport

How much potential ridership really can there be on a run-through commuter rail network of MARC + VRE?

It is rather shocking that in the age of big data, we have no clue how many people transfer from one transit system to the next.

IMHO, it is quite limiting that there is not good rail connection from Richmond to Baltimore. This is not just a matter of connection VRE and MARC, but also of having trains outside of commuter hours. Why can't I take a train from Lorton to go see an Oriols game?

by Jasper on Jan 28, 2014 9:59 am • linkreport

How much potential ridership really can there be on a run-through commuter rail network of MARC + VRE?

Extending MARC down to Crystal City (would have to go that far to turn trains around) would give people direct access to the non-Red Metro lines at L'Enfant, which would probably boost ridership some, and cut down on flow through Union Station and Metro transfers. There would probably be less benefit for VRE passengers.

@Jasper
It is rather shocking that in the age of big data, we have no clue how many people transfer from one transit system to the next.

The transit agency does, but WMATA just happens to be spectacularly bad at sharing their data publicly.

by MLD on Jan 28, 2014 10:03 am • linkreport

Of course there isn't much demand for through lines (in DC or NY) because they don't exist. The existing housing/job market is aligned based on what does exist.

THe biggest beneficiary in DC would likely be Baltimore - people priced out of DC with jobs in Virginia who want urban living could live in Baltimore and have a one train ride to work instead of two.

Of course it would still likely be a small fraction of riders, so it would really depend on how much work had to go into making it a through system.

by Tom A on Jan 28, 2014 10:06 am • linkreport

I agree with Tom A. the demand for through running VRE lines would come after you establish it. Not before. It's the type of induced demand that would be beneficial to the region. It would be wonderful if VRE and Marc could be reorganized into one entity anyway. That way MD and DC could help with the third track in VA. and maybe there'd be the ability to connect up to Wilmington.

Or maybe get even crazier and merge Marc/VRE in with Metro since that is already a multi-state compact.

by drumz on Jan 28, 2014 10:17 am • linkreport

Yeah I think through running makes more sense in DC than NY actually. Best case scenario could the transit agencies just pay eachother a fixed fee (or Amtrak, CSX, Norfolk Southern depending on who owns the line) and just collect regular fare rather than trying to get complicated with the revenue sharing? I suppose it would get complicated when you got into monthly pass territory. Amtrak already runs MARC and they presumably have the signalling control in place already for their trains through the region so maybe it would just be best for the MARC trains to do the Virginia trip rather than trying to have VRE run through as well.

by BTA on Jan 28, 2014 10:36 am • linkreport

Extending MARC down to Crystal City (would have to go that far to turn trains around) would give people direct access to the non-Red Metro lines at L'Enfant, which would probably boost ridership some, and cut down on flow through Union Station and Metro transfers. There would probably be less benefit for VRE passengers.
Unless some VRE passengers or residents in Virginia started getting jobs in Baltimore.

The biggest beneficiary in DC would likely be Baltimore - people priced out of DC with jobs in Virginia who want urban living could live in Baltimore and have a one train ride to work instead of two.
The biggest beneficiary would likely be the suburban MD users between Baltimore and DC, as they would get their one seat ride and BWI(a suburban station between Baltimore and DC).

Baltimore is a big station on Camden and Penn, but importantly it's traffic is far more two way than most of the other stations as people are getting on to go to jobs in DC but also coming in from parts further afield to work in the city.

by Richard on Jan 28, 2014 10:40 am • linkreport

I doubt the 16 cameras for failure to yield to pedestrians will work well. That's usually a very iffy thing since pedestrians and drivers often agree by face contact and waiving thru who should proceed.

There are only 20 "block the box" cams?? We could use 100's.

Streetcar smeetcar- The decision should be on which method moves the most people most rapidly at lowest cost and highest dependability. Over time streetcars should be lower cost but if that's not going to be the case then forget them. Their "cuteness" won't last very long at all.

by Tom Coumaris on Jan 28, 2014 10:59 am • linkreport

Through-running makes sense in NYC just so that you can free up space in the stations. Right now they turn trains at Penn Station and Grand Central which uses up way more platform time than if you ran them through.

by MLD on Jan 28, 2014 11:14 am • linkreport

Perhaps except the majority of people are still going to get on/off at Penn Station (though some people would continue on as far as Newark Airport<>Jamaica arguably) so you would certianly save some time but I'm not sure it would be as time saving as it's claimed. Also isnt the actual bottleneck the tunnel not the platforms? Perhaps post-Gateway it will make sense to do this extensively when there is more tunnel capacity.

by BTA on Jan 28, 2014 11:23 am • linkreport

When it comes to through running in general the question should be "why not?" instead of "why?". If there are serious technical/cost issues that would prohibit a project then that's something to consider but otherwise I think it should be on the table everywhere.

by drumz on Jan 28, 2014 11:27 am • linkreport

certianly save some time but I'm not sure it would be as time saving as it's claimed.

Of course, the real reason do to it isn't to save time for the current commuter rail users, but to turn the exsting commuter rail infrastructure into a full-fledged rapid transit network, similar to what Paris did when they created the RER.

by Alex B. on Jan 28, 2014 11:27 am • linkreport

@ MLD:The transit agency does, but WMATA just happens to be spectacularly bad at sharing their data publicly.

Not sure I'd be looking at WMATA first when looking for MARC and VRE data.

Acutally, Union Station would also benefit from through trains, as they do not have to deal anymore with turning trains around (and storing the trains as they wait for departure).

@ Tom Coumaris:pedestrians and drivers often agree by face contact and waiving thru who should proceed.

That is not what should be happening. What should be happening is that people just stick to the traffic rules that determine who gets to go. Such traffic rules exist to avoid confusion. Of course, what actually happens is that drivers use their metallic heave bubble to intimidate pedestrians and send them running for their lives.

by Jasper on Jan 28, 2014 11:35 am • linkreport

According to the MARC Growth & Investment Plan released by the MTA in 2007, MARC was supposed to extend the Penn Line to Newark, DE by 2015 to connect to SEPTA and begin through running to Alexandria by 2020. Both plans have likely been postponed since things like weekend service, third track for the Brunswick Line, BWI station expansion, and other improvements within Maryland have taken priority.

Extending trains to DE is much easier than extending to NoVa, because the only new investment needed would be to rebuild the old PRR station at Elkton, coordinate schedules with SEPTA, and maybe add another trainset to account for the longer trip time.

Through-running to Alexandria, which would likely be in higher demand, is difficult since MARC runs electric locomotives on most of their rush-hour Penn Line trains (which will continue for at least 2 more years) and the catenary stops in the tunnel just south of Union Station. Also, through-running would likely increase congestion on the CSX ROW between Alexandria and the Virginia Ave Tunnel/First Street Tunnel split, even if MARC only ran a few trains. This would be compounded by the fact that there is only a single platform at Crystal City and L'Enfant Plaza.

It would also be impossible for VRE to run trains north of WAS on the Penn Line anytime soon because:

a) their "gallery" railcars cannot travel above 80mph
b) the gallery cars don't have enough clearance to fit into the B&P Tunnel
c) the gallery cars can't serve high-platforms, which every station on the Penn Line between BAL and WAS (except W. Baltimore) has.

VRE would face the same problem on the Camden line since Greenbelt and Camden station have high platforms. Through-running to Silver Spring is a possibility on the Brunswick Line, but the congestion issue arises again, and the fact that the Red Line provides a direct one-seat ride from Union Station along the exact same route doesn't really make it practical.

As for merging MARC and VRE, that would be unlikely to ever happen and would be much worse than the status quo. Both agencies reflect the very different political priorities of their respective states. While MARC is part of a well-funded state agency, VRE is quasi-independent and struggles to get funding to expand (especially from Richmond). As a result VRE has hiked fares multiple times over the last decade, as well as their Amtrak "step-up" fee, while MARC will see its first increase in over ten years in 2014. Such a merger would only hurt MARC. Better cooperation between the two agencies, which would include eventual through-running, would likely be a better alternative.

by King Terrapin on Jan 28, 2014 11:38 am • linkreport

Not sure I'd be looking at WMATA first when looking for MARC and VRE data.

You wanted to know how many people transfer from MARC to Metro, right? Metro's passenger survey asks for access mode (how did you get to the Metro station you started at).

WMATA would also know which smartrip cards are tied to MARC ticket purchases and would be able to figure out where those people are going.

by MLD on Jan 28, 2014 11:39 am • linkreport

Through-running to Alexandria, which would likely be in higher demand, is difficult since MARC runs electric locomotives on most of their rush-hour Penn Line trains (which will continue for at least 2 more years) and the catenary stops in the tunnel just south of Union Station.

Stupidly MARC runs a lot of Diesel locomotives on the Penn line and is buying more Diesels but no new electric units.

but they could get through the tunnel!
VRE would face the same problem on the Camden line since Greenbelt and Camden station have high platforms.
Camden station has room to add a low platform. Camden has nothing but room. Greenbelt doesnt have as much room, but the plan is for the entire Camden line to be low platform served eventually so it isn't like these improvements wouldnt be possible eventually.

by Richard on Jan 28, 2014 12:10 pm • linkreport

As for merging MARC and VRE, that would be unlikely to ever happen and would be much worse than the status quo.

The whole point of merging them together would be to dramatically improve the status quo - to offer transit service, not commuter rail service.

None of the technical issues you raise are insurmountable.

The whole point of these kinds of improvements is to think outside of the cox that is commuter rail. It's not that hard to do: again, plenty of transit agencies around the world have turned commuter rail operations into good old rapid transit. See Paris and the RER; See London's Overground; see any number of regular 'commuter' operations in Europe. And it's infectious: see Boston's concept for using DMUs to offer transit service along legacy commuter rail tracks.

Better cooperation between the two agencies, which would include eventual through-running, would likely be a better alternative.

Well, almost by definition, it would be an inferior alternative - but I agree, it will be a good first step.

by Alex B. on Jan 28, 2014 12:23 pm • linkreport

It's not just parochialism which prevents through-running trains. Boston's commuter rail system is unified and largely contained within one state. But there is no North-South connectivity because no politician has been willing to commit the funds for the connection between North Station and South Station.

by alurin on Jan 28, 2014 12:25 pm • linkreport

To anyone who hasn't seen this yet, VRE approved their latest System Plan about two weeks ago and this is a good summary sheet of what it outlines. Makes it easy to see what the near, mid, and long-term goals are, their predicted costs, and how they plan to implement them:

http://www.vre.org/about/Ops_board_items/2014/January/Action%20Item%2010C%20Attachment%20-%20VRE%20System%20Plan%20Summary%20Draft%2010.pdf

It was a little disappointing seeing a start date for the Gainesville-Haymartket extension in the 2021-2025 time-frame but I guess with the capacity and Long Bridge challenges still needing to be addressed it seems realistic.

by Joe on Jan 28, 2014 12:29 pm • linkreport

@Alex B.

Totally agree. The problem is here in the US we think of "commuter rail" as "locomotives hauling cars" and don't think of what else we can do with those tracks. Add in that the freight railroads HATE passenger service and you've got a system where you can't move to that better model.

It will be interesting to see how the MBTA plans play out and if they are able to get better/cheaper DMU rolling stock with the new FRA regs in 2015.

by MLD on Jan 28, 2014 12:42 pm • linkreport

The problem is here in the US we think of "commuter rail" as "locomotives hauling cars" and don't think of what else we can do with those tracks.

Which is somewhat odd because it's not like RDCs are from some obscure, mystical past. Budd was still building them in the 60s.

by Another Nick on Jan 28, 2014 1:01 pm • linkreport

Looking at the VRE report Joe linked to the largest phase 1 expenditure is to spend 91 million on 4150 parking spaces which is about $22,000 per parking space.

Seems like that money would be better spent elsewhere?

The Haymarket extension is 295 million in 2020 dollars so would it not be better to move that up and presumably lower the cost of serving more markets and riders that way?

by TomQ on Jan 28, 2014 1:03 pm • linkreport

I think the VRE investment plan seems sensible. I was looking at their statistics and some of the stations are running near capacity for parking which means it might be an incrementally more cost effective improvement. http://www.vre.org/about/company/performance-measures.pdf Also if they are running at or over seating capacity will probably need more coaches if they are going to do the Haymarket extension or you'd just be piling more people on top of them or cutting off people down the line which does not make the customer happy.

by BTA on Jan 28, 2014 1:24 pm • linkreport

Looking at the VRE report Joe linked to the largest phase 1 expenditure is to spend 91 million on 4150 parking spaces which is about $22,000 per parking space.

That seems kind of excessive if they are evenly distrubted across VRE's mainly surface lots.

by Richard on Jan 28, 2014 1:49 pm • linkreport

The stadium poll question is basically accurate. City money will not be used to finance the stadium, but will be used to finance the land it is built on and to allow it to operate and to absorb some of the risk of the business. So the gis is accurate.

The Nats question is at least as inaccurate. Because the baseball stadium is mostly paid for by businesses, most citizens don't feel the bite. Nor does the question inform them of how much the stadium cost or how it is paid for. A question when those facts were widely known, compared to now when they are not, is going to get different answers. A better question would be "Was the investment of $700 million in Nationals Stadium, paid for by increased taxes, a wise use of DC money?"

by David C on Jan 28, 2014 1:50 pm • linkreport

@ Richard

I fully agree MARC replacing their electrics with diesels is incredibly misguided and shortsighted, especially when there's a huge opportunity to purchase surplus locomotives from Amtrak for practically nothing, as their new ACS-64 locomotives get delivered. Even better, they could purchase the ACS-64 themselves.

I don't think MARC will be constructing any low-platforms though because of ADA requirements...

@AlexB

While I appreciate "thinking outside the box" as much as anyone, you have to also consider the current reality that Americans view commuter/regional rail very differently than Europeans. This nation's car-first attitude is only just beginning to diminish.

Most states, especially in the South and West, have only just begun to even consider basic, barebones commuter rail service. Congress is also very reluctant to loosen the purse strings for anything transit-related. We can't even get a fair transit subsidy funded!

Ambitious transit projects such as the Northeast Maglev, Florida High-Speed Rail, California High-Speed rail, Wisconsin regional rail, etc. usually become mired in "controversy" or delays, struggle to get funding, or get cancelled altogether. This is why smaller, lower-scale moderate improvements make more practical sense and stand a much greater chance of success, and as you said are a good "first step."

DMU projects have actually been proposed/tested/implemented in many areas from Toronto to Boston to New Jersey to Florida to Texas. In FL they were purchased for use on South Florida's Tri-Rail line as part of an FRA demonstration project. They make a lot of sense on lower-ridership rail lines and, as Another Nick mentioned, are not really a new concept. B&O/MARC, along with many other commuter railroads in the Northeast operated Budd RDC's well into the late 1980's.

by King Terrapin on Jan 28, 2014 1:52 pm • linkreport

Jasper- Sorry there's just drivers I do not feel comfortable walking in front of and I prefer to be both polite and cautious and waive those cars thru. The law can't make me walk in front of those drivers.

Of course the most dangerous situation is an (insert ethnic group) Standoff where both parties are going "no you, no you, no you" , but regardless, I won't walk in front of certain cars.

by Tom Coumaris on Jan 28, 2014 2:08 pm • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris
Not sure if this is the vendor but this is how the cameras work:
http://www.redflex.com/images/pdf/rtsi-ped-guardian-productsheet.pdf

It records a video. It detects cars near pedestrians in the crosswalk. I don't think it can catch cars going through while you stand on the sidewalk.

by MLD on Jan 28, 2014 2:30 pm • linkreport

I do the same thing Tom, I think its' better safe than sorry. That said I can only think of a handful of times in DC that someone didn't stop to let me cross after I waited. Generally I've found drivers to be very polite probably because they are used to being pedestrians too at times.

by BTA on Jan 28, 2014 2:49 pm • linkreport

@David C -- It's not "financing the land". It's being used largely by the city to purchase the land, and partly to repurpose surrounding roads to accommodate stadium traffic. It's seed money to to kick-start development in the neighborhood, with the city retaining the land. Moreover, the city's commitment will probably be reduced by Akridge when the swapped properties are evaluated and Akridge makes up the difference.

Really, the question should be whether the people support a plan for the city to buy those properties, a plan that would include swapping land to give Akridge development rights at the Reeves Center -- and then granting the soccer team a long-term lease to build a stadium that the team would pay for.

That would be accurate. Anything else is misleading and is meant to generate controversy by exploiting ignorance about hte nature of the proposal.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Jan 28, 2014 2:51 pm • linkreport

@Fischy (Ed F.)

I interpret your statement to say that Akridge will be paying fair market value for the Reeves Center. I.E. Part of the payment will be in kind - the land swap - and part of the payment will be cash to make up any difference in value between the Reeves Center and the land Akridge is offering?

Is this correct?

by sk on Jan 28, 2014 2:56 pm • linkreport

@sk - As far as I know, that has never been clearly spelled out, but based on what has been said, it seems fair to say that does seem to be what's intended. Perhaps, Akridge will be getting a discount, but that hasn't been spelled out, either

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Jan 28, 2014 3:04 pm • linkreport

And environmental remediation.

The question could be written better, but the details have not been hammered out yet and are still in flux. But the general idea, that the city will provide financial assistance to DC United to build a stadium remains accurate regardless of those details.

by David C on Jan 28, 2014 3:15 pm • linkreport

@Fischy (Ed F.) and David C

The question I have is, how much financial assistance? And that the total financial assistance should be disclosed, inclusive of any discount that Akridge receives on the Reeves Center.

Without that information, it is difficult to evaluate the merits of the proposal.

by sk on Jan 28, 2014 3:24 pm • linkreport

Akridge will get a good deal, because no one will be able to outbit them. They will be given a deal that they can either take or leave. And if they decide to leave it, that will be very embarrassing to the Mayor. It gives them a pretty good hand to play. They really shouldn't have announced this deal until they had everything in place. But, there's an election...

by David C on Jan 28, 2014 3:27 pm • linkreport

sk, I don't think anyone knows how much the District will kick in yet or what they'll get in return for that.

by David C on Jan 28, 2014 4:18 pm • linkreport

Yes -- the city will be layying out possibly as much as $150 million to buy the land and make infrastructure improvements. The city will also have to lay out some cash to replace the Reeves center, somewhere else -- possibly Anacostia. What the city gets out of it though, is 3 new anchors to development throughout the city -- that will benefit the city for decades to come.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Jan 28, 2014 4:26 pm • linkreport

@ Tom Coumaris:Sorry there's just drivers I do not feel comfortable walking in front of and I prefer to be both polite and cautious and waive those cars thru.

Since when it encouraging people to break the law considered polite? The law in DC, MD and VA requires drivers to stop or yield for pedestrians. Period. If you keep encouraging people to break the law and not yield or stop for you, you are endangering not only yourself, but also others who assume that traffic participants follow the law (more or less).

The law can't make me walk in front of those drivers.

Traffic law is in fact designed to make it possible for you to walk in front of those drivers. It is you, encouraging drivers to break the law and not stop or yield for you, who creates unclarity and therefor danger.

Of course the most dangerous situation is an (insert ethnic group) Standoff where both parties are going "no you, no you, no you"

Indeed. To avoid that confusion is exactly why traffic law is (attempts to be) clear on who has the right of way. So, if the law requires drivers to stop or yield for you, use that right of way and walk. Do not confuse drivers, and make them think they do not need to stop or yield for pedestrians. Or worse, that they are doing pedestrians a favor by stopping or yielding for them.

by Jasper on Jan 28, 2014 4:30 pm • linkreport

What are the three anchors? I can see the stadium, but if you are calling the reeves site a potential anchor that seems a bit hyperbolic considering how beyond hot U st already is.

by BTA on Jan 28, 2014 4:34 pm • linkreport

the city will be layying out possibly as much as $150 million to buy the land and make infrastructure improvements.

That's the estimate. If they swing the streetcar over there on an expedited schedule, that's more. Then there is ongoing security expenses, some businesses that need to move (possibly out of the city), transaction costs, land that DC already owns that will be handed over to DC United rent free, etc...And while Fischy thinks the cost will be less than $150 million (a possibility I'll concede) it is usually the case that the price of these things goes up over time.

What the city gets out of it though, is 3 new anchors to development throughout the city

That's a generous reading of it. If you're going to count the new Reeves Center as one, then you have to count the loss of the current Reeves Center as minus one. Same with RFK, which will now become even more dead. And then the housing that will go in at the current Reeves Center might just as easily gone it at whatever site they choose for the new one. There is probably some more efficient land use to be found by moving these pieces around on the board, but only counting the gains and ignoring the losses overstates it.

by David C on Jan 28, 2014 4:39 pm • linkreport

Yes -- the city will be layying out possibly as much as $150 million to buy the land and make infrastructure improvements. The city will also have to lay out some cash to replace the Reeves center, somewhere else -- possibly Anacostia. What the city gets out of it though, is 3 new anchors to development throughout the city -- that will benefit the city for decades to come.

OK, so now we've accepted that the Post poll's description of "using city funds to help finance a new soccer stadium" is at least correct in that the city will be "laying out as much as $150 million."

Everyone gets that we will get something out of it - a stadium - so I don't get what the complaint is with the wording of the question. It didn't lay out the plan in detail but it got the basic points down.

by MLD on Jan 28, 2014 4:46 pm • linkreport

@ Thayer-D

Are you suggesting streetcars will make H St. area more affordable, and how'd you come up with that?

And what's environmentally sound about streetcars? Transportation Energy Data Book data show they emit more greenhouse gas and consume more energy per passenger than cars.

I know the love for streetcars runs high on GGW, but where's the evidence to substantiate your fantastical claims?

@Bill the Wanderer

Right, and pretty soon they'll be crediting the development on H St. on the streetcar line...and some already have, even though H St. has been up-and-coming long before any streetcar was a serious topic.

by Burd on Jan 28, 2014 5:02 pm • linkreport

To the extent that people pay a premium for rail transit, and the street car means more housing is close to rail transit, it will increase the supply of housing near rail transit and thus make it more affordable (not necessarily the housing on H Street, but housing elsewhere that H Street will be more competitive with). Whether people DO pay a premium for rail per se, including street car with service charecteristics similar to buses, is of course a matter of debate. The above link suggests in Portland it played a role, as more developoment happened in areas very close to the street car line than slightly further, adjusting for the zoning. Whether that will play in DC and how long it will last, is difficult to say.

As for energy use, H street has high transit usage, and the street cars are likely to have very high ridership per vehicle - national averages aren't really useful to the extent they include systems with low ridership.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 28, 2014 5:11 pm • linkreport

I forgot about RFK. OK -- so it's 4 new development sites, with the RFK neighborhood possibly being the biggest beneficiary. Yeah, U ST is growing, but the Reeves CEnter is a big goose egg over there, relative to what's possible. WHile it's a drag on growth where it is now, moving some of those functions and jobs to a new center in Anacostia might be the kick-start that neighborhood needs.

As for the $150 million upper limit - I'm not making that out of whole cloth. That's what the term sheet says. If it ends up costing more, that's not gonna come out of city coffers.

Of course, that doesn't count the streetcar, but it shouldn't be factored in to that. Having a stadium might make the existing streetcar plans more likely to materialize, but it would be absurd to call that an additional cost related to the stadium. That said, it if does boost streetcar construction, that's something people throughout the city would benefit from.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Jan 28, 2014 5:20 pm • linkreport

@ AWalkerInTheCity

" it will increase the supply of housing near rail transit and thus make it more affordable "

Wow, you speak with such certainty. Fact is, there have been several new residential developments on the H St. corridor and average home sales prices are at the highest level EVER, and much higher than last year.

"As for energy use...national averages aren't really useful."

LOL, there's always an excuse. But OK, what about using a large city like Dallas? Why is its Light Rail so energy inefficient compared to other modes of transport?

by Burd on Jan 28, 2014 5:25 pm • linkreport

where's the evidence to substantiate your fantastical claims?

The transportation energy data book?

http://cta.ornl.gov/data/chapter2.shtml

What am I mis-reading in table 2.12 that shows less BTU intensity per passenger mile?

by drumz on Jan 28, 2014 5:32 pm • linkreport

But OK, what about using a large city like Dallas? Why is its Light Rail so energy inefficient compared to other modes of transport?

If you want to cherry pick, it's because for some reason their vehicles use more KWH/vehicle mile than other agencies. Is it energy inefficient compared to other modes, though? In the FTA report it still came out ahead of DART's bus system and avg auto work trip emissions...

As for the ORNL numbers, they're looking at average car trips, not the kinds of car trips that are most often replaced by transit trips (mostly work trips). Can't say I really care if transit is more energy-efficient in Dallas than a highway road trip with parents and 2 kids in the car.

by MLD on Jan 28, 2014 5:50 pm • linkreport

@drumz

For starters, table 2.12 doesn't provide specific light rail data. For that, you'll need Figure 2.2, which provides a higher national average for light rail than cars, heavy rail, and air.

But putting the national average rate aside, we can also use Baltimore's light rail as an example, which is much more energy inefficient.

by Burd on Jan 28, 2014 5:52 pm • linkreport

@ MLD

Other cities, like Baltimore, Sacramento and San Jose also have higher-than-average rates. Even those lower than average, like Portland are still less energy efficient than heavy rail.

Maybe you can tell us how energy efficient DC's system will be, so I don't have to rely on the national rates or "cherry pick."

My point was that blanket statements like "streetcars are environmentally sound" are just lies.

by Burd on Jan 28, 2014 5:58 pm • linkreport

At least half of those systems beat the average of cars for 2011. And that average stays pretty constant until it shoots up to meet whatever is going on in Little Rock.

And considering that H Street is already heavily traveled via transit (and will run on electricity which can be provided via renewable resources) I think it's fair to say that a streetcar will beat out a car on H street in the "who's more efficient?" challenge.

My advice to baltimore and dallas would be to make their light rail more efficient, not tear up the rails and give everyone a coupon for the dealership.

by drumz on Jan 28, 2014 6:06 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity
...street car means more housing is close to rail transit, it will increase the supply of housing near rail transit and thus make it more affordable

I don't understand. Wouldn't this yuppie amenity make housing more desirable, therefore make rents and home prices increase....unless of course you are referring to more governmental interference in the form of subsidized housing, low-income housing, further distorting the free market.

The above link suggests in Portland it played a role, as more developoment happened in areas very close to the street car line than slightly further, adjusting for the zoning
Again the development of which you speak of was more likely correlated to the desire of wealthy folks to create urban environments, zoning restrictions on the metro area periphery, and a grouping of one of the most corrupt developers and land use politicians in the country.

by Bill the Wanderer on Jan 28, 2014 6:07 pm • linkreport

I forgot about RFK. OK -- so it's 4 new development sites, with the RFK neighborhood possibly being the biggest beneficiary.

No. RFK will become a largely unused building as a result. I don't see how losing DC United is a development benefit. But if it is, we could get the same benefit by not putting up $150 million and letting them leave for Honolulu or wherever.

but the Reeves CEnter is a big goose egg over there, relative to what's possible.

No, it's something between a goose egg and what is possible. Not zero, but not maximum either.

WHile it's a drag on growth where it is now, moving some of those functions and jobs to a new center in Anacostia might be the kick-start that neighborhood needs.

None of which is predicated on building a soccer stadium. We can do this right now, sell the current Reeves Center and build another building, right now if we want.

That's what the term sheet says. If it ends up costing more, that's not gonna come out of city coffers.

I'll believe it when I see it.

Of course, that doesn't count the streetcar, but it shouldn't be factored in to that.

If we change the order in which we build the streetcars to accommodate the stadium, that should absolutely be factored into that. It won't boost streetcar development, just change the order in which it happens.

by David C on Jan 28, 2014 9:20 pm • linkreport

Jasper- I agree with you 100% but I'm still not walking out in front of some cars.

by Tom Coumaris on Jan 28, 2014 11:00 pm • linkreport

My point was that blanket statements like "streetcars are environmentally sound" are just lies.

I'm having trouble figuring out why "less efficient than the average light rail" or "less efficient than heavy rail" means "streetcars aren't environmentally sound." That certain transit systems are less good than other transit systems doesn't prove this at all.

Beyond that, what is your comparison point? If building a streetcar means you get to increase density around the route, doesn't that mean you have more people using transit and more people living closer to amenities than the alternative with no streetcar? That means people are going to travel even fewer miles than they would in the alternative world where they live in a more auto-dependent place. I'm not just pulling this out of my ass - there is a whole slew of research (one example) out there that estimates that each passenger mile on transit equates to 2, or 4, or even 7 passenger miles of auto travel in an alternate autocentric scenario.

Back to your original point. You said:
And what's environmentally sound about streetcars? Transportation Energy Data Book data show they emit more greenhouse gas and consume more energy per passenger than cars.

And all you did was compare a top line for cars with a top line for light rail. Clearly lots of those car trips are long distance, are highway travel, have 4 people in the car, and are not comparable to transit use. If your overall point is "we shouldn't build it because it's less efficient than the alternative where we don't build it" that's wrong; the alternative car trips won't be taken at an average occupancy and efficiency, and the alternative land use will mean more spread-out building resulting in even more replacement auto passenger miles than transit miles.

by MLD on Jan 29, 2014 8:50 am • linkreport

Yeah but there is no need for the stadium to be built for DC to move offices from U st to Anacostia. That makes sense but it has nothing to do with the stadium. Hell we could do it for a lot cheaper if we didn't decide to make the stadium subsity part of the deal. What is with all these mental gymnastics to prove the stadium is somehow a good deal for the city? Sure it's nice to have and I don't have a problem with a recreational/entertainment facility but I mean come one why can't we just say that that's what we are BUYING.

by BTA on Jan 29, 2014 8:57 am • linkreport

+1 BTA

by sk on Jan 29, 2014 10:19 am • linkreport

@ MLD

I'm having trouble figuring out how proponents of streetcars keep saying it's "environmentally sound." What data are you basing that on?

At least I pointed out that streetcars ON AVERAGE emit more greenhouse gas per passenger than cars, heavy rail, etc. Not sure what data you've offered to dispute this.

Not sure what point you're making about density, and the link you posted really is irrelevant to your argument, and is not specific to any streetcar data. And of course it's "cherry picking" when I point out Dallas, Baltimore, or San Jose's light rail gross inefficiencies, but not when you point to an irrelevant study based on a couple cities in Kentucky.

" If your overall point is "we shouldn't build it because it's less efficient than the alternative where we don't build it" that's wrong"

No, my overall point is actually that it's simply not true to suggest building streetcars is a more "environmentally sound" mode of transport like proponents often suggest. It is a lie, and I used data to back my point. Where's yours?

by Burd on Jan 29, 2014 12:46 pm • linkreport

"I don't understand. Wouldn't this yuppie amenity make housing more desirable, therefore make rents and home prices increase..."

Assume all houses are of two kinds - near rail transit, and not near rail transit. Assume 15 houses are near rail transit, and 15 are not. A total of 30 houses. Some, but not all, people prefer to be close to rail transit. Ergo the prices for near transit houses are higher than for not near.

Now we converst 5 of the houses from from not near rail transit, to near rail transit. So we now have 15 that were near rail and still are, 5 that used to be far but are now near, and 10 that were far and still are far.

Those 5 houses will indeed become more expensive. But the 15 houses that were already close to transit will become cheaper, as houses near transit are now less scarce.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 29, 2014 12:55 pm • linkreport

National data are not useful because they dont necessarily address the incremental impact. That they are not useful does not justify picking any particular non-comparable example.

The biggest driver of per Passenger mile energy efficiency for transit is load factor - and thats true whether we are talking about rail or bus.

If we build a street car purely for reasons of prestige, as some cities seem to be doing, in a place with limited ridership, it will naturally have poor load factors and be energy inefficient. I would oppose street cars in such instances. In a corridor where transit usage is very high, the load factors will be high, and energy efficiency will be high. Again, I am sure PikeRail will have high load factors (because the 16 bus already does). I dont know the H street bus situation as well - but whats called for is an analysis of the specific bus situation on H Street, not examples from Dallas or Baltimore.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 29, 2014 12:59 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

You said that already, and I also said that most of the cities' streetcar systems were less energy efficient than other modes of transport. Dallas, Baltimore, Sacramento, San Jose, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and others were a were all less efficient. I don't think these cities built their systems for prestige. People actually use them and rely on them daily.

You can make all excuses you want, but at the end of the day streetcars are still an antiquated, expensive and inefficient mode of transport.

by Burd on Jan 29, 2014 1:06 pm • linkreport

Baltimore isnt even a street car system, its light rail and is mostly in dedicated right of way. And yes, it was built at the instigation of William Donald Shaefer, largely for reasons of prestige (and to provide a short term alternative to the Jones Falls Expressway, than under construction). At least when I live in Baltimore its load factors were weak - I am pleased if they have improved, even in the face of shifts in employment locations in downtown Baltimore unfavorable to light rail ridership.

My impression is that there were significant problems with the location of the San Jose system, and lack of opportunities for TOD.

SF, Pittsburgh and Cleveland were built generations ago - in the latter two cases a completely different era in the economic life of those cities.

The issue is NOT whether people use them and rely on them daily - the issue is whether the parallel bus corridor is running close to capacity.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 29, 2014 1:13 pm • linkreport

"You can make all excuses you want, but at the end of the day streetcars are still an antiquated, expensive and inefficient mode of transport."

IE you dont want to discuss the details of when, where, and why street cars are the preferred mode, you just don't like them in general and any argument that goes the other way is an "excuse".

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 29, 2014 1:14 pm • linkreport

@Burd
No, my overall point is actually that it's simply not true to suggest building streetcars is a more "environmentally sound" mode of transport like proponents often suggest. It is a lie, and I used data to back my point. Where's yours?

I offered two points to dispute your idea that transit is less efficient than cars.

1. Comparing "average car" and "average transit" data is invalid because the average car trip and the average transit trip are not the same - transit trips usually replace car trips that have fewer than average passengers (since most transit trips are work trips.)

2. Comparing car emissions and transit emissions on a per passenger mile basis is invalid because in an alternate no-transit-exists scenario, those replacement car trips would be 2, 4, or maybe even 7 times as far as the transit trips they replaced. That is the research I linked to. Saying every 3 mile trip on transit would be replaced with a 3 mile trip in a car is wrong.

What you are missing is you are failing to define the alternative scenario: you say these transit systems are not "environmentally sound" but have no answer to "not environmentally sound compared to what?" What are the conditions of your alternate scenario where we don't build transit? What you are comparing to is very important; using average values for car trips is wrong because transit does not replace the average car trip, nor does it replace those trips at the same distance.

by MLD on Jan 29, 2014 1:32 pm • linkreport

Another way of looking at it is, what is the point of measuring things in person-miles? It only measures how far, not anything you did. One mile in downtown DC gets you to a lot of stuff; one mile in Fairfax gets you to less, and one mile in rural Wyoming gets you to next to nothing. We should measure people getting places - that is, measure person trips.

Average car person-trip length: 9.74mi (2009 NHTS)
Average LR person-trip length: 7.74mi (FTA NTD) or 5.30mi (2009 NHTS-streetcar/trolley)
BTU per car PMT: 3,364 (transportation energy data book)
BTU per LR PMT: 3,501 (same)

So BTU per person trip:
Car: 32,765
Light Rail: 27,312 or 18,555 depending on which number you want to use

So which is more efficient?

by MLD on Jan 29, 2014 2:22 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerintheCity

"Baltimore isnt even a street car system, its light rail and is mostly in dedicated right of way"

Perhaps in the suburbs, but it's primarily mixed-traffic within the City of Baltimore btw.

" you just don't like them in general and any argument that goes the other way is an "excuse""

That's rich, when you can't even clearly articulate reasons why they're a good idea. Enough with the lies and speculation. The capacity issue was the only reason that came close to being half-way reasonable. But why should we spend over 50 million a mile, and why should we pay so much in operational and maintenance costs just to increase capacity?

@MLD

You can try to skew the numbers all you wish, but BTU per passenger mile for cars is 3,364 compared to 3,501 for light rail.

by Burd on Jan 29, 2014 3:50 pm • linkreport

How is that skewing? I explained why trips was a better measurement.

Air travel is 2,779 per passenger mile and heavy rail is 2,401 so I eagerly await your treatise on how all cars should be replaced with planes and we should build subways all over this country to replace those energy-inefficient car trips.

by MLD on Jan 29, 2014 3:57 pm • linkreport

"Perhaps in the suburbs, but it's primarily mixed-traffic within the City of Baltimore btw."

IIUC its in the former Md and Pa railroad ROW all the way from the city limit in Mt Washington to below North Avenue. And its also in dedicated ROW south of downtown. Its only in mixed traffic on Howard Street downtown.

I have explained the advantages of street cars on select routes - additional capacity (which may be worthwhile in corridors where we want significant increases in transit), higher mode share, and development impacts. Thats for rail in particular.

However your analysis of energy costs continued to be skewed by not looking at corridor specifics. And the fact tha transit heavily substitutes for single occupant vehicle use, while average BTU per passenger mile is heavily driven by multiple passengers (esp for non work trips) is hardly skewing things. Its a legitimate analytic concern.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 29, 2014 3:57 pm • linkreport

rhaps in the suburbs, but it's primarily mixed-traffic within the City of Baltimore btw.

No, it is not.

The light rail along Howard St is street running, but it has dedicated lanes. Auto traffic and rail traffic each have dedicated space. It is not a mixed traffic operation, like the H Street Streetcar will be.

by Alex B. on Jan 29, 2014 4:00 pm • linkreport

On howard street it has to contend with cross traffic lights but you aren't allowed to drive in the light rail lane.

by drumz on Jan 29, 2014 4:01 pm • linkreport

@ Alex B.

Yes it is. While there are dedicated lanes similar to bus lanes on Howard, the trains still merge over into the car lanes on some blocks, cross all traffic intersections, etc. This is what is called "mixed-traffic."

by Burd on Jan 29, 2014 4:09 pm • linkreport

@ AWalkerintheCity

"However your analysis of energy costs continued to be skewed by not looking at corridor specifics."

It's not my analysis, it is ORNL's btw. If you have issues, take it up with them.

First national averages "aren't really useful", then I'm "cherry picking" for pointing out specific systems, now I'm skewing for "not looking at corridor specifics."

Sounds to me like you and MLD are really reaching for a way to turn this data in your favour.

by Burd on Jan 29, 2014 4:23 pm • linkreport

Yes it is. While there are dedicated lanes similar to bus lanes on Howard, the trains still merge over into the car lanes on some blocks, cross all traffic intersections, etc. This is what is called "mixed-traffic."

I don't want to be pedantic about this, but the accuracy of our language is crucial to the discussion.

Mixed-traffic means all lanes are shared between all road vehicles. Your standard city bus operates in mixed traffic.

Street-running rail means rail that runs in the street. It can be in either mixed traffic or dedicated lanes. The transit vehicles must content with cross-traffic at intersections.

Dedicated lanes are space on the roadway where only transit is allowed. Baltimore's LRT on Howard St is street running in dedicated lanes.

Grade separation provides dedicated space for transit above or below the grade of the street. You can apply this at certain locations, or as the standard for the system. DC's streetcar will have no grade separation. Baltimore's light rail has some grade separation, mostly on the parts that utilize old railroad ROW. The Metro has 100% grade separation.

Another way to think about it is to classify things. HUman Transit has this handy chart, based on the work of Vukan Vuchic: http://www.humantransit.org/2011/03/rail-bus-differences-contd.html

- Class A right of way is for exclusive transit use and is grade-separated.
- Class B right of way is for exclusive use, but not separated from cross-traffic.
- Class C right of way is not for exclusive use, and is also not separated from cross traffic.

Baltimore's Howard Street light rail is Class B. DC's H St Streetcar will be Class C. The Metro is Class A.

The whole argument over streetcars is that we should be more like Europe, where they are mostly Class B, while the projects planned in the US are mostly Class C.

by Alex B. on Jan 29, 2014 4:25 pm • linkreport

It's not my analysis, it is ORNL's btw. If you have issues, take it up with them.

Which they provide numerous caveats that say it's not advisable to just compare the averages bcause of huge variations.

by drumz on Jan 29, 2014 4:29 pm • linkreport

"AWalkerintheCity
"However your analysis of energy costs continued to be skewed by not looking at corridor specifics."

It's not my analysis, it is ORNL's btw. If you have issues, take it up with them."

Find me someplace on ORNL's site where they suggest using national average data by mode to judge individual projects. The data is ORNL's, but the analysis is your own.

"First national averages "aren't really useful", then I'm "cherry picking" for pointing out specific systems, now I'm skewing for "not looking at corridor specifics.""

Precisely. National averages are misleading BECAUSE they include systems that are not comparable, in particular in terms of load factor. Cherry pikcing specific systems that are also not comparable in terms of attributes like load factor, is also not useful.

"Sounds to me like you and MLD are really reaching for a way to turn this data in your favour"

No, I am trying to make it useful. I am sorry that does not lead to the "streetcars are a poor idea everywhere" result that you seem committed to.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 29, 2014 4:29 pm • linkreport

Sorry, if you choose to use a specific measurement (BTU/PMT) then that is your argument to make. You're just making it with someone else's data.

You haven't made any case for your measurement being more valid than potatoes per 100 VMT to back up your conclusions. I listed several reasons why measuring it on a per passenger mile basis isn't the best measurement.

I presented BTUs per trip as a measurement of actually measuring what the transportation system is meant to do - move people from where they are to where they want to be, no matter how far that is. You haven't come up with a reason why that's an invalid measurement.

by MLD on Jan 29, 2014 4:30 pm • linkreport

From the Transportation energy data book,

Great care should be taken when comparing modal energy intensity data among modes. Because of the inherent differences among the transportation modes in the nature of services, routes available, and many additional factors, it is not possible to obtain truly comparable national energy intensities among modes. These values are averages, and there is a great deal of variability even within a mode.

by drumz on Jan 29, 2014 4:32 pm • linkreport

DC will be partially dedicated ROW partially mixed traffic like Prague (though I think Prague has a higher dedicated to mixed ratio).

by BTA on Jan 29, 2014 4:44 pm • linkreport

@ Alex B.

Don't care about Jarrett Walker's (whoever he is) definitions. He's not an authority on the matter. As I stated, although there are dedicated lanes on Howard, the trains merge lanes, cross intersections, etc., and that counts as mixed-traffic.

@ drumz, AWalkerInTheCity

You certainly had no problems relying on the national average BTU per passenger for cars, which have huge variability as well. What hypocrisy.

I also pointed out specific examples, like Dallas, as it is one of the most heavily used light rail systems in America, and therefore a comparable example, but of course you had a problem with that too. But if we can't use specific examples or national averages, then there's no way to make any comparisons.

Sounds like you just can't accept that the data does not support the bogus claim that streetcars are somehow more "green."

by Burd on Jan 29, 2014 5:52 pm • linkreport

@ MLD

"I listed several reasons why measuring it on a per passenger mile basis isn't the best measurement."

What you did was make excuses why the published per passenger data was not good enough for you. But if it was in your favour, you'd be using it to bolster your claims.

by Burd on Jan 29, 2014 5:54 pm • linkreport

He's not an authority on the matter.
Well, he is. He's written books on the matter and cities pay him to come and fix their transit systems. If he's not an authority then he's a talented con man.

What hypocrisy.
I don't think so. The discussion is whether cars produce less BTUs than streetcar vehicles. The answer is no except for a few systems (like dallas) that seem to use a lot of energy. But a lot of the other systems on that list are cleaner than cars on average. So why is Dallas sacrosanct but not San Diego?

I can accept that there are some streetcar systems that aren't "Green" (as in: wasting less energy than the car trips they replace) but the evidence also shows me that many are.

So feel free to use averages and then specific examples, but remember that we're still talking about a specific project in DC and thus averages and examples will be weighed against what's expected to happen in DC.

by drumz on Jan 29, 2014 6:08 pm • linkreport

are there really that many station that have high platforms but not low? i take marc daily on a short commute between baltimore and halethorpe, so i got to witness the platform upgrades made at halethorpe (the only intermediate station i'm familiar with) over the past year. in addition to the full train length high platform, they built a low platform i guess for emergencies. i've had to use it several times recently due to switching problems that made the train unable to reach the outer track. it's a big pain in the ass because it's only wide enough for one set of doors to open so i had to wait for like 200 commuters from DC to exit two at a time before i could get on, but it's there. i had just assumed that all the station were like that.

by burgersub on Jan 29, 2014 6:42 pm • linkreport

also i see you guys have set burd straight already on whether baltimore has a light rail or a street car, but even if you throw out the predominantly used definition of "mixed traffic" and use burd's, the actual length of the route that behaves like a streetcar is about 10% of it inside the city, and only about 3.5% of the whole system.

by burgersub on Jan 29, 2014 7:15 pm • linkreport

For the record, the MTA Light Rail system in Baltimore is light rail and not a streetcar system. Even in the city, while the trains share ROW with roads, they do not operate in mixed traffic. The sections of the Howard Street where light rail tracks have been laid are designated exclusively for light rail usage. Automobiles are not allowed to drive on the areas with tracks except to cross (although they do it anyways). The Boston Green Line has a similar setup.

Trolley/trams/streetcars on the other hand act, pretty much like buses on rails.

@burgersub

While many high platform stations have short low platforms like Halethorpe and BWI Airport, most don't. Greenbelt, Camden, Seabrook, Odenton, and New Carrollton stations for instance don't have low platform. Having short low platforms seems to be a new trend to allow for "emergency" situations, such as the one you described.

by King Terrapin on Jan 30, 2014 1:15 am • linkreport

What you did was make excuses why the published per passenger data was not good enough for you. But if it was in your favour, you'd be using it to bolster your claims.

You're using per passenger MILE data - I'm the one who used per passenger (trip made) data.

Here's where I said why measuring things per mile isn't as good a measure as doing it per trip:
What is the point of measuring things in person-miles? It only measures how far, not anything you did. One mile in downtown DC gets you to a lot of stuff; one mile in Fairfax gets you to less, and one mile in rural Wyoming gets you to next to nothing. We should measure people getting places - that is, measure person trips.

Sorry the alternative analysis I presented above doesn't back up your preconceived notions about the "efficiency" of each mode. Suffice it to say that in a world where more people use transit vs more people using cars, the transit world will be more efficient. I am also still eagerly awaiting your response as to why we shouldn't be using airplanes for everything since they are the most efficient mode on average, per your numbers.

by MLD on Jan 30, 2014 8:21 am • linkreport

@MLD

"One mile in downtown DC gets you to a lot of stuff; one mile in Fairfax gets you to less, and one mile in rural Wyoming gets you to next to nothing. "

This is exactly what I mean by making excuses. I don't recall comparing DC to Fairfax or rural Wyoming. I pointed out comparable places like Baltimore, Dallas, San Francisco, etc.

I'm sorry if you can't accept that their light rail systems are inefficient. Like I said before, if you have an issue with the data, take it up with ORNL, not me.

"Sorry the alternative analysis I presented above doesn't back up your preconceived notions about the "efficiency" of each mode"

I didn't give an analysis of the data, I simply pointed to a data set. I can't help if you don't like it.

You, on the other hand desperately attempted to discredit such data, then hypocritically used "averages" as the basis for your "analysis" of the data set you chose to use, after ranting about why they shouldn't be used.

At the end of the day, light rail BTU per passenger is significantly higher than other transport modes in many large cities, and also on average.

by Burd on Jan 30, 2014 2:49 pm • linkreport

Places like Fairfax have transit. DART's light rail runs through plenty of places like Fairfax and less dense places.

You did give an analysis of data - you used that data to try and prove a point, that transit is less efficient. I showed that transit is only less efficient by that one measure; there are plenty of other measures that show that transit is MORE efficient than cars.

I didn't discredit the data, I had an issue with the way you were using it. I have no issue with the actual numbers - they are correct as far as I am aware. Propulsion power and passenger miles are easily-gotten data points (at least for transit). So I don't see the hypocrisy - there isn't any. I took the same data and used it to create a different measurement - one I believe is more valid for the reasons above.

light rail BTU per passenger is significantly higher
Per passenger MILE. And even if it is, so what? Why is that important? You still haven't explained why we should care or what implications your measurement has.

by MLD on Jan 30, 2014 3:03 pm • linkreport

Why are you guys talking about BTU per passenger? Shouldn't we be concerned about lbs of CO2 per passenger or passenger mile? For the most part we are not concerned about energy efficiency for the sake of efficiency, but for the sake of the environment and pollution or cost. For example, which is better a tram that is solar powered but uses 1,000 BTUs per passenger mile or a car fueled with oil that uses 100 BTUs per passenger mile?

by sk on Jan 30, 2014 3:05 pm • linkreport

@ drumz

"Well, he is. "

Only in your world. He has no relevant educational background, experience in any gov't transport division, board, etc.

He is as much an authority as you.

"the evidence also shows me that many are"

The data showed that some are, but most are not "green," and the national average BTU per passenger is higher than other transport modes.

"but remember that we're still talking about a specific project in DC..."

Right, and unless you have data about DC's system, it's speculation how "green" DC's system will or won't be.

by Burd on Jan 30, 2014 3:45 pm • linkreport

Burd, you're stating a fact that is true - the national average BTU per passenger mile is higher than other transport modes - but it is the analysis and deduction from that which I think most of us disagree with.

It is true that everyone who gets a whooping cough vaccine shot eventually dies. But it is inaccurate to deduce to that you should not get one.

So you have a fact, and people agree that it's true, but the analysis is more nuanced than what you've proposed. You wish to label those nuances as "excuses", but otherwise ignore the arguments that others are putting forward. I don't find that very compelling or constructive.

by David C on Jan 30, 2014 4:35 pm • linkreport

@ David C

" it is the analysis and deduction from that which I think most of us disagree with"

Excuse me for not caring about what you, et al. agree with. It doesn't make the data set you chose better than the data set I pointed to. If you have trouble with the metrics ORNL used, that's not my concern.

by Burd on Jan 31, 2014 5:11 pm • linkreport

If you have trouble with the metrics ORNL used, that's not my concern.

We don't. We have issues with the declaration "streetcars aren't environmentally friendly!" without any caveats, defense of why that data is the best measure (besides an appeal to authority, which was never questioned in the first place), or consideration of alternative measurements or solutions to the proposed streetcar.

But if one set of data isn't any better than another then I guess we can never know anything or make any sort of inference about what to do in the future.

by drumz on Jan 31, 2014 5:30 pm • linkreport

@ drumz

And we have issues with the declaration that streetcars ARE environmentally friendly. Especially when there's ample data to show the opposite to be true.

"But if one set of data isn't any better than another then I guess we can never know anything..."

No, I just don't think your own personal (and biased) opinion counts as the measure of which data set is better.

by Burd on Feb 3, 2014 2:24 pm • linkreport

Excuse me for not caring about what you, et al. agree with.

You're excused.

But, if you don't care, I have to wonder why you invest the time commenting here. And that is not meant to dissuade you from doing so, it's just an odd response. "I don't care what any of you think, which is why I'm trying to convince you that you're wrong."

by David C on Feb 3, 2014 9:46 pm • linkreport

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