Greater Greater Washington

Bus rapid transit, light rail, and a longer Yellow Line are choices for Route 1

Better transit could one day come to Virginia's Route 1 between the Beltway and Woodbridge. A transit study looked at transit options and narrowed down the choices to curbside or median Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), light rail, or a hybrid of BRT and extending Metro's Yellow Line.


Transit alternatives for Route 1. Map from the study.

The study presents a wealth of data and a thorough analysis, but raises key questions, including what speed limit is appropriate for a more transit-oriented Route 1. A new high-capacity transit system would transform the corridor, but there would be challenges to ensure a safe pedestrian and bicycle environment and preserve affordable housing.

Transit alternatives

The study considered 8 transit options before eliminating streetcar, enhanced bus, express bus, local bus, a Yellow Line extension all the way to Woodbridge, and monorail. The 4 alternatives that remain for further study are:

  • Curbside Bus Rapid Transit (including a stretch in mixed traffic from Pohick Road to Woodbridge)
  • Median Bus Rapid Transit (with a shorter mixed traffic section in Prince William County to Woodbridge)
  • Median Light Rail Transit
  • A Metrorail-BRT Hybrid, extending the Yellow Line to Hybla Valley and then switching to BRT.
The evaluation considered ridership, estimated capital, operations and maintenance costs, cost per rider, and land use. All alternatives terminate at Huntington Metro, both to simplify the analysis and because Alexandria has raised concerns about extending transit up Route 1 into the city.


Ridership and preliminary costs. Chart from the study.

The study looked at 3 land use scenarios:

  • A baseline forecast for 2035 from the regional Council of Governments model;
  • 25% more growth based on what a BRT or LRT line would likely generate;
  • 169% more which is necessary to support Metrorail service.
Conceptual illustrations for one development node, Beacon Hill, show how much development would correspond with each level of transit.


The Beacon Hill area now.


Scenario 1: 2035 COG projection.


Scenario 2: Growth with BRT or LRT.


Scenario 3: Metro-supporting density.

For the road itself, the study rejects widening Route 1 to four lanes in each direction, as well as converting existing lanes to transit-only. That leaves a recommendation for three general lanes in each direction as well as transit in a separate right-of-way.

What transit do you think should go in this corridor? In part 2, we'll talk about how to create a sense of place and what this plan means for housing affordability.

You can also give the study team comments through a survey, but because the questions are limited, either add explanatory comments or make more extended comments on their share-your-ideas form.

Stewart Schwartz is Executive Director and a founder of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, which he built into the leading smart growth organization in the Washington, DC region, addressing the interconnected issues of land use, transportation, urban design, housing, and energy. A retired Navy Captain with 24 years of active and reserve service, he earned a BA and JD from the University of Virginia and an MA from Georgetown University. 

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I'm not sure why this isn't part of the conversation, but why not make VRE robust in the short term. These lofty long term goals are great, but if there is infrastructure there, use it. Spending millions to increase VRE hours and frequency could make it more robust and serve to displace the need for other parallel systems. Many people don't use VRE right now because of time of operation

by Navid Roshan on Apr 7, 2014 10:44 am • linkreport

The road reccommendation would lead to widening in spots. They want a uniform 3 lanes throughout the corridor.

That said, I like LRT to Huntington. The place making benefits seem bigger overall than 1 or 2 extra yellow line stations and BRT for the rest of the way. Plus you could really then explore branching out the service to the city of Alexandria and National Harbor.

by drumz on Apr 7, 2014 10:52 am • linkreport

and VRE is being expanded. There's the plans to add an extra track between Fredericksburg and Springfield and extend service hours.

by drumz on Apr 7, 2014 10:54 am • linkreport

navid - IIUC thats already planned, with the details contingent on results of the Long Bridge Study. But while that can address service to Ft Belvoir and to Woodbridge (at least in the short run), it does not address the transportation and development issues in the rest of the corridor.

some questions -
1. Are the ridership numbers for each option contingent on the development scenarios? IE does the higher ridership for the Alt 4 (Heavy rail/BRT hybrid) only happen IF the proposed high density developoment happens? Because I am not sure the County will buy off on that level of density. If not alt 4 does not like a good option.

2. Would it be possible to implement alt 2 and then later convert to alt 3? What are the issues with doing that?

3. Even if no new infra on Rte 1 in alexandria, BRT buses could continued in mixed traffic to and through Alexandria - an additional argument for alts 1 and 2. Though alt 4 still gives a one seat ride to Alex for the northernmost part of the corridor, and also of course one seat to Arlington and DC. So mainly an argument against alt 3.

4, for bikes - they seem to favor either a wide MUT or a buffered cycle track, though both require added ROW. If they really expect high bike AND ped usage, seems to me that MUT without the cycle track is a formula for bike/ped conflicts.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 7, 2014 10:57 am • linkreport

by point 2 I mean build center-running BRT and convert to rail (presumably the optimal point in time is when the BRT lane surface next needs substantial repaving, assuming density has increased by then)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 7, 2014 10:59 am • linkreport

Keep in mind that today this is an enormous suburban (read: sparsely populated) region. To me the key is to expand in a phased manner. As a comparison, Huntington / Penn Daw / Beacon Hill is an area roughly the size of Potomac Yard. Building out Potomac Yard is a 10-15 year project. With this in mind, I recommend a median transitway for BRT that gets extended in five year chunks:
2020: Penn Daw
2025: Beacon Hill
2030: Hybla Valley
etc.
At some point it could be converted to light rail but we are a long way away from that. Sorry.

by movement on Apr 7, 2014 11:17 am • linkreport

Movement - I see the problems with that approach, off the top of my head
1. There are economies of scale in doing a project all at once. While some phasing may make sense, breaking it up into pieces that small probably raises costs significantly
2. There may be pressure to make the terminal station a park and ride focused station. Thats okay if in the course of the project there is one terminal station (or, as with the Silver Line, two, due to two phases) With that many stations, you get too many "terminal stations"
3. It does not particularly help to address issues with Ft Belvoir or Woodbridge, or points between.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 7, 2014 11:24 am • linkreport

"three problems"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 7, 2014 11:25 am • linkreport

@ Navid:why not make VRE robust in the short term.

Because VRE does not run along US-1 in this area. The only stops are Woodbridge, Lorton and King St, which are all pretty useless to FtBelvoir.

---
IMHO, it would be a colossal mistake not to go with metro. This area of Fairfax is several underdeveloped, and contains a lot of mid- and low income people. Redeveloping this area can rectify the mistakes that were made in the R-B corner, Tysons and downtown DC. Namely that all that development is aimed at the top 10%, instead of the mid- and lower income range. This is a massive opportunity to build housing where people living on a median salary can live.

Also, Fairfax should really work with Prince William and Stafford, because the major transportation issue is not that people can't get to Ft Belvoir from the north. Most people come from the west and south.

So, metro should not just go from Huntington to Ft Belvoir, but much further south, to Woodbridge, Potomac Hell with links there to Dale City, Manassas and Stafford County.

by Jasper on Apr 7, 2014 11:26 am • linkreport

I have such mixed feelings on this. As movement points out, Potomac Yard is a 10-15 year project to reach its full potential and that will be a dense, TOD area with Metro, bus, and BRT and eventually even a streetcar that will also be connected into the Arlington/DC grid. This entire area is a big traffic sewer on both the east (GW Parkway) and west (Rt. 1 and even Telegraph Rd.) The issue here would seem to be the lack of density, the relatively low population and the very spread out nature of the area (SFH).

It sort of reminds me of the Silver Line from Tysons, very dense, to then Wiehle and Reston, bypassing everything in between because there is nothing in between worth servicing - but that of course was not a reason to stop the SL at Tysons. Sometimes an infill station is a good thing to leave for the future.

Similarly, here we have lots of density in the north where the City of Alexandria is located and then the growing Fort Belvoir in the south. All of the residential/commercial in between funnels onto Rt. 1 (or GW or Telegraph). I love the BRT/LRT options, but I am not sure how much various transit options will help UNLESS (like Tysons) the local bus service is ramped-up and geared towards the neighborhoods, pulling people from their cars in their driveways onto buses and then onto LRT or BRT.

A Yellow Line all the way would be a huge investment in the future, so the baby step to Lockheed Blvd is a good first one. But part of me wonders whether that solves the issue of all of those people coming up from Woodbridge, who still will not ride transit (unless it really is excellent BRT or LRT) except a Metro line the whole way.

by JDC on Apr 7, 2014 11:32 am • linkreport

@AWITC
How would it be any different from the piecemeal widening of I66? We're not talking about heavy rail here. From a construction standpoint, this is a simple project. If anything the cost driver will be in acquiring additional right-of-way.

You can't fix Woodbridge or Ft. Belvoir with transit because they are both too decentralized. Even if you magically built Metro to Ft. Belvoir, it still would have limited popularity because it is so spread out. The only reason the Silver Line will work is because it allows Tysons to be transformed from a bunch of office parks to a an urban area. Rt. 1 south has the same lack of density and doesn't have the office parks either.

by movement on Apr 7, 2014 11:37 am • linkreport

It's not as hard as it's being made out.

REX bus service is very popular (meaning lots of people are already using transit on route 1)and it serves Belvoir.

There are plenty of places along Route 1 where it'll be relatively easy to do sprawl repair. Beacon Hill being a prime candidate.

And the area is already being projected as growing very fast. The conditions are ripe for a big investment.

by drumz on Apr 7, 2014 11:47 am • linkreport

1. I am not that familiar with the I66 piecemeal widening. Is it a sequence of one and two miles sections, done at 5 year intervals

2. I assume I66 widening does not involve terminal park and rides. A transit line is more likely to involve those - see the Wiehle Ave park and ride at the terminus of SL phase 1.

3. A BRT option does not require concentration at either Ft Belvoir or Woodbridge, since buses can continued in mixed traffic after leaving the dedicated ROW. That is, indeed, one of the principle advantages of BRT over rail. Thats assuming no densification at Woodbridge is possible.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 7, 2014 11:47 am • linkreport

note also, denser development has already begun in the corridor. If there are not many office parks, there are plenty of low density retail properties.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 7, 2014 11:48 am • linkreport

...and a large portion of households along the corridor are either already car free or only have 1 car per household.

by drumz on Apr 7, 2014 11:49 am • linkreport

I live on the corridor.

There is a decent amount of mixed use apartment buildings being built or in the pipeline for Huntington and Penn Daw due to Metro accessibility.

South of it, it is true, it's a largely SFH area. It's a real conundrum. On the one hand we have Belvoir and Mt. Vernon attracting high amounts of visitors consistently.

But there is really nothing in between the Beltway and the Fort and Estate.

Because of lack of East/West roads, all traffic gets jammed onto Route 1. Therefore, provided there were more attractions than just strip malls, a light rail service with feeder services from Connector could conceivably work.

Mind you this will work better on the Western side of the Highway where settlement is denser than the tonier, more sparse, Eastern side of the highway heading towards the Parkway and river where settlement is much more spread out.

I watched the video recording of the meeting, certain attendees where incensed at the idea of "merely" getting bus rapid transit.

Part of that is likely not seeing REAL BRT in use. However, seeing as how the parcels near the highway would have to be rezoned and densified ANYWAY, BRT could go the way of Los Angeles's Orange Line.....i.e. rendered useless immediately due to filling to capacity FAR TOO SOON.

Also this is due to fatigue over the relative lack of investment on the corridor despite how convenient it is to Old Town, Arlington, Springfield, The Beltway and soon to be MGM National Harbor.

I think provided we rezoned the central commercial areas and provided a bit more attractions as well as maintaining shopping, that a light rail would a good solution in terms of providing actual SWITCHING from car to transit trips.

I'm not counting on Metro. One is because of costs, Two is because most juice is still going to be headed towards the Tysons/Dulles corridor ALONG with Metro's much delayed core capacity improvements.

Light Rail (with conditions) seems like the best medium terms solution.

by Billy Bob on Apr 7, 2014 11:52 am • linkreport

@ JDC:But part of me wonders whether that solves the issue of all of those people coming up from Woodbridge, who still will not ride transit (unless it really is excellent BRT or LRT) except a Metro line the whole way.

Exactly. That's why Fairfax needs to collaborate with Prince William and Stafford.

It has to be said though that people from 'the south' massively use the limited transit options that do exist.

by Jasper on Apr 7, 2014 11:54 am • linkreport

As far as VRE, theoretically it would be AWESOME if it was converted to EMU and had much more robust service.

But it's owned by freight company CSX.......buh.

Also, it's just too inconvenient, South of Springfield, most development of the Prince William county hugs the highways US1 and I-95 inland, while the VRE hugs the coast line.

It sucks but I doubt much help from there.

by Billy Bob on Apr 7, 2014 11:55 am • linkreport

would the metro be underground or elevated? I always thought it would be necessary to bring it top side where kings highway meets route 1 and then continue elevated in the median down to Hyaba Valley

by Richard on Apr 7, 2014 11:56 am • linkreport

The Metro option depicts trains in tunnels, but I can't tell if they looked at elevated rail as an option. It's a lower cost way to provide full grade separation. And given the need to re-do the entire roadway and for transit-supportive development to happen nearby, there's a real opportunity to integrate it into the overall urban environment.

by Alex B. on Apr 7, 2014 11:57 am • linkreport

@awitc
The I66 expansions were more of the 3-4 mile variety. It isn't like they added a lane from Chantilly to Gainsville in one fell swoop.

I see no role for park and ride lots as part of an urbanization effort. If you are going to drive to somewhere north of Ft. Belvoir, you might as well go all the way to Huntington. It isn't like any other rapid transit system is going to go *through* Old Town. If Old Town is your destination, well, REX fills that role about as well as anything else would.

by movement on Apr 7, 2014 1:08 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

Regarding the Long Bridge replacement, I asked Congresswoman Norton this at her WMATA round-table last month but can CSX help fund part of this replacement/expansion as part of their Virginia Ave tunnel project. It would make a great TIGER grant project or good be funded as part of a public/private partnership.

by 202_Cyclist on Apr 7, 2014 1:14 pm • linkreport

ah. 3 - to 4 miles. Well the entire section from Huntington to Hybla isnt much longer than that.

And of course while its an urbanization effort, it will still inevitably draw auto to tranist commuters. And placing parking at a southern terminus would A. Relieve any pressure for more parking at Huntington (as the corridor grows, there will surely be more folks from close in looking to drive to metrorail and avoid the transfer) B. relieve congestion on the general travels lanes on Rte 1 C. Provide a choice to drivers who prefer to not deal with congestion further north on Rte 1.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 7, 2014 1:16 pm • linkreport

I would slighly question if a lot of people would switch to the yellow line just from a three mile extension. Obviously there is redevelopment potential but even in the densest areas you can hope for maybe 50% transit mode share so unless they are somehow going to wedge in another ~50k people within a mile of the new stations it seems unlikely. I guess the assumption is those 10k people who would take the BRT portion would all be getting on metro at the end so you can spread out the catchment area a bit more.

by BTA on Apr 7, 2014 1:30 pm • linkreport

Route 1 is going to take some serious vision and commitment to get anything done. It's not sustainable in its present form either. There's too much car traffic and it will only get worse. I fear that local leaders will are so excited about Tyson's that Route 1 is going to get lost in the shuffle.

by aaa on Apr 7, 2014 1:49 pm • linkreport

The Yellow Line is the most under-utilized line in the entire Metro system.

A below grade 2-stop Metro extension with a BRT south to Woodbridge is by far the best option. Above grade Metro isn't an option until you get to Hybla Valley due to the grades on Beacon Hill which is one of the tallest areas in all of Fairfax County.

The Metro-BRT "Hybrid" Option is $3/per rider cheaper than light rail.

It will generate the most redevelopment and economic growth which is desperately needed in this part of Fairfax County.

It will also lay the ground work for the eventual extension of the Yellow Line to Fort Belvoir which today employs more people than the U.S. Pentagon, sees 80,000 cars/day go on and off base, and is served by two buses, and is poised for additional growth over the next 30 years.

The U.S. Army Museum is set to open in 3-4 years with 500,000+ annual visitors. The Mt. Vernon Estate currently sees 1,000,000 visitors per year (did 1.3M in the 1960's). Neither has transit service. Yellow Line to Hybla Valley would put Metro within 2 miles of the Mt. Vernon Estate.

Median light rail is not functional on a 45 MPH highway.

by Del. Scott A. Surovell on Apr 7, 2014 2:05 pm • linkreport

Del Surovell

"Median light rail is not functional on a 45 MPH highway."

Why? because its hard to cross to the median? But how do you cross to the side running line in the opposite direction? (I assume you want the BRT south of Hybla to be side running?)

Note well, there are extensive places in Fairfax County where we provide bus service (both express and local) on 45 MPH arterials, where we expect people to cross the street. I would be happy so the speed limits lowered on those, but I know of no effort to do substantial reductions in speed limits in the County.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 7, 2014 2:15 pm • linkreport

Thank you Del. Surovell. Let's use some of those new gas tax dollars to get this done.

by aaa on Apr 7, 2014 2:18 pm • linkreport

Yeah, we provide that kind of service right now on U.S. 1 and the number of pedestrian deaths in the 44th District is double the state average.

Median Light Rail isn't functional unless you want to subject people to a game of Frogger.

BRT South of Hybla would be a medium range alternative measure until sufficient density exists for Metro.

The last time someone proposed lowering the speed limit on U.S. 1 there was a virtual riot.

by Del. Scott A. Surovell on Apr 7, 2014 2:21 pm • linkreport

As Del Surovell points out (and thanks to him for joining the discussion here) there is much appealing about the Heavyrail/BRT option. Biggest total increase in transit ridership, biggest development impact, and relatively good cost per rider.

But some big questions loom A. Will the market support that level of growth in a region where there is significant competition to provide WUP neighborhoods - they are scarce now, but lots of new ones envisioned in multiple places, including several in FFX county alone. B. Will the BoS and the local neighbors support this level of density? C. Will the funding be available.

If the answers to the above are negative, I think center running BRT with provision for eventual conversion to LRT (depending not only on density, but on prospects for extension either to Alexandria, or over the Wilson Bridge) would likely be the best option. On the other hand a possible Green Line extension over the Wilson could tie into the heavy rail option.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 7, 2014 2:25 pm • linkreport

"Yeah, we provide that kind of service right now on U.S. 1 and the number of pedestrian deaths in the 44th District is double the state average. "

Median Light Rail isn't functional unless you want to subject people to a game of Frogger.

BRT South of Hybla would be a medium range alternative measure until sufficient density exists for Metro."

so meanwhile folks south of Hybla would face the same dangers crossing the arterial, as do folks elsewhere in the County. Is the idea that this would be the only place in the County with such densities that have a 45MPH arterial?

"The last time someone proposed lowering the speed limit on U.S. 1 there was a virtual riot."

If its assumed the limit stays at 45, and there is no way to make crossing such an arterial safe, how do pedestrians in the new dense area get from one side of Rte 1 to the other for purposes OTHER than taking the metro? In most successful TOD places, its quite possible to cross the street at the surface (see North Arlington, for example)

Of course in Tysons it will continue to be difficult to cross Rte 7 or Rte 123 (other than via the metro stations themselves - a possibility for rte 1?) but I think Tysons has the strength to function as 4 semi-seperated quadrants. Does the new inner Rte 1 TOD have the strength to function as two semi-seperated halves? I don't know.

My gut reaction is that you either have to make Rte 1 crossable (in which case a center running surface line is just fine) OR you don't get massive development - in which case you can't justify heavy rail.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 7, 2014 2:33 pm • linkreport

"Median Light Rail isn't functional unless you want to subject people to a game of Frogger."

Well you're hear, I want to point out that I play a game of mini-frogger every day, crossing a 25 MPH arterial (but drivers routinely go 35 or higher) at a crosswalk with no signal (drivers are supposed to yield to peds - but don't unless they are about to hit someone) Is the legislature going to either A. allow localities to set whatever speed limits they want (IIUC by state law no limit can be less than 25) B. Allow jurisdictions to set up speed cameras as they choose ?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 7, 2014 2:36 pm • linkreport

"here"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 7, 2014 2:36 pm • linkreport

Del Surovell--is the Yellow Line actually the most under-utilized? Based on what criteria? Number of riders? And why is that--the relative lack of Yellow-Only stations? Overlap with highly utilized Green? What about Blue?

by Catherine on Apr 7, 2014 2:39 pm • linkreport

@ Catherine:is the Yellow Line actually the most under-utilized? Based on what criteria?

People in the train.

And why is that--the relative lack of Yellow-Only stations?</>i>

No. There is a massive difference in usage between Blue and Yellow south of the river. During rush hour, Yellow Lines are ok, while Blue Lines are crushed to the max. During morning rush, many Blue Lines leave Franconia-Springfield with few seats left, while Yellow Lines have plenty of space left. During PM rush, many Yellow Lines come over the river with seats available, while Blue Lines come through the Cemetery in sardine mode. This will get worse when the Silver Line starts, and kills a few more rush hour Blue Lines.

In other words, Surovell is correct that there is much space to fill on the Yellow Line.

by Jasper on Apr 7, 2014 3:24 pm • linkreport

The presentation specificed 3 lanes in each direction on Rt. 1. The discussion was centered around how to move traffic more efficiently in the corridor. One item that was mentioned was that lanes starting and ending in an inconsistent manner was a problem that could be resolved.

Missing from this discussion is the quality of land use along the corridor. It is much easier to get a limited number of stakeholders to decide to redevelop. Something like the Beacon Hill shopping center is a good example. However, the corridor is filled with small, shallow parcels divided with a very large group of owners. Many of them are small, long-term owners, such as the small strip mall in Penn Daw that is resistant to redevelopment.

As a member of the CIC and a civic assoc. president in the study area, I think the pedestrian and bike recommendations are not only strong but able to be accomplished in a reasonable time frame. I am hoping that something like the median BRT comes out in the transportation. Ultimately, I prioritize likelihood of being funded and built over some idealized unicorn.

by Chris22303 on Apr 7, 2014 3:30 pm • linkreport

I know that what I am about suggest is wildly expensive and not help much but what about this.

Build any extensions of the Yellow Line as a loop with the Blue Line along Route 1 back to Franconia Springfield just for the hell it add stations in Lorton and Newington.

Though I will say there needs to be discussions on where is the cutoff point? If the Blue or Yellow line ever reach anywhere near Woodbridge you are going to have people asking for extensions to Potomac Mills, Dale City, Dumfries, Quantico or Fredericksburg and at the point there will definitely be a question about it going to Richmond. This would spark discussions about the Red line going to Clarksburg, Green line to St Charles & Baltimore, Blue line to Edgewater and the Orange Line to Millersville & Manassas Park which would all be able the same distance (give or take 5-10 miles) from current terminals of lines

by kk on Apr 7, 2014 3:32 pm • linkreport

The last thing transit in the DC region needs is a crayonista approach right now. Trips of that distance are best-served by massive VRE expansion (both physically and in terms of service levels), which is a good idea anyways, but particularly when we're talking about Richmond and towns already served by VRE. For Quantico and other VRE-served locations, running 2-4 trains in BOTH directions at peak hours, and 1-2 tph at all other times, would go a long ways towards vastly improving the accessibility of those areas.

by LowHeadways on Apr 7, 2014 3:50 pm • linkreport

Mostly just curious. It's clearly not a crowded line but I feel like I never see anyone on Blue, personally (but I'm not on Blue much). I wonder just plain ol' why--shortest line (rush stops at Mt. Vernon Square) that shares passage through the core with Green? Many stations in lower density areas (but how to explain Orange?) Too many trains for ridership? I'm seriously just wondering.

by Catherine on Apr 7, 2014 3:54 pm • linkreport

@ Catherine

You have a point but something else puzzles is why was the Yellow Line created in the first place ? The rest of the lines don't have anything similar with a two station spur or shortcut to DC.

It only has two separate stops was the Yellow line supposed to be extended at some point or was it supposed to use that stub tunnel at Pentagon or something.

Why not just have some Blue lines go from Largo to Huntington & others from Largo to Franconia Springfield as it is just a two station spur of the Blue Line and get rid of the Yellow line it would make no difference to as all stations would still be served.

by kk on Apr 7, 2014 4:25 pm • linkreport

I think the point of the yellow was was to connect Alexandria/Pentagon and the airport to SW better and SE by extension. You can make a pretty strong case that yellow beyond L'efant doesnt need to be coupled with Green though and could better serve some area.

by BTA on Apr 7, 2014 4:34 pm • linkreport

KK

The blue and yellow lines do overlap quite a bit in Virginia, but they go to totally different parts of DC. The yellow line runs north south across the district while the blue runs east and west. The yellow line also provides a second potomac crossing to relieve the Rosslyn tunnel (which is at maximum capacity).

by Earle on Apr 7, 2014 4:35 pm • linkreport

The Yellow Line provides access from the core to the Airport and Alexandria and vice-versa. To get from the Airport to L'Enfant Plaza or Gallery Place area takes a lot longer on the Blue Line.

The Blue Line was actually originally supposed to be the one that went to Huntington but when the extension opened there was a railcar shortage and they had to use the Yellow Line instead - and it stuck that way.

The reason the Yellow Line stops at Mt Vernon and doesn't go further is that trains need a pocket track to turn around during rush hour and there isn't one at Fort Totten. They would have to go all the way to Greenbelt to turn around and there aren't enough cars to do that - and it would cost more for not much benefit.

by MLD on Apr 7, 2014 4:35 pm • linkreport

Right MLD, I understand both the purpose (straight-shot from the area into the core without the Rosslyn detour) and the Mt. Vernon pocket track thing and that limitation. But then why is it so under-utilized?

IS it actually under-utilized or is it just how we're looking at the data. I guess I don't understand the metric. If we're going with pure numbers of ridership, ok yes, I can see that. But it is also the shortest line, and the only one with only two stations that "belong" only to itself so does counting the number of riders even make sense. It would be sort of like saying "English 101 at Amherst College (student population of 1,800) is under-utilized", when comparing it to the same course at UMass (student population 21,000).

Maybe looking at it terms of riders per station served or riders per car used etc...maybe that would paint a clearer picture?

This is not to say that I think that the Yellow line is as heavily used as the rest of the lines--it's obviously not. But is it actually being used less than it was built for or less than would be expected considering the short route and significant overlap with other lines? Is it wasteful as is? If so, would extending south down Rt. 1 improve this? Would the cost of building out justify the increase in use? Would that cost be better spent relieving congestion elsewhere? Would we be ok leaving it as is (potentially under-utilized), but knowing that it provides a vital connection, so convenience wins over efficiency? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions—just thinking aloud.

by Catherine on Apr 7, 2014 5:09 pm • linkreport

Not sure why people are saying it's the most "under-utilized" line. I haven't seen any evidence of that. Right now, because of the big demand on the Orange (and soon Silver) lines, and having to shift Blue Line trains to the Yellow Line, perhaps there are more trains than absolutely necessary during peak. But there's little they can do about that if they want to provide decent headways. More development in southwest DC and around L'Enfant Plaza will mean more employment there and probably higher ridership on the Yellow in the future.

Scenario 3 above shows the level of build-out that would justify a Metro extension. Basically Ballston levels of development. If people on the US 1 corridor will support that, then sure there is an argument for a Metro extension.

by MLD on Apr 7, 2014 5:21 pm • linkreport

It will also lay the ground work for the eventual extension of the Yellow Line to Fort Belvoir which today employs more people than the U.S. Pentagon, sees 80,000 cars/day go on and off base, and is served by two buses, and is poised for additional growth over the next 30 years.

The U.S. Army Museum is set to open in 3-4 years with 500,000+ annual visitors. The Mt. Vernon Estate currently sees 1,000,000 visitors per year (did 1.3M in the 1960's). Neither has transit service. Yellow Line to Hybla Valley would put Metro within 2 miles of the Mt. Vernon Estate.

by Del. Scott A. Surovell

I love the idea of bringing the Yellow line further out, and who cares if there are park and rides along with it? That's how you get cars off the road. Better to have them in a parking deck than driving all the way to DC, and high density communities will develop naturally near the metro stops in the long term. Providing parking isn't evil. And imagine the benefit of providing real transit options for the 1,600,000+ people or so who work in just the largest destinations near that area now. I like taking visitors to Mt. Vernon now- if I could get them down there on the metro rather than driving, it would be a whole lot easier, and I'd do it more.

Basically, for me it boils down to the fact that in terms of long term capacity and growth, expanding the metro is incredibly important. It's the backbone of our transportation system, and expanding its reach as much as possible is critical for a robust system in the long term. Of course, you will need to address core capacity too, but that's already in the works, it just needs funding.

by Zeus on Apr 7, 2014 5:22 pm • linkreport

Catherine - Another thing to take into consideration is that since some trains that leave Springfield are technically yellow trains, the number of people who drive to Huntington to get on their has diminished.

It should also be pointed out that there is an immense amount of development currently planned around the Huntington station. To say that it is currently under-utilitized, and thus can easily pick up the slack of a large redevelopment in Hybla Valley and Beacon Hill is ignoring what the immediate Huntington area will look like in 3-5 years.

by Chris22303 on Apr 7, 2014 5:26 pm • linkreport

MLD and Chris22303,

Right, that's kind of what I'm getting at, and I suppose my questions are best directed at those who are calling it under-utilized in the first place (Del Surovell and Jasper).

I think we can all agree that it isn't *heavily* used now, and is not as packed at those that are over capicity, but does that mean it is "under-utilized" and all the implications that come along with that concept (the possible extension, the planned redevelopment etc)....maybe not.

by Catherine on Apr 7, 2014 5:49 pm • linkreport

@ Earle & MLD

Those responses don’t answer the question that was asked why we have a yellow line at all when the two stations could be a spur period. The Rosslyn Tunnel was not an issue when the system started running so it is irrelevant. If they decided one day to not use the Bridge over the Potomac you would not have stations not served.

When it comes to getting a quicker ride somewhere to DC what about the other lines they don’t deserve that service also? If you’re are looking at the Airport; Airports in other cities are not connected directly to downtown via a subway line; Heathrow is far from the City of London, Schönefeld is not near the center of Berlin, Haneda is 2 or 3 times the distance from DC to National and Narita is very far from Tokyo, Kingsford is 5 miles from Sydney’s Center

by kk on Apr 7, 2014 6:08 pm • linkreport

@ Del Surovell

It's nice to see you participate in the conversation sir!

I guess you make a good point about the Light Rail and potential pedestrian hazards. Admittedly, I didn't give that enough thought.

Well, my concern was the time table in which we would actually be able to see a Metro extension. My guess is it would not be for about 20-25 years, after the Silver Line and core capacity issues were addressed.

Mind you we also have to deal with competing expansion bids in the Orange Line to Centerville, and don't be surprised if people in Arlington holler about being snubbed and get "stuck" with the Columbia Pike streetcar.

It would seem that people in the Mt. Vernon and Lee districts want a solution NOW. BRT is very flexible in terms of connecting to other regions such as Springfield and National Harbor.

However, you and the group working on it will have to do a MONSTER JOB educating the public on BRT and on why it's worth investing in. Because for many people it's Metro or lump it.

I think the BRT COULD work, as a medium term solution. However that is only if we DO NOT chintz out and build it to worldwide standards with high quality stations and everything. Connector service would also have to be rerouted and likely expanded in terms of headways in order to cope with population growth AND servicing people in the various neighborhoods.

It's doable, yes. But it's hardly going to be the most popular option.

Frankly I will be surprised if the group studying it actually chooses the Metro/BRT alternative. But we shall see.

Thanks for all your work and we look forward to your participation on this very important issue!

by billy bob on Apr 7, 2014 8:17 pm • linkreport

@kk: If the Blue or Yellow line ever reach anywhere near Woodbridge you are going to have people asking for extensions to Potomac Mills, Dale City, Dumfries, Quantico or Fredericksburg and at the point there will definitely be a question about it going to Richmond. This would spark discussions about the Red line going to Clarksburg, Green line to St Charles & Baltimore, Blue line to Edgewater and the Orange Line to Millersville & Manassas Park which would all be able the same distance (give or take 5-10 miles) from current terminals of lines

Bring it on!

@ Low Headways: For Quantico and other VRE-served locations, running 2-4 trains in BOTH directions at peak hours, and 1-2 tph at all other times, would go a long ways towards vastly improving the accessibility of those areas.

Sure.... That would greatly help with all the weekend traffic jams on I-95 there. NOT.

by Jasper on Apr 7, 2014 8:37 pm • linkreport

The Hybrid Metro/BRT option is not expensive - it's $1.5B or about 22% of the cost of the Silver Line.

Senator Puller and I are optimistic that we can get $4M into this year's budget for preengineering, NEPA, and New Starts grants.

Funding is out there:

- Federal New Starts grants cover up to 50%.
- NVTA has $300M/yr. to spend in NOVA.
- BRT is ripe for PPP financing especially if the Metro stations have parking decks to finance it.
- Fairfax County put $400M into the Silver Line. A proportionate share to this would be around $100M.
- Virginia's Department of Rail and Public Transit has funds to distribute.
- A TIF or Special Tax District can provide funding.
- Given that Fort Belvoir drives much of the growth, I believe the U.S. Army should be at the table.

It's eminently doable in the next 10 years.

There is plenty of large developable parcels on Beacon Hill and in Hybla Valley. The parcel depth issue is more prevalent south of Hybla Valley.

by Del. Scott Surovell on Apr 7, 2014 8:54 pm • linkreport

Those responses don’t answer the question that was asked why we have a yellow line at all when the two stations could be a spur period.

Direct access from eastern downtown DC to south Arlington/Alexandria doesn't answer your question? OK. Go read Great Society Subway, I'm sure the reasoning is in there.

by MLD on Apr 7, 2014 9:41 pm • linkreport

KK-

Arguing that there shouldn't be a yellow line because of that spur is like arguing that we should have the eastern leg of the redline because Glenmont and White Flint are only a 10 minute drive apart. In both instances, it's all about capacity. Without the eastern line service to Montgomery county would be cut in half.

The yellow line exists in Virginia for the exact same reason. It doubles the capacity of metro in the Commonwealth by providing a second river crossing. (Not to mention providing a more direct route from Alexandria and Southern Fairfax to the CBD.) Without it a commute from say Alexandria to China Town would take 2 or 3 times as long because of fewer trains, more stops, and a longer route.

Argue all you want that the huntington spur is silly as it exists today (I won't disagree), but to use it as an a reason why there shouldn't be a yellow line just doesn't add up.

by Earle on Apr 7, 2014 10:29 pm • linkreport

Yellow Line was built to Huntington and tunneled 1/2 a mile into the hillside with a collapsable wall at the end because it was always intended to be extended.

It already goes 1/2 way to Beacon Hill today.

Some people say it was the first piece that was supposed to be extended.

by Del. Scott Surovell on Apr 7, 2014 10:38 pm • linkreport

Concur with Del. Surovell. I have an E-mail from WMATA that the tunnel actually extends 3/4 mile south of Huntington, which puts it almost to Penn Daw.

Disappointed that Metro to Fort Belvoir wasn't included as an option. It doesn't need to go all the way to Woodbridge, but there's A LOT of traffic in the Route 1 corridor between Huntington and Belvoir that'd justify the Yellow Line going beyond Hybla Valley.

Regarding bike/ped, as I recall from my MVCCA days, the county's comprehensive plan envisions a MUT on one side and a sidewalk on the other. FABB has also been pushing for in-pavement bike lanes, though I doubt VDOT or the county will budge on that given the traffic level and lots of right-turning traffic.

by Froggie on Apr 8, 2014 7:43 am • linkreport

I've always thought of Metro as the pipe dream and light rail as the more realistic best-case scenario. I'm not sure it's understood here how populated the Route 1 Corridor is. There are a lot of single family homes, but there are also a lot of rental communities.

I'm not sure if it's unfamiliarity or confusion in this thread where some think VRE would greatly assist Route 1 improvements/redevelopment. Likewise, questioning the existence of the Yellow line is bizarre.

by selxic on Apr 8, 2014 1:54 pm • linkreport

@selxic

Personally, I just brought up VRE in response to the idea of "extensions to Potomac Mills, Dale City, Dumfries, Quantico or Fredericksburg and at the point there will definitely be a question about it going to Richmond. This would spark discussions about the Red line going to Clarksburg, Green line to St Charles & Baltimore, Blue line to Edgewater and the Orange Line to Millersville & Manassas Park." The thought of those sorts of pressures on an urban mass transit system terrifies me.

I do wish that the map above which shows Woodbridge VRE and Huntington would also show the VRE line that hits Woodbridge, so it would be easier to tell just how far away from Route 1 the tracks are.

by LowHeadways on Apr 8, 2014 2:00 pm • linkreport

Del Surovell

In your opinion, will landowners in the area support a TIF?

Will residents in the area support the levels of density envisioned in the document to justify metrorail?

To anyone

Is it envisioned that NVTA funding will be accompanied both by County funding and Commonwealth funding - IE that its not a substitute for state/local funding?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 8, 2014 2:09 pm • linkreport

Selxic,

I tend to agree with you but Del. Surovell and others have made good arguments in favor of the metro/BRT option on the table. Even without those arguments its still at least the 2nd best option no matter what.

by drumz on Apr 8, 2014 2:17 pm • linkreport

I think they will probably support a TIF.

Residents will support the density. It was presented a public hearing two weeks ago to about 150 people. There were no complaints there.

Yes - If you read my comment above, the funding would need to come from multiple sources. NVTA can't fund the entire project.

by Del. Scott Surovell on Apr 8, 2014 5:28 pm • linkreport

Given the width of Route 1, is a shallow cut-and-cover solution not possible for some of the route?

I am thinking about what they did along Rockville Pike, with easements going under strip mall parking lots and shallow trench stations. Is that unfeasible, or so expensive, it's not possible?

I'd appreciate if

by Neil Flanagan on Apr 8, 2014 5:45 pm • linkreport

*I'd appreciate it if someone who knows about this could explain what's going on.

by Neil Flanagan on Apr 8, 2014 5:45 pm • linkreport

Have planners taken into account the increasingly strained capacity for both Metro lines, especially the Blue? I'd love to see more transit but piling more people onto Metro, as a planned Potomac Yard stop will also do, can't just be done endlessly.

by Willow on Apr 8, 2014 6:01 pm • linkreport

@Neal:

Jumping in late here, but a shallow cut-and-cover is only possible for part of Route 1, given the grade and elevation difference on the hill between Beacon Hill and Hybla Valley. You'd either have a shallow tunnel break above grade partially down the hill, or you'd have to go deep tunnel from Penn Daw south (including any potential Beacon Hill station being deep) to get the tracks near or below grade at the bottom of the hill.

by Froggie on Apr 11, 2014 10:46 pm • linkreport

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