Greater Greater Washington

The DC region has over 250 miles of planned light rail, streetcar, & BRT

What do you get when you plot onto a single map every known light rail, streetcar, and BRT plan in the DC region? One heck of a huge transit network, is what.


Every planned light rail, streetcar, and BRT line in the DC region. Click the map to open a zoom-able interactive version. Map by the author, using Google basemap.

This map combines the DC streetcar and MoveDC bus lane plan with the Arlington streetcar plan, the Alexandria transitway plan, Montgomery's BRT plan, and Fairfax's transit network plan, plus the Purple Line, the Corridor Cities Transitway, the Long Bridge study, the Wilson Bridge transit corridor, and finally the Southern Maryland transit corridor.

Add the route mileage from all of them up and you get 267 miles of proposed awesomeness, not including the Silver Line or other possible Metrorail expansions.

To be sure, it will be decades before all of this is open to passengers, if ever.

The H Street Streetcar will be the first to open this year, god willing, with others like the Purple Line and Columbia Pike Streetcar hopefully coming before the end of the decade. But many of these are barely glimpses in planners' eyes, vague lines on maps, years or decades away from even serious engineering, much less actual operation.

For example, Maryland planners have been talking about light rail extending south into Charles County since at least the late 1990s, but it's no higher than 4th down on the state's priority list for new transit, after the Purple Line, Corridor Cities Transitway, and Baltimore Red Line. Never mind how Montgomery's expansive BRT network fits in.

Meanwhile in Virginia, the Gallows Road route seems to be a brand new idea. There's yet to be even a feasibility study for it.

Even if governments in the DC region spend the next few decades building this network, there are sure to be changes between now and the day it's all in place. Metro's original planners didn't know Tysons would become the behemoth it is, and contemporary planners can't predict the future with 100% accuracy either.

Last year the Coalition for Smarter Growth published a report documenting every known route at that time, and already a lot has changed. More is sure to change over time.

Holes in the network

With a handful of exceptions these plans mostly come from individual jurisdictions. DC plans its streetcars, Montgomery County plans its BRT, and so on.

That kind of bottom-up planning is a great way to make sure land use and transit work together, but the downside is insular plans that leave gaps in the overall network.

Ideally there ought to be at least one connection between Fairfax and Montgomery, and Prince George's ought to be as dense with lines as its neighbors.

But still, 267 miles is an awfully impressive network. Now let's build it.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

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Dan Malouff is a professional transportation planner for Arlington County, but his blog posts represent only his own personal views. He has a degree in Urban Planning from the University of Colorado, and lives car-free in Washington. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post

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There once was a dream...

by Thayer-D on May 6, 2014 10:19 am • linkreport

The Long Bridge replacement could be a very important link in the street car network. What I would hope for is that DC and VA use compatible systems so that they could conceivably share the same track.

by Randall M. on May 6, 2014 10:40 am • linkreport

You may want to remove North Cap from that map. While it is included in the MoveDC bus plan, the McMillan project's traffic engineers and DDOT have already ruled out dedicated lanes there. (Unless it's included because Metro would one day like to run an express bus - the 80X?)

by shipsa01 on May 6, 2014 10:46 am • linkreport

Thanks - nice map.

Too bad there is so little planned when it comes to additional commuter rail as that strikes me as the best bet to get long distance commuters off the road and reduce VMT.

by TomQ on May 6, 2014 10:51 am • linkreport

Is it possible to find out what is proposed for these various segments? Specifically, I am interested in what this refers to and any high level information for the Wisconsin Ave line.

by GP Steve on May 6, 2014 10:56 am • linkreport

@shipsa01
the McMillan project's traffic engineers and DDOT have already ruled out dedicated lanes there.
According to what?

by MLD on May 6, 2014 11:02 am • linkreport

TomQ

The Long Bridge study is looking at improvements that would increase VRE capacity, and maybe make possible eventual through service with MARC. In addition to adding frequency VRE may be extended to Gainesville. MARC is planning on increasing frequency (the new weekend service on the Penn Line is the first fruit of that).

But there are not many freight lines left that do not already have a MARC or VRE line. Building completelyt new rail lines for commuter rail is probably not benefit cost positive anywhere in the region.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 6, 2014 11:04 am • linkreport

I've asked about it before but can DDOT and Amtrak and the other stakeholders leverage the CSX Virginia Ave tunnel replacement to get CSX to help contribute to the replacement and modernization of the Long Bridge (perhaps as an intermodal TIGER grant) while the VA Ave tunnel construction is taking place? This seems like it would be a great TIGER grant candidate.

by 202_Cyclist on May 6, 2014 11:04 am • linkreport

Why is there a Michigan Ave NE streetcar line and not an RIA line? Have the plans changed? I've seen nothing ever about a Michigan Ave NE extension.

by Jbiz on May 6, 2014 11:08 am • linkreport

GP Steve,

The Route 7 study right now is weighing its alternatives (light rail, BRT, streetcar, etc.)

http://route7corridorstudy.com/

and we just had big discussions on here about plans along rte 1 in Fairfax and Dan's link to the Fairfax transit plan.

by drumz on May 6, 2014 11:10 am • linkreport

@drumz

Does anyone else think it would be beneficial to have a site listing all regional transit type projects showing general summary, current status, links to a project page, next steps with expected time, etc so we can see if any projects are dragging their feet or need a mobilization push? Perhaps updated monthly? Some projects just seem to take much longer than they should.

The H/I bus lanes have been coming "forever". DDOT Sam said they had challenges because of all the driveways on those streets. Perhaps we can help find solutions if we knew why these projects were stuck? The K street transitway also seems to have been taking forever. DDOT Sam said it was delayed because of the streetcar coming. Though they could have put the tracks down in preparation for the future.

by GP Steve on May 6, 2014 11:18 am • linkreport

@202_cyclist, I saw that VRE/VADRPT and DDOT were planning to submit an application for a TIGER planning grant for the NEPA and PE work for a Long Bridge replacement. The total estimated cost of the NEPA and PE was $5 million IIRC. But the replacement of the Long Bridge is a $500 million or more project (depending on the configuration and alternatives selected). TIGER grants in the post-stimulus years have been in the range of $10 to $20 million each, way too small to make a substantial contribution to replacing the Long Bridge with a 4 track bridge.

Replacing the Long bridge will require contributions from multiple sources: federal government (FTA grants, FRA, HSR programs if there are any), VA via VRE and VADRPT, DC, CSX, Amtrak, and perhaps MD. It will take years and years to get the agreements and funding in place.

by AlanF on May 6, 2014 11:26 am • linkreport

GP Steve,

Sure but you'd have to have someone to do the work obviously. And this post is a good start because of admitted difficulty of how the regions all work separately.

The Transport Politic has a good model for new starts at the national level.

http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/

He hasn't updated the blog part of the site in a while but the info for new projects all seems current.

by drumz on May 6, 2014 11:27 am • linkreport

> Does anyone else think it would be beneficial to have a site listing all regional transit type projects showing general summary, current status, links to a project page, next steps with expected time, etc

I did that in 2011. Here's the post from then.

I've been waiting until the Silver Line and H Street Streetcar open to update it.

Keeping it updated continuously is too much work.

by BeyondDC on May 6, 2014 11:34 am • linkreport

Adding a Commuter Rail(VRE/MARC) map layer would be nice.

The Long Bridge Improvement(Extra VRE service.Streetcar) coupled with the K St. Streetcar is a cheaper alternative than a blue line extension through Rossyln and Northwest. VRE is a much nicer ride for longer distance commuters (From Springfield) than Metro.

by mcs on May 6, 2014 11:36 am • linkreport

The VRE improvements will be helpful, but I doubt everyone boarding in Springfield will switch - because VRE costs more, and because depending on your destination in DC, VRE is not as handy. And of course it will have no impact on the blue line riders who board closer in (other than King Street.) So it doesn't really address the blue line issue.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 6, 2014 11:48 am • linkreport

@BeyondDC

That looks great! I look forward to seeing an updated version of that.

by GP Steve on May 6, 2014 11:56 am • linkreport

That's cool! The gaps aren't so bad compared to how complete the overall network would be.

by bk on May 6, 2014 12:18 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity,

I disagree with you that improvements to the Long Bridge and VRE wouldn't have a net positive affect on the Blue Line. Yes, it would not solve the capacity issues under the Potomac at Rosslyn directly but providing an alternative for VRE users at King Street and Crystal City combined with a street car connection would likely alleviate Blue line pressure. It is likely worth a few more dollars a day for blue line uses as it could save time over the alternative, which is nothing right now.

by Randall M. on May 6, 2014 12:26 pm • linkreport

Can we please not treat bus lanes and mixed-traffic streetcars as equivalent to light rail?

by Alon Levy on May 6, 2014 12:36 pm • linkreport

I doubt everyone boarding in Springfield will switch - because VRE costs more, and because depending on your destination in DC, VRE is not as handy. And of course it will have no impact on the blue line riders who board closer in (other than King Street.) So it doesn't really address the blue line issue.

This illustrates some of the idiocy of transportation planning silos in the US. We can spend hundreds of millions on a new rail bridge that will increase rail capacity and enable the commuter railroads to offer transit-like service. But the idea that we might adjust fare policy so that Metro fares and Commuter Rail fares are linked and roughly equivalent for a journey of the same distance is somehow a bridge too far.

by Alex B. on May 6, 2014 12:37 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity,

When traveling between Springfield and Union Station, the VRE is 15 minutes faster and about equal in cost to Metro if you take 10 trips a month. The only advantage to Metro is frequency.

by mcs on May 6, 2014 12:41 pm • linkreport

Randall, I am not saying there would be zero blue line relief - I am contesting "cheaper alternative than a blue line extension through Rossyln and Northwest."

Its not an alternative. It does not buy you what a seperate blue line buys you.

Mcs - To which station? Not to Farragut West or Foggy Bottom.

It won't remove riders who board elsewhere than F-S or KSS, and it will only remove riders at those stations who are goint to the destinations most convenient to the VRE termini in DC. Thats a non-zero benefit, for sure. But a small piece of the crowding problem on the blue line. And not at all a solution to the frequency problem on the blue line. And it does not help you address growing frequency on the Silver Line, or the possibility of additional extensions - nor does it help more than marginally with crowded transfer stations in DC, nor does it provide service to Georgetown, to Atlas district, etc.

It is not a replacment for the seperate blue line. Mostly what it does is help address congestion on I95/I395. And also provide some local connectivity (a proposed bike/ped lane there would be very nice.) Its certainly a good thing, but lets not get confused about what it does.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 6, 2014 12:53 pm • linkreport

@ Alex B.

+1

One simple change is move L'Enfant and Crystal City into the same zone. I know a lot of VRE riders who get off at Crystal City to get to Northwest(via Rosslyn Tunnel) because of the extra VRE cost to get to L'Enfant

by mcs on May 6, 2014 12:55 pm • linkreport

Man, I would love to see the Tysons/Merrifield LRT/BRT line extended north to hook in with the Purple Line. I'm thinking something along the lines of McLean, CIA/Langley, Sangamore, and Westwood Center/River Rd, Bethesda.

by Peter K on May 6, 2014 12:57 pm • linkreport

Alon Levy

IIUC, a surface rail vehicle with overhead power can move in completely dedicated ROW, in semidedicated (the outer parts of some of the Green line branches in greater Boston and the Howard Street part of baltimore's Central Light Rail) or in mixed traffic. IIUC the Purple Line will be mostly but not entirely in seperate ROW. The CCPY line will be mostly semi-dedicated, but partly mixed traffic. And the semi-dedicated will be BRT lines that will eventually convert over - and will themselves include a mix of lane types, as will the MoCo BRT system. And similarly the One City line in DC will be a combo of mixed traffic and semidedicated ROW.

I fear the distinctions get a little arbitrary.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 6, 2014 12:59 pm • linkreport

IIUC the Purple Line will be mostly but not entirely in seperate ROW.

Where will the purple line not have it's own ROW? It will not be fully grade separated, meaning it will have lights to cross intersections, but it will not share lanes anywhere.

by Richard on May 6, 2014 1:29 pm • linkreport

Can anyone elaborate on the Beauregard Line??

by Stillwell87 on May 6, 2014 1:47 pm • linkreport

@Richard:
The Purple Line will SHARE a lane with cars:
>on Wayne Avenue from Fenton Street to Sligo Creek Parkway.
>on Rossbourough/Paint Branch Pkwy from UMD to College Pk Metro.
>on Ellin Road from Route 410 to New Carrollton Metro.

by Matt Johnson on May 6, 2014 1:49 pm • linkreport

@Richard:
The Purple Line will SHARE a lane with cars:
>on Wayne Avenue from Fenton Street to Sligo Creek Parkway.
>on Rossbourough/Paint Branch Pkwy from UMD to College Pk Metro.
>on Ellin Road from Route 410 to New Carrollton Metro.

The Ellin Road and Paint Branch Pkwy sections look like they were overbuilt originally and rarely have 4 lanes worth of traffic. I wonder why they dont give it a dedicated lane there.

Wayne ave could be a mess, didnt know about that one.

by Richard on May 6, 2014 2:56 pm • linkreport

@Richard:
Prince George's doesn't want to give up two lanes on Paint Branch Parkway because the capacity is needed during UMD sporting events (especially football).

On Ellin Road, Prince George's expects lots of new TOD around New Carrollton, so they want to retain the roadway capacity.

On Wayne, dedicated lanes would have meant either (a) widening the roadway to a 6-lane cross-section with significant takings or (b) removal of off-peak on-street parking. Both alternatives were considered too extreme.

by Matt Johnson on May 6, 2014 3:09 pm • linkreport

This illustrates some of the idiocy of transportation planning silos in the US. We can spend hundreds of millions on a new rail bridge that will increase rail capacity and enable the commuter railroads to offer transit-like service. But the idea that we might adjust fare policy so that Metro fares and Commuter Rail fares are linked and roughly equivalent for a journey of the same distance is somehow a bridge too far.

Integration would be great.

VRE + Metro should be more expensive than Metro alone, as VRE is giving faster service in theory.

A trip from Springfield to Chinatown is $5.35 on Metro. $7 seems about right for that trip by VRE, or 7.10 or 7.50 but not 9.45

by Richard on May 6, 2014 3:20 pm • linkreport

@Richard:
Prince George's doesn't want to give up two lanes on Paint Branch Parkway because the capacity is needed during UMD sporting events (especially football).
On Ellin Road, Prince George's expects lots of new TOD around New Carrollton, so they want to retain the roadway capacity.

On Wayne, dedicated lanes would have meant either (a) widening the roadway to a 6-lane cross-section with significant takings or (b) removal of off-peak on-street parking. Both alternatives were considered too extreme.

Hmm, Ellin road could be widened easily if they really needed it.

Football games....will be a mess as per usual. I guess I did not take them into account when thinking about the traffic through that underpass.

For Wayne, remove the parking already. There shouldnt be on street parking next to an urban light rail line anyway. Just silliness.

by Richard on May 6, 2014 3:23 pm • linkreport

Still clinging to 8th St SE/NE to extend trolley north from Anacostia to H Street? Won't happen on a relatively narrow 8th Street zoned mostly residential. How about coming north from Anacostia, heading to Potomac Ave metro then north on 15th St SE/NE to starburst intersection further east on H Street? It is wide and mostly zoned commercial.

by Trulee Pist on May 6, 2014 5:43 pm • linkreport

Would it be possible to build Metro today? That undertaking was begun in the era of the moon landing. They landed on the moon in 1969. The groundbreaking for Metro was in 1969.

There was a commitment and value back then to undertaking big public works projects. Is it possible to imagine some 200+ plus miles of additional rail?

We aren't even maintaining existing our infrastructure. I don't know if Washington Metro's great wealth and educational attainment will counter the national inertia and self-destructive impulse dominating public life, but I'm not optimistic.

by kob on May 6, 2014 7:08 pm • linkreport

Considering the latest report on climate change and the contribution burning fossile feuls had, I wouldn't be surprised if Obama made some kind of marshall plan initiative to orient America's economy towards transit oriented development the same way Eisenhower did towards the car. Even if the chances of Republicans not scoffing at science yet again are slim, he should do it for the record. If it ended up happening by some miracle, all these transit lines would get built.
How much did we spend in Iraq?

by Thayer-D on May 7, 2014 8:54 am • linkreport

@kob @Alon Levy @Thayer-D Amen, you guys.

This is, uh, okay. But it's pretty meh. For a region of this size, it's downright pathetic. You're telling me that out of the hundreds of thousands of asphalt lane miles in the greater DC area, we can't devote even 10% of those to transit? Which moves far more people at far greater speeds and actually promotes living a car-free lifestyle?

This is the perfect example of the small thinking that's plagued America since the 1980s. We don't build anything more indeed. Where's the vision? The gumption? This is a bus map, only slighter faster (and in many cases, slower).

by LowHeadways on May 7, 2014 9:36 am • linkreport

The fact is the constraints are real for multiple reasons, from political reality, to real tradeoffs. In fact the above is a beautiful map IF it can be implemented without undue delay (note, for Thayer it adds lots of transit connectivity at less central locations - note the rte 28 line and the Gallows to Mclean line in FFX, the peripheral BRT line in MoCo, the Purple line, and the east-west line in north DC - none of which are radials headed downtown.) The problem is the battles over these - note the Purple Line sage, the MoCo BRT fight, the resistance to anything in Mclean, and of course the fight over PikeRail.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 7, 2014 9:45 am • linkreport

The Iraq war cost well north of 2 trillion dollars, the exact cost won't be known for at least 60 years (when most of the veterans have died and we don't have unlimited liabilities for benefits). Will probably end up somewhere between $5tn and $10tn dollars for a war that was sold as costing $100bn.

Remember that the next time someone complains about a million dollar bus stop or a billion dollar infrastructure project (with a 100 year depreciation) running 50% over budget.

by Mike on May 7, 2014 9:53 am • linkreport

The money saved by ending the Iraq war has already gone to reduce the deficit from what it would otherwise be. Its not available for projects.

wrt to busstops - since it appears that excellent bus stops can be built for much less, by using more standardized parts, it does seem like the original design was a mistake, and its fair that that should have consequnces. OTOH now that the price tag is about what other systems have spent for similar stops, it would be nice to see the antis accept that - the call in certain places for the cheapest bare bones shelters shows that many of the folks who oppose the streetcar are not really interested in high quality enhanced bus service either.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 7, 2014 9:59 am • linkreport

I'm not saying that we have the Iraq war money, that's treasure we burned up in the desert. What I'm saying is that the amount of money we're talking about for infrastructure improvements isn't really that big a fraction of our national wealth, and it's for things that actually have a long term benefit. The Iraq debt is going to hamper our finances for a long time, but blaming public investments for those financial problems and then pretending to solve the problem by cutting back on public services is adding insult to injury.

by Mike on May 7, 2014 10:34 am • linkreport

Should be excited, but I can't be while they plan to build more streetcars practically over top of metro lines (washington highlands spur huh?) making sure large areas of the city can pick between metro and streetcar while other (hey you ward 5) have no access at all. You can't drive to work but you cant use transit either langon/woodridge/arboretum.

by markus on May 7, 2014 10:41 am • linkreport

I am against cutting back on public investments, and believe most or all of the projects on the above map are a good idea. Its just that some people are alway in favor of every fantasy project idea they can dream up ("why not a heavy rail line FFX cty Parkway? Why not make every single one of the MoCo BRT lines into rail instead? etc, etc")

Resource constraints are real. To add money to transit infra you need to either increase the deficit, increase somebodys taxes, cut some non-infra spending, cut non tranport infra (which is far from trivial) or cut highway spending. While the latter is the most popular here (and is often a good idea) most highway spending is for repairs. And eliminating all spending on new roads or road capacity increases is a pipe dream.

We need to focus on whats achievable, and push hard for it - not get distracted with fantasies.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 7, 2014 10:46 am • linkreport

@AWITC: Have you ever negotiated? Or haggled? You never start by "settling," because you end up with less than you wanted.

If you start with big dreams of great works, than these watered-down alternatives don't seem like such massive deals. E.g., push for heavy rail down Columbia Pike. When told no, compromise on real light rail as the halfway solution. If you start out demanding less, you'll end up with less.

And the whole point is these can't be partial solutions. We're just tinkering around the margins and attempting to get a small fraction of something the rest of the developed world does by default. It's insane, it's ridiculous, and it's embarrassing. I refuse to settle.

by LowHeadways on May 7, 2014 10:55 am • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity actually, most of the highway spending is for expansion, not repairs. that's exactly why the highway infrastructure is falling apart and continuing to expand it is unsustainable. (and why expanding modes which have lower o&m costs is so attractive.)

by Mike on May 7, 2014 11:01 am • linkreport

I have negotiated, and I know that an absurd opening position, one that makes you appear ignorant of reality, does not advance negotiations.

By all means go ahead and push for more transit money in the surface transport reauthorization bill. But lets not let that distract us at the local level - and note, in the PikeRail debate the "we need heavy rail" position is NOT about negotiating, its about trying to stop whats feasible. Similar rhetoric has been used to try to stop the Purple Line. Note also, transit lines that are costly and get little usage do NOT strengthen the transit position politically.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 7, 2014 11:05 am • linkreport

No offense AWITC, but just because you think that planning a truly regional public transit system is an absurd opening position doesn't make it so. In fact, there's a perfectly good argument that would say, not to do this is an absurd position, given all the scientific data at our disposal.

by Thayer-D on May 7, 2014 11:27 am • linkreport

markus, I don't think it's as bad as this (possibly out of date) map indicates. The Rhode Island line is still in the DC Streetcar program as far as I know. The reason it's not more of a priority though is that it's a pretty low density area. Until there is indication there is enough ridership potential you are going to get buses. That said I think that corridor is getting studied for better bus service.

by BTA on May 7, 2014 11:39 am • linkreport

And in terms of North Cap I think there is long term likelihood. Assuming both McMillan and the southern chunk of Old Soldiers home do get redeveloped you have eliminated a major E-W barrier between two relatively dense parts of town AND you'd added destinatios to fill in the basically dead space between Fort Totten and Stronghold so demand on an already well used corridor is likely to increase, potentially even double, in the next 20 years.

by BTA on May 7, 2014 11:52 am • linkreport

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