Greater Greater Washington

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Ask GGW: Why is there no Silver Line station at Wolf Trap?

Contributor Jason Levinn posed this question:

Has anyone else wondered why WMATA/MWAA/DTP chose not to put in a Wolf Trap stop on the Silver Line? There's such a large gap between Spring Hill and Reston, one would think it might make sense for several reasons.


Photo by A.Currell on Flickr.

Indeed, the distance between the Spring Hill and Wiehle-Reston East stations is about 6 miles. That would make it the longest gap between stations once Phase 1 of the Silver Line opens. And being able to get off the Metro and take a short walk to see an event at Wolf Trap would be much more convenient compared to what exists today. But some of our other contributors had some great explanations as to why there is no station currently planned there:

Michael Perkins: It would be a total waste of money. An inline stop would cost somewhere between $100-200 million, maybe more, and there is essentially no development potential around the site. There's a national park and single-family homes.

No one is going to agree to rezone that area to allow anything like transit-oriented development, and the road access isn't appropriate for a commuter lot. Wolf Trap has several dozen events a year, but it's not enough by itself to drive much transit use.

Matt Johnson: Originally, the Silver Line plans included a provision for a future station at Wolf Trap, but in the deal struck (by Ray LaHood) to make it cost effective, the planned provision was deleted.

Tony Goodman: The agreement between Fairfax County and MWAA includes a "Concurrent Non-Project Activity" (or CPNA) to allow for a future possible station. These CNPAs are items that MWAA is providing that are outside the scope of the FTA project agreement.

Although currently there are no plans to build a Wolf Trap station, the current project includes accommodations necessary to allow the addition of a future passenger station, including a vertical tangency (flat spot).

Steven Yates grew up in Indiana before moving to DC in 2002 to attend college at American University. He currently lives in Southwest DC.  

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My former colleague Paul Pillar wrote in about this way back in 2010 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/15/AR2010061504999_3.html):

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

The discussion missed the main point of having such a station. Most of the use would not be by concert-goers -- although many Wolf Trap patrons no doubt would appreciate that convenience -- but instead by commuters living in a large swath of northern Fairfax County (mostly Great Falls and northern Vienna).

The plan for the new rail line, which crams four Tysons Corner stations along barely two miles of track and then continues station-less for five miles to Reston, does not help those commuters.

Those among them who use Metrorail make their way to Dunn Loring or West Falls Church -- many of them adding to the congested Tysons Corner traffic in the process. Others, without a closer station, do not see Metrorail as a viable option.

Wolf Trap has an advantage over those Tysons Corner stations: two big parking lots that sit unused except during summer evenings. If Metro and the National Park Service could negotiate an agreement governing commuter use of the lots, the combination of location and ample parking would make a Wolf Trap station a major attraction for commuters and a boon to ridership on the new line, justifying the expense of constructing and operating the station.

Paul Pillar
Great Falls

by Dizzy on May 9, 2014 1:22 pm • linkreport

Has Mr Pillar ever tried to exit those two big parking lots after a concert?

It takes longer to get out of them than it takes for Mr Putin to switch from being unconcerned by NATO expansion to considering it justification for invading a sovereign country.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 9, 2014 1:28 pm • linkreport

Some things, like National Parks, should be off-limits to development. As for concert-goers there's currently a shuttle from WFC metro to the venue. I imagine the shuttle will go from Wiehle or Spring Hill once the Silver Line opens. Wolf Trap is also only 2.3 miles via the back roads and trails from the Spring Hill station. Not a long bike ride but of course you can't bring your bike on metro during rush hour.

by Falls Church on May 9, 2014 1:28 pm • linkreport

@AWITC

I'm not sure what Paul's musical preferences are, but I'm sure he has. Are you suggesting that the entry/egress issues with those lots after concerts would be similar to the situation during evening rush hour?

Presumably, any such plan would require some significant redesign of the lots themselves, including entry/egress.

by Dizzy on May 9, 2014 1:30 pm • linkreport

As it is now, the Silver Line will provide much better service to Wolf Trap visitors than does the current system. A bus to Spring Hill will be shorter that West Falls Church, saving time and transporting more riders with the same equipment.

by Andrew on May 9, 2014 1:34 pm • linkreport

I like the idea of getting more use out of Wolf Trap during non-concert times. However, turning it into a commuter lot isn't keeping with the spirit/mission of national parks. We already have two national parks in the area who's primary purpose has become commuting rather than recreating (GW Parkway and Rock Creek). We don't need another one.

by Falls Church on May 9, 2014 1:36 pm • linkreport

Well, it's a good thing we never put a stop at RFK stadium, then. Imagine how wasteful that would have been.

by Kolohe on May 9, 2014 1:44 pm • linkreport

It would be a total waste of money. ... There's a national park and single-family homes.

Yeah, why bring people to a National Park by transit? Makes no sense. Let's close the stop at Smithsonian and Arlington Cemetery as well. Nobody lives there, and the chance of development there is zero as well. Want to visit a National Park? Get in your car, like a real Murican!

Transit does not solely exist to redevelop areas.

Considering the mess with the NPS and Potomac Yards, we can safely predict that this station will never be built. What a waste.

This is how a good plan goes bad. Opposition just keeps hammering a project until it becomes crap. No tunnel in Tysons and under the Beltway. No station under the main terminal at Dulles. No station at Wolf Trap. No extension to Leesburg. So many missed opportunities.

by Jasper on May 9, 2014 1:45 pm • linkreport

@Awalker yes everyone trying to get out of a parking lot at the same time after a concert is just like commuters arriving and departing at relatively evenly spaced intervals throughout a many hours long "rush hour" period.

by egk on May 9, 2014 1:52 pm • linkreport

Dizzy

I suspect that even an investment into the access/egress (which would be costly and perhaps impact the park in other ways) would still leave a capacity issue on Trap Road/Towlston Road.

This sounds like more bellyaching by people in very affluent, low density areas that there is a shiny new thing they can't use (I mean from North Vienna its not a difficult bike ride to Tysons, nor from the closer parts of Great Falls and there buses, at least from North Vienna, but seriously man, ride a bike? Take a bus?) There was a discussion of putting a transit lane in on Rte 7 in that area, which apparently will not happen. Did Mr Pillar advocate for that?

Is suggesting that folks in Great Falls ride the bus the kind neoJacobin democratic revolutionary ideology that leads to foreign policy disasters? ;)

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 9, 2014 1:52 pm • linkreport

Let's close the stop at Smithsonian and Arlington Cemetery as well. Nobody lives there, and the chance of development there is zero as well.

If the Wolf Trap had the same number of visitors/employees as the National Mall and was located in the middle of city, a metro stop would make sense.

I don't know that a stop at Arlington Cemetery makes sense but it was probably a lot cheaper to build back then.

No tunnel in Tysons and under the Beltway. No station under the main terminal at Dulles. No station at Wolf Trap. No extension to Leesburg. So many missed opportunities.

All those opportunities have a cost. If you build those things, you don't get something else.

by Falls Church on May 9, 2014 1:53 pm • linkreport

FYI, the Silver Line was built to accommodate a future infill station at Wolf Trap. That's why the station identifier for Wiehle is N06 even though it follows directly after Spring Hill N04.

by dcmike on May 9, 2014 1:54 pm • linkreport

The RFK stops serves a dense walkable residential neighborhood. The Smithsonian stops serves office buildings, as well as museums and a mall that get much higher daily use than Wolftrap.

The cemetary stop, was IIUC, built with funding and at the request of NPS, which is not willing to make the same expenditure at Wolftrap. given differnces in volume of use, and relative availability of parking, I think their position is understandable.

For the cost of the stop you could pay half, or more than half, of the cost of the Columbia Pike Street Car.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 9, 2014 1:56 pm • linkreport

I went back and forth on the pros and cons in my head for a stop there a while back. As mentioned above, I decided the killers (assuming it had been considered, and you would think so given the gap) were a lack of developable land in the area, a relatively affluent SFH land use predominating which as we know generates low transit ridership, and issues they would face to accomodate any surface parking or bus connections including widening Trap road to deal with additional traffic. I could see this being an infill station way down the line though if Tysons continues to expand.

by BTA on May 9, 2014 2:00 pm • linkreport

Note also, leaving aside the cost to build the stop, the traffic impact on those local roads, the need for ingress/egress improvements, and impact of commuter parking on the park itself - an additional stop means slower total transit time from Reston and pts West to Tyson and point East. A very small increment to transit time, but one effecting every train, and lots of riders. That alone is a non-trivial cost. Is it worth it for the number of commuters this stop would serve?

There are reasons most park and ride focused rail transit stops are at the ends of lines.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 9, 2014 2:03 pm • linkreport

Biking becomes more of an issue when you have to wear a suit all-day, every day, and your destinations don't have shower facilities or the like. I think the point is that we have two underutilized resources here: 6 miles of Silver Line track with no stop and massive Wolf Trap parking lots that lay fallow most of the time. This is a proposal to increase their utilization - I think it should be looked at in those terms, rather than by casting aspersions on people's motivations based on their residence, perceived income, or foreign policy views :/

by Dizzy on May 9, 2014 2:06 pm • linkreport

I grew up between the proposed Spring Hill Station in Tysons and Wiehle Ave Station in Reston, and my parents still live within both walking and listening distance to Wolf Trap. As such, they would be one of few people able to take advantage of this station on a irregular basis if it were built. Fairfax County recently built a pedestrian bridge over the Toll Road, adjacent to Trap Road which I have biked on several times and I do not see any provision for a future station near Wolf Trap. They would either have to take the existing tracks off line or widen the Toll Road to account for a station there, neither of which is feasible. I think the provision must have been completely abandoned.

by xtr657 on May 9, 2014 2:12 pm • linkreport

And, yes, those are all valid concerns. I am open to other suggestions for how to address the underutilization I mentioned. Adding more year-round NPS or other artistic uses on the area currently covered by parking (you could replace the lost parking without too much difficulty)?

by Dizzy on May 9, 2014 2:12 pm • linkreport

No not everyone will bike to the metro, but by the same token not everyone will drive to it either even with parking. The goal is not to make sure every person has the ability to use heavy rail (most people in the southern part of the County do not) but to make sure we make investments that make sense. given that most of North Vienna and close in Great Falls is within ideal biking distance of Tysons, it suggest that steps to improve bikeability may have more payback than a new station. How much could we improve bikeability in the area with $100 million of capital funds (plus the operating funds for the new station?)

And note, one can ride a bus with a suit and tie and not need a shower at the office - many do it every day (it might be a nice side benefit though if people with the clout of many great falls commuters came to realize the need for office showers.)

And yes, the residence matters, as it impacts potential use and optimal mode. It really does not make sense to make major investments in heavy rail for very low density areas. Income also matters, as it suggests that even with a metro station mode share may be low (esp in a low density area with very high auto ownership.) Plus I think it does tie together the letter you quote, with the recent move to add parking at Tysons to accommodate Mclean residents. There is a class of people in Fairfax County who are outraged that there is something shiny and new that they "can't" (though of course they can, if they bike or bus) use, and to hell with benefit cost, planning, etc.

As for foreign policy, I find it amusing how someone with such notable fp views seems to have (IMO) an elite focused view of a local transportation issue that seems to me to be so consistent. So, I am amused.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 9, 2014 2:17 pm • linkreport

A couple thoughts:
* Do other systems have limited use scaled down stations that are only used some times and take liberties in their design? Something like only one side platform or a ramp down to the platform, no elevators or escalators. In the breakdown of adding a station, how much could the cost be scaled back such that a part time station might make sense?
* Would a station that's transit, walk, or bike only be an option? This would avoid the road expansion issues.
* If the lots were used as commuter lots, it could run into workers still being parked there when they are needed for concerts. I'm not sure about the upswing of concert goers vs the downswing of commuters.

by GP Steve on May 9, 2014 2:20 pm • linkreport

the line is NOT necessarily underutilized, if the only options to utilize it more have negative benefit cost.

I use my coffeemaker once a day, at most. I COULD make a pot of coffee and drink it at 11PM, to get better utilization. Of course that would ruin my life. So I don't consider my coffeemaker underutilized - its OPTIMALLY utilized - given that its a coffeemaker, and I want coffee in the morning, and sometimes don't want to take the time to make it. I can invite people over for coffee, but thats because I want to spend time with them,not to improve my coffeemaker utilization ratio.

Similarly the Silver Line will not be underutilized because it has a gap between stations. The proper metrics for the Silver Line will be total ridership, and real estate impact. the best way to increase SL utilization will be to increase development densities within walking distance of the current and planned stops. And to improve WMATA reliability to increase the appeal of metro rail.

As for more concerts, if the concerts promise to overall make sense, I am sure NPS will do them - but not to alter the parking lot utilization factor.

This is a good example of a performance metric leading to suboptimal decision making.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 9, 2014 2:23 pm • linkreport

"Would a station that's transit, walk, or bike only be an option? This would avoid the road expansion issues."

Yes, but it would be pointless, as the Tysons stations will be bike/bus accessible from the neighborhoods in question. And very few people live within walking distance of Wolftrap.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 9, 2014 2:25 pm • linkreport

Even in a perfect scenario I don't see how much time is saved vs. improving shuttles to a Tysons station, or just back tracking a little bit to Reston Wiehle.

You're basically spending millions to save people 10 minutes drive/ride time.

Putting that kind of money towards a streetcar line with development potential could serve many more people and gain bigger VMT reductions overall.

That said, maybe we could find a bunch of rich patrons to work with NPS on financing a station? Maybe some prominent arts funders could help. I don't know.

by drumz on May 9, 2014 2:27 pm • linkreport

@AWITC

I meant income and residence as an ad hominem consideration, not in terms of rail line locating. And I do think you're reading a lot of assumptions into it: wanting to improve underutilization of resources is not an 'elite' viewpoint. Assuming bad faith and that the person making the proposal must surely be coming to it from a perspective of "I want the shiny new toy" is uncharitable at the very least.

As to the more important question of utilization:

Given the massive expense of heavy rail (eleventy million dollars per mile and counting), having 6 straight miles of it with no station absolutely is underutilization. Total ridership and real estate impact are two very important metrics, but there are others - including, crucially, opening up new areas to transit accessibility. Given 4 hours, I could probably come up with a number of proposals, e.g. have NPS offices and transit center on top of the parking lots, one that would enable people to take shuttles to Great Falls instead of driving; massively decrease car traffic to concerts; etc.

This all assumes significant federal/NPS investment, which would not be on the table for the Columbia Pike Streetcar or Fairfax County bike improvements or whatever.

by Dizzy on May 9, 2014 2:31 pm • linkreport

Given the massive expense of heavy rail (eleventy million dollars per mile and counting), having 6 straight miles of it with no station absolutely is underutilization.

I don't think you can just make this assumption, however. It may be an underutilization, but only if there's something worth stopping for along that stretch of track.

The conclusion they came it is that it's not worth it. Not that there isn't value, but that there isn't enough value to offset the cost. And once you start talking about relocating NPS offices and whatnot, then it's just a solution looking for a problem.

All else being equal, it's not a great location for a park and ride. The access off the Toll Road isn't good (the only exit is for westbound traffic from Tysons/DC, the only on-ramp is towards Tysons/DC), the local street 'network' is nonexistent, and the prospect for intensifying the land use there is very low.

No matter; the opportunity will be there to add a station in the future if the calculus changes.

by Alex B. on May 9, 2014 2:50 pm • linkreport

Comparing RFK to the Wolf Trap region of Fairfax is fruitless. Land use, land use, land use. The low density nature of that area is much better served with improved bus service (which hell, had it's own opposition at public meetings, though it was a vocal minority that ultimately didn't sway plans).

We shouldn't be advocating for cookie cutter solutions for a chain saw when a more sensible approach recognizing the existing land use and neighborhood character would be more appropriate. Personal opinion, but I hope a heeded warning.

by Navid Roshan on May 9, 2014 2:54 pm • linkreport

"I meant income and residence as an ad hominem consideration, not in terms of rail line locating. And I do think you're reading a lot of assumptions into it: wanting to improve underutilization of resources is not an 'elite' viewpoint. Assuming bad faith and that the person making the proposal must surely be coming to it from a perspective of "I want the shiny new toy" is uncharitable at the very least."

Its a consistent pattern Ive seen in the Mclean/Great Falls reaction to the Silver Line. I will continue to note supporting items.

"Given the massive expense of heavy rail (eleventy million dollars per mile and counting), having 6 straight miles of it with no station absolutely is underutilization. "

Blame the way Fairfax County was developed. Or if you take that as given, blame the decision to build the line further than Tysons (though stopping it at Tysons would have aggravated the parking in Tysons issue). I think given the way Fairfax was developed in the 1950s to 1990s (IE with activity/density centers at Tysons, and also at Reston/Herndon, but with very low density between) the 6 mile gap makes sense.

"Total ridership and real estate impact are two very important metrics, but there are others - including, crucially, opening up new areas to transit accessibility. "

North Vienna is already transit accessible, it has bus service. I am not sure if Great Falls does, but it could get bus service for a fraction of the price. What you really mean is rail access, and there are many parts of FFX county that lack that, where a much more justifiable investment could create rail access. Lets revisit this idea AFTER Pike Rail reaches Baileys, after we have finished he Tysons to Baileys transit way, after we have put something better than the status quo in on Rte 1, etc.

"Given 4 hours, I could probably come up with a number of proposals, e.g. have NPS offices and transit center on top of the parking lots, one that would enable people to take shuttles to Great Falls instead of driving; massively decrease car traffic to concerts; etc."

One could already take a shuttle from great falls to Tysons.

"This all assumes significant federal/NPS investment, which would not be on the table for the Columbia Pike Streetcar or Fairfax County bike improvements or whatever."

Federal money will be on the table for Pike Rail, and for a range of other possible transit infrastructure investments. Whether there will be federal money available for bike improvements is less clear. But bike improvements are so inexpensive, that even if the state/local contribution to a new station is well under 50%, the bike improvements you could build in exchange for one new station would be tremendous. Also you will not get federal money for operations costs - metro rail stations are not zero cost to operate, and that money could go for expanding the programs to get more people to bike to Tysons and reston, to improve silver line utilization.

as for NPS money, I see no evidence they are interested in this.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 9, 2014 2:54 pm • linkreport

Wolf Trap would be a great location for a station, and they could effectively utilize some of the event parking, which goes empty during the day, for some Metro parking.

by Jasper2 on May 9, 2014 3:32 pm • linkreport

@Jaspar
"Yeah, why bring people to a National Park by transit? Makes no sense. Let's close the stop at Smithsonian and Arlington Cemetery as well. Nobody lives there, and the chance of development there is zero as well. Want to visit a National Park? Get in your car, like a real Murican!"

You really can't compare the National Mall or Smithsonian with Wolf Trap. For one thing, Those two are in Downtown, designed to be major tourist attractions and not National Parks in the same sense as Wolf Trap. Wolf Trap has a total capacity of just room for 7000 total; (almost 4000 in-house) and although it does host about 90 concerts per year most of them don't draw full capacity and anyways most people would probably not take the metro.

The post simply asks "Why is there no Silver Line station at Wolf Trap?" And Michael Perkins just answered why. I don't appreciate the ugly tone you introduced to this forum. It seems to imply that everyone who disagrees with you is an ignorant red neck. Regardless of who's right in this argument let's at least try to be civil to each other.

And for the record I do agree with him.

by getreal on May 9, 2014 3:41 pm • linkreport

@ Falls Church

"Wolf Trap is also only 2.3 miles via the back roads and trails from the Spring Hill station. Not a long bike ride but of course you can't bring your bike on metro during rush hour."

That is assuming all people going are able bodied and can bike. The solution should be transit in this case better bus service that can serve everywhere whereas bikes can not.

by kk on May 9, 2014 3:49 pm • linkreport

@AWITC

Its a consistent pattern Ive seen in the Mclean/Great Falls reaction to the Silver Line.

Observing that pattern elsewhere does not mean that it can be universally applied to anyone from that area making any sort of claim you don't agree with. Painting with too broad a brush.

Blame the way Fairfax County was developed.

I do.

I think given the way Fairfax was developed in the 1950s to 1990s (IE with activity/density centers at Tysons, and also at Reston/Herndon, but with very low density between) the 6 mile gap makes sense.

To me, what makes sense is to determine viable uses in between those high activity centers, so that you're not wasting the trackage and the rail access that comes with proximity to it.

North Vienna is already transit accessible, it has bus service. I am not sure if Great Falls does, but it could get bus service for a fraction of the price. What you really mean is rail access, and there are many parts of FFX county that lack that, where a much more justifiable investment could create rail access.

There are no parts of FFX where you could create heavy rail access for cheaper, given that we're talking about a place where there will already be heavy trail tracks. That's not to say that there aren't other better candidates (um, Potomac Yard, etc). But if we're already going to be putting track through here and it's more or less a sunk cost at this point...

One could already take a shuttle from great falls to Tysons.

Nope! (to be fair, I should've made clear which Great Falls I meant): http://www.nps.gov/grfa/planyourvisit/publictransportation.htm

"Great Falls Park is not located on any public transportation routes. There is no access to public transportation from the park by foot or bicycle.

The closest Metro stations to the park are Dunn Loring and West Falls Church, on the Orange Line. Both stations are located seven to ten miles away from the park. Once it opens in late fall 2013, the new McLean station on the Silver Line will be the closest station to the park. To get to the park from any of these Metro stations, it will be necessary to take a cab."

Federal money will be on the table for Pike Rail, and for a range of other possible transit infrastructure investments.

You know just as well as I do that "federal money" is not a totally fungible, uniform thing. Federal money for a federal-backed project is a different animal from a local project applying for federal funding.

as for NPS money, I see no evidence they are interested in this.

They were very interested, which is one of the reasons this became a hot topic back in the day to begin with. They backed off for various reasons, largely due to USDOT cost considerations. But there is an understanding between NPS and USDOT that the latter will be amenable to funding projects embraced or driven by the former. The East Potomac Park stop concept comes from the same place.

by Dizzy on May 9, 2014 3:50 pm • linkreport

1. I did not mean an existing shuttle (and yes, I was thinking the neighborhood of Great falls, not the park) but a shuttle from an existing Silver Line station. same cost for the shuttle, and save the 100 to 200 million for a new stop.

2. I said justifiable, not cheaper. I realize there is no place we can a heavy rail line for 200 million. But an Orange or yellow line extension for 400 million would be far more justifiable - as would a light rail or BRT line for 100 to 200 million in an appropriate location (of which there are several)

3. I thought you meant FTA new starts money. I am not familiar with any FTA commitment to projects on NPS property that NPS does not provide funding for, on a more favorable basis than regular New Starts grants. Of course if there is no state and local contribution required, there is minimal reason for anyone locally to object (except of course for the road improvements, the operating cost increase, and the added transit time- well at least we dont have to add the capital cost) Though if NPS has money to hand out for transportation improvements to improve utilization of local assets, I think I could find plenty of places where they could improve the utilization of the Mount Vernon trail, for less capital expense, zero pr near zero operating expense, and no delay to existing users.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 9, 2014 3:59 pm • linkreport

NPS itself does not have money to hand out for transportation improvements, but there is an understanding between NPS and USDOT that they will seek to work together and leverage USDOT funding on projects of mutual interest. It is the non-institutionalized counterpart to the formal mechanism of the Office of Federal Lands Highway.

by Dizzy on May 9, 2014 4:22 pm • linkreport

"To me, what makes sense is to determine viable uses in between those high activity centers, so that you're not wasting the trackage and the rail access that comes with proximity to it."

I have no problem adding a winter artsfest, or some NPS offices, to the Wolftrap property, and letting folks park on the lots there.

But building a new metro rail station for 100 million to 200 million dollars, plus operating costs, plus ingress/egree/road improvments, plus a delay to through passengers, IS a waste unless the benefits exceed the cost. And its still a waste even if the feds pay that cost, though in that case FFX county won't object as long as the local benefits exceed the operating costs, the road improvements beyond NPS property, and the impact of the delay to through passengers. Though I am unconvinced that NPS and USDOT, seperately or together, will 100% fund a capital projec of 100 to 200 million that does not show very significant benefits.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 9, 2014 4:51 pm • linkreport

I love Wolf Trap but very rarely go due to the limited public transit. Taking the bus from W. Falls Church only works if I can be sure that I can catch the Metro on the return trip AND transfer from the Orange line to the Blue before Metro closes. On weekdays that's around midnight; the risk of being stranded is too high and I can't enjoy the event due to worrying if I can get home.

I can see that a dedicated stop may not be cost effective, but there need to be more and better options to reach this attractive venue.

by Willow on May 9, 2014 4:51 pm • linkreport

I measure around 5.6 miles from Spring Hill to Wiehle - Reston East station, so it is a bit less than 6 miles. I expect SandBoxJohn can provide a more accurate distance. With regards to a station at Wolf Trap, other than the 2 concert venues, the location is all low density SFH with 2 lane roads. To put a Metro station there would be disruptive and too expensive to build and operate for the limited number of users.

I can see an infill station being built at WT someday if the area gets rezoned after Tysons expands, the SFHs age & decay and the neighborhood needs to be redeveloped. But I'm talking in multiple decades from now, not near term. The question is whether the design and construction left a 600'+ long segment of level and straight (or close enough) track that platforms and station could be built around. The highway lanes can always be shifted, rebuilding the tracks would be far more disruptive.

If it was a commuter rail line where the station could be unmanned, have no fare gates, and a far smaller footprint, then a station would make sense for Wolf Trap. But a heavy rail rapid transit metro system has higher costs and requirements for a station stop, so we have to be more selective in where the stations go.

Another place for a possible future infill station is Hunter Mill Rd. It is on the eastern edge of the Reston commercial office building area. At present, a station there would have low density in 3 of the 4 quadrants around it so it is understandable why no station was seriously considered there. In 30 or 40 years, that might change.

by AlanF on May 9, 2014 4:56 pm • linkreport

What about a path from the Spring Hill Station to the rear side of the stage? Looks to me like there could be approximately a 1.25 to 1.5 mile path if you can use some direct lines to connect the 2 points. Build a nice wide path and provide golf cart transportation for the elderly and handicap. Many people walk nearly that distance to Fed Ex Field from Morgan Boulevard Station.

Could get a bit costly if land has to be acquired and a pedestrian bridge needs to be constructed over the toll road, but much cheaper than a Metro stop.

by jh on May 9, 2014 5:02 pm • linkreport

@ GP Stev

Yes some systems around the world have scaled down stations.
There are stations that have only ramps with no elevators or escalators. I for one mentioned that on here some years ago as what WMATA should do to provide better service for the mobility impaired when compared to taking shuttles when an elevator breaks or the occasion when a station has all escalators broken

Mortensrud, Makrellbekken, Borgen, Smedstad Stations and many more stations on the Olso Metro have ramps and steps or ramps only. Almost every station on the Røa Line that is not underground has ramps and seldom has elevators; they are usually at ground level right beside sidewalks etc.

Many stations on the Athens Metro are at ground level and are directly beside streets and sidewalks so you can walk from the street to the platform. To get the other platform you usually have to take steps or elevator once in a while a station will have ramps.

There are many stations around the world that are transit only cannot be reached via a car/bus at all and require you to walk to like the middle of a plaza/park or are off of a trail that leads to a street

Frognerseteren Station on Oslo Metro is very empty think Arlington Cemetery but with woods and a few houses within a a mile or two or Morgan Blvd before houses were built nearby or Judiciary Sq on Sunday

by kk on May 9, 2014 5:07 pm • linkreport

@ AlanF

You know most of the current metro stations were in mostly empty areas when built ?

Cheverly, Landover, Twinbrook, New Carrolton, Morgan Blvd, Greenbelt & Franconia Springfield were all pretty much the middle of nowhere with nothing nearby not even Single Family Houses when they were built.

The only stations that had areas around them truly built up or atleast fully developed to what would have been built in those areas in the 70's and 80's are were Farragut North, Cleveland Park, Van Ness, Tenleytown, Friendship Heights, Potomac Ave, Eastern Market, Benning Road, Minnesota Ave, Deanwood, Foggy Bottom, Farragut West, Metro Center, L'Enfant Plaza, Capitol South, Capitol Heights,

by kk on May 9, 2014 5:18 pm • linkreport

Interesting idea, jh. If you could cross under the highway where it goes over one of the creeks maybe you could construct a mixed use path for a reasonable price without a bridge plus it could be used by cyclists. I hope they are putting bike parking at the Tyson's stations!

by BTA on May 9, 2014 5:29 pm • linkreport

Re: Perkins: "It would be a total waste of money. ... There's a national park and single-family homes."

Hmm. A station was built at Arlington National Cemetery to serve primarily visitors, a modest number at that, compared the numbers at the Smithsonian, etc.

Why not Wolf Trap? The entertainment venue is used nearly 300 days a year. There's not a lot of parking. In fact, the Wolf Trap website promotes transit access. Add in a small kiss and ride zone and bicycle parking to serve nearby residents and a station might do moderately well.

And if a station were to be built, expansion of facilities at Wolf Trap could be expected, which would be a feather in the cap to Fairfax County's ambitions to be a major East Coast center of activity.

by Sage on May 9, 2014 6:08 pm • linkreport

@kk, the area around the Wolf Trap location is not empty nor is it commercial or light industrial land that can be redeveloped. The land is either NPS or privately owned SFH which significantly restrict what can be done there. Widening Trap Road to handle higher traffic volumes year round would clearly run into furious local resistance.

by AlanF on May 9, 2014 6:15 pm • linkreport

It should be noted that the CNPA for the wolf trap stop mentioned by Tony Goodman above listed the cost of the stop at $6 million, far less than the $100-200 million also mentioned above. Seems like a great opportunity for a philanthropist to step in and name the station at some point in the future.

Reference link is here: http://www.mwaa.com/file/dtfundingagreement.pdf

by Jason Levinn on May 9, 2014 6:23 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Beatbox on May 9, 2014 6:26 pm • linkreport

@jh, there is no need to build a pedestrian bridge over the Toll road. VDOT plans to rebuild the Rt. 7 bridge over the Toll and Access roads with a pedestrian walkway on the east side of Rt. 7 that will connect to the trail running alongside Rt. 7. The proposed plans for the Rt. 7 bridge were posted here a month or two back as I recall.

The challenge would be to build a trail from Rt. 7 to Wolf Trap along the northern outer perimeter of the Toll road ROW. It would be a trail through the woods and over uneven terrain. If there is even room for a trail in the ROW. Don't know how many people would be willing to take a trail at night through the woods over a ~1.5 mile distance returning from a concert.

by AlanF on May 9, 2014 6:32 pm • linkreport

Given the massive expense of heavy rail (eleventy million dollars per mile and counting), having 6 straight miles of it with no station absolutely is underutilization.

So the Transbay Tube on the BART is underutilized since there's no station in the middle of the water. Good to know.

by Joshua Cranmer on May 9, 2014 7:11 pm • linkreport

Re: the cost. The $6 million in the CNPA agreement is the cost of ensuring that the site can accommodate a station in the future. It is not the cost of the station itself.

Re: Arlington National Cemetery. Yes, it was included and yes it serves tourists primarily. However, the reason it was included was because a) the federal government asked for it to be included (and did so rather late in the planning process), and b) the Feds paid for the station to be included.

I don't think anyone objects to the idea of a station at Wolf Trap, just to the cost and cost/effectiveness of the project. It's not the highest priority compared to the rest of the project. However, if like the Arlington Cemetery station, the federal government (e.g. the National Park Service) agreed to pay for it, there wouldn't be a problem with building the station.

by Alex B. on May 9, 2014 9:05 pm • linkreport

@ getreal:I don't appreciate the ugly tone you introduced to this forum.

My ego is huge, but I can't take credit for that. Regardless of my alleged ugliness, there have been many worse than me. I actually think the tone here is ok, if not a little on the polite side. But, that's David Alpert's call. His site, his rules.

It seems to imply that everyone who disagrees with you is an ignorant red neck.

A good way to show that a point does not make sense is to turn it upside down and/or stretch it. If it does become ridiculous, then the given argument needs to at least be more nuanced. And for the record, MP generally says very sensible things.

by Jasper on May 9, 2014 9:38 pm • linkreport

@Joshua Cranmer

So the Transbay Tube on the BART is underutilized since there's no station in the middle of the water. Good to know.

Har har, yes, 3.6 miles of open water (and an industrial port facility on one side for good measure) between two major cities is exactly the same thing as a stretch of at-grade solid earth between two suburban stations. You got me!

In any case, I don't think BART is what you want to bring up as an example of good utilization of trackage... ye gods.

by Dizzy on May 9, 2014 11:41 pm • linkreport

I am not going to argue the pros an con of building a station at Wolf Trap, I will however chronicle the history as to why it was not built as part of Phase I of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.

Going back to the late 1990s when the ideas were being floated to built transit to Dulles Airport there were various schemes proposed. Light rail, BRT, semi exclusive BRT with provision to converting to heavy rail transit and heavy rail transit.

Back then the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project was titled the Dulles Corridor Rapid Transit Project.

When the options were whittle down to heavy rail, provision were included in the plans and profiles of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) of the Dulles Corridor Rapid Transit Project for a future station at Trap Road. The provision provided for the construction of a twin platform station on a 0.035 percent grade with the east end of the platforms being roughly 300' west of the Trap Road overpass The date of plans and profiles in the DEIS are 01 11 2001. The provision were carried over to the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project. The date of plans and profiles in the FEIS are 01 2004. The drawing in the plans and profile showing the provision for the future station are identical in both the DEIS and FEIS. Page 47 of the FEIS Volume IV Chapter 3 – Plan and Profile (54.4 MB PDF file).

The provision for the future station were deleted from the plans proposed in the FEIS around the time the Preliminary Engineering Design Refinements Environmental Assessment was issued in 02 2008.

The Change order deleting the provision is dated 12 21 2007.

The reason for the deletion of the future station provision along with the deletion of the pocket tracks on either side of Tysons corner, changing of the Greensboro (Tysons Central 7) station from subway to surface, the reduction of the number of escalator in the various station, reduction in the height of the station above the ground, minor changes in the locations of the 3 elevated station in Tysons Corner was to reduce costs to be within threshold needed to get the $900 million federal grant to build line near the end of the George W. Bush Administration.

The documents in Preliminary Engineering Design Refinements Environmental Assessment show the various changes made to reduce costs.

As part of the deal to get the $900 million federal grant for the 23 branch off the K route Orange line east of the West Falls Church station to Tysons Corner, Dulles Airport and beyond to Ashburn in Loudoun County the project was split into 2 Phases. Phase I from the K route orange line to Wiehle - Reston East would be partly funded with the $900 million grant. Phase II from Wiehle - Reston East to Ashburn would be total funded from state and local sources.

by Sand Box John on May 10, 2014 12:14 am • linkreport

@Jaspar
I mean, like I said, it's just good business to be courteous to people even if your not talking face to face with them. I'm not trying to be condescending to you, and I'm not perfect either..just saying.

I do still agree with Michael Perkins but thanks for listening.

by getreal on May 10, 2014 2:45 am • linkreport

Does it really cost 150 to 225+ times the cost of a typical house in the area to build what is essentially a 600' platform, a mezzanine, a few narrow cement walls, plumbing for two bathrooms, conveyor and regular stairscases, and a box lift? Seems like interested local citizenry, working with minimal pay, would jump at the chance to showcase their talents, getting more done for less (i.e. Habitat For Humanity). But we all know that might be frowned upon.

I think there should be more development at Wolf Trap to showcase it as an arts and recreational village, bringing more people year round to the place. This would hopefully make a station there more justified.

Any chance of remediating the gap between EFC and Mclean? It runs about 3.5 miles, and a station at WFC would've proven very popular. How level is the flyover after it gets close to WFC station, and can the tracks there be built closer to that station as I feel they could've? WFC is a busy station and deserves to serve both lines, as this portion of Falls Church is on the verge of added development. What are WMATA's plans regarding a stop there?

by David B. on May 10, 2014 7:01 am • linkreport

@David B

Your typical tract house requires at most a dozen and a half pages of specifications and construction drawing. A set of specification and construction drawings for a typical surface Metrorail station runs several thousand pages. Each of the following would have their own set of specification and drawings: Architectural, Civil, Communication, Electrical, Grading, Landscape, Mechanical, Plumbing, Signaling and Train Control, Structural, Traction Power, Track and Traffic Maintenance.

The cost of preparing all of that alone is well north of 7 figures.

by Sand Box John on May 10, 2014 12:10 pm • linkreport

@Alan F...the airport access lanes can't be shifted enough away from the tracks to accommodate construction of a new station without encroaching on the toll lanes or tracks. I don't see how this station could ever be built without BOTH shutting down the Silver Line west of Tysons for several months to tie-in new tracks to existing tracks/other misc. work AND shifting the access lanes to the toll lanes and reducing the toll lanes from 4 to 3 or 2, which is probably a non-starter. The toll lanes can't also be shifted without spending hundreds of millions of dollars to widen the right-of-way because of the steep grades on either side of the road.

It will be VERY easy and affordable for Fairfax County and NPS to have a bus run from the bus pads at Spring Hill Station to Wolf Trap and back...a 4-5 minute ride. There are dedicated ramps in those directions at Trap Road, which as a local resident I use all the time and don't have to pay a toll!

So...not only is there no need for a station at Wolf Trap, but I don't even believe it is possible without significant disruption to existing Dulles Toll Road and Silver Line users...and about twice the cost of what it would have been if they had built it with the tracks, and believe me, I will be inheriting an acre of land that would be within walking distance of a station at Wolf Trap and I still can't see this as a good public investment.

by xtr657 on May 10, 2014 12:20 pm • linkreport

@Sandbox,

I think you are doing Metro a favor by over complicating things.

If the debacle that was the million dollar bus stop in Arlington taught us anything, it is how much money WMATA can waste on something. A solid ~45% of the cost (450K) was on PM and inspections. In my line of work, PM runs from 5-10%, inspections another 2-3%. If you are spending 15% on it, someone is getting fleeced and WMATA was charging Arlington 45%.

I'm the senior PM on the Macerich tower in Tysons, the largest tower in Tysons (for the moment). Our site plan is 55 sheets which incorporates all the LOC's, wet/dry utilities and grading plans.

Our traffic plans are 3 packages (MOT, signaliztion etc) and thats another 30 sheets.

Our base building CD's are 119 sheets, and the CD's for the interiors is another 130 which includes all the MEP, AV, finishes etc.

The spec manual is 105 pages.

All told, we are about 440 sheets of data and design information to build something that most would agree is far more difficult, elaborate and detailed than a concrete platform and some rails. I get that the train control system is probably complex, but according to Metro, this is just a slightly upgraded version of the one designed in the early 70's.

Bechtel is private and so their corporate profit from the Silverline thus far isn't published, but some snippets of the proposal data from their subcontractors has come out over the years and one of the two original sitework contractors was under contract to do the work for 1/3rd of what Bechtel was charging MWAA for it. Everyone's got to make a profit, but a 300% markup on your subs proposal, on a public works project is pretty insane.

Not surprising though, Bechtel has been caught multiple times over the years on other projects in their insane pricing.

by Tom on May 10, 2014 12:52 pm • linkreport

@kk, the residential area next to Greenbelt probably dates to the late 40s/early 50s. The enormous and colossally ugly Parklawn building predated the Twinbrook stop as did most of the strip mall development on the other side of the tracks; the nearby residential dates to the 50s. Cheverly largely was built out in the 50s. None of these places were national parks.

The current shuttle service, with better publicity seems like the most appropriate way to serve Wolf Traps. For me, the barrier to going there is the waxworks of acts they book.

by Rich on May 10, 2014 3:52 pm • linkreport

@Tom
A typical Metrorail station is equivalent to a 50 story building laying on its side.

I have construction drawing for several stations, most of them are structural only, they run from roughly 125 to 300 plus pages each.

Comparing a commercial construction project to a government construction project is like comparing a blade of grass to a 18p nail.

by Sand Box John on May 10, 2014 4:37 pm • linkreport

@ Rich

The apartment or condo complex (not sure what it is) is no where near next to the station what is next to the station is a big ass parking lot. The complex is next to the entrance to the stations grounds but is atleast a good 15-25 minute walk away depending on the age and ability of the person. As I said before there is nothing is absolutely next to these stations except for parking lots.

There is nothing next to Cheverly everything is across Route 50 or along Columbia Park Rd pass 64th Avenue or in the tiny neighborhood that incorporates part of 64th Avenue but nothing across the street from the Metro Entrance or bus bays like at many stations.

by kk on May 10, 2014 10:30 pm • linkreport

The Tysons and Reston/Herndon stations are paid for by special tax districts. Who would pay for a Wolftrap station?

by Tom on May 10, 2014 11:33 pm • linkreport

Your typical tract house requires at most a dozen and a half pages of specifications and construction drawing. A set of specification and construction drawings for a typical surface Metrorail station runs several thousand pages.

That's absolutely insane. The house can collapse and kill you, or burn down. The train platform can't.

A typical Metrorail station is equivalent to a 50 story building laying on its side.

Absolutely not. The base of a 50 story building has to be designed to support 50 stories of weight. Here, each piece of platform is supported by the ground underneath it.

by Eric on May 11, 2014 4:51 am • linkreport

@Eric

Stand that Metrorail station foundations, footings, piles and all on its end and you have a 50 story building.

by Sand Box John on May 11, 2014 11:00 am • linkreport

@Sand Box John

I think Tom and Eric's point is that a Metro platform is not very tall, so it should be much simpler to engineer than a multi-story building that has a deep below-grade foundation and structure and must support many above-ground stories, deal with wind, etc. etc.

I am not a structural engineer, so I'm not equipped to gauge the validity of that point. I do know that the "guts" in a Metro station (even an at-grade one) are far more extensive than in, say, a commuter rail station. So whereas the average person may think it's just a matter of throwing up some concrete platforms next to the track and calling it a day - because that's what MARC and VRE stations largely look like - it's not quite so simple.

While I don't know much about structural engineering, I do know a bit about government project management and monitoring, and I can say that a major (and perverse, in a way) reason for higher PM costs on government projects is the insistence of multiple layers of government bureaucracy, all the way up to Congress, to know exactly when and how every last cent was spent. The level of effort to provide such reporting and traceability is high. Commercial projects are outcome-focused, so they do not have such PM expenditures. Government projects are as much, if not more, process-focused.

by Dizzy on May 11, 2014 11:38 am • linkreport

@Dizzy

As you point out the depth of the platform footings aren't that deep, they are however 5 X 600' long for an island platform and 6 X 600' long for twin platforms. Then there is the piles and pile caps that support the mezzanine structure above that is designed to withstand hurricane force winds. The piles and foundations under the ancillary structure at one or both ends of the station. The piles and pile caps for the pedestrian bridge or bridges between the mezzanines and entrance or entrances and the footings thereunder.

When you total all that mass up you are supporting a 50 story building.

by Sand Box John on May 11, 2014 7:51 pm • linkreport

"I think there should be more development at Wolf Trap to showcase it as an arts and recreational village, bringing more people year round to the place. This would hopefully make a station there more justified."

Remember that Wolf Trap was founded (and mostly formed by donation/bequest) as a national PARK for the performing arts. It was never intended to be Lincoln Center, National Harbor or any other dense cultural or entertainment district. Sure, I'd like to see a station at WT (although I think that many arguments against it above are pretty compelling), but changing the mission and character of the park to get a station is a lot like the tail wagging the dog.

by Alf on May 12, 2014 9:06 am • linkreport

The idea of a wolf trap station is simply ridiculous. Wolf Trap itself doesn't have anywhere near the level of activity that would generate enough boardings to justify a station. Using the parking lots makes a lot of sense, as long as the cars can somehow be air dropped each morning. Actually re-engineering the lots as commuter facilities would require significant road improvements to support the traffic twice each day. Those road improvements would require significant takings of private property, which are basically a non-starter politically. The development potential is almost non-existent between the established neighborhoods which will lobby against any changes, and the significant amount of protected land in the area. (There are several established parks, not just Wolf Trap itself, and a number of stream valleys which Fairfax tends to prohibit development on and which probably couldn't pass an environmental impact review for new construction anyway.) The idea of using the parking is tantalizing but there's no way to look at the whole context and see a wolf trap station as anything but a mistake.

As for those who want to compare this to Arlington Cemetary, the latter station was designed to support major public events like a state funeral at Arlington itself or as additional access to the mall across the bridge (which was part of metro's plan during the first Obama inauguration, for example). Nothing at that scale is ever going to happen at Wolf Trap.

by Mike on May 12, 2014 9:07 am • linkreport

Adding a station(a low cost version without escalators and perhaps ramps instead of elevators) at Wolf Trap makes sense to service bike, kiss and ride, and parking commuter as well as the events at wolf trap.
However, the roads around would need to be upgrade to take some additional traffic, the parking lots would need to be upgraded to accept payment, and still it would be a low use station.

The county / community is not willing to make the road improvements, so it doesnt make sense for WMATA to build a station.

The Weihe station doesnt make any sense alone, unless the rail line continues to Dulles. Without Phase II, Weihe is a huge waste of resources.

by Richard on May 12, 2014 9:43 am • linkreport

Although a Metrorail stop at Wolf Trap seems a long way off, for anyone going to a show this summer, it is a pleasant bike ride from the Springhill station via the nearby Ashgrove trail, over a couple of quiet back streets (see Montmorency) and safely over the new Trap Road bike/ped bridge spanning the Dulles Toll Road and into the park.

As for local transit, during the Tysons Metro Station Access Study, some residents living near the park loudly opposed co-parking in the Wolf Trap lots, so an idea for a commuter bus stop at the Filene Center has been tabled for now (there is a new weekday rush hour Silver Line feeder bus that will serve the Barns of Wolf Trap from the Springhill station).

But, as usage of the Silver Line grows, it would make sense, at the very least, to build a modest (very cheap) multi-modal hub at the Filene Center where cyclists could park and local residents could be safely dropped off any time of day so they could to take a 5 minute bus ride to the Springhill station. It would be a great bonus if a small portion of the large surface parking lots could be reserved for bus-commuter car parking.

by Tysons Traveler on May 12, 2014 3:45 pm • linkreport

In New York City (where I'm from), until very recently, the Aqueduct Raceway Station in Queens was a part-time station that was only open during the horse racing season. The subway station also has only one platform (Manhattan-bound). [The nearby North Conduit Ave Station also serves Aqueduct.] When the "Racino" became a popular attraction, NYC Transit quietly made Aqueduct a full-time station.

I mention this in relationship to a proposed station at or near Wolf Trap. Maybe WMATA build the station anyway but declare it a part-time rail stop only in use when concerts/performances take place. If development around the station demands it to be in use more often, then WMATA could then make Wolf Trap open year-round.

by Martin Cruz on Jul 8, 2014 11:17 am • linkreport

I will definitely consider Tyson Corner as an option for entertainment and shopping now that it's transit accessible. With a station at Wolf Trap, I would also consider attending the venue on a regular basis solo of depending on a ride. It just makes sense to have a station at Wolf Trap.

by George Gillespie on Jul 30, 2014 11:49 pm • linkreport

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