Greater Greater Washington


Compare the area's rail and bus systems

Washington area is lucky to have so many transit options. But how they differ? Metro created an infographic that compares the area's current (and some future) rail systems as well as several levels of bus service:

Click on the image for a full-size version. What surprises you about this information?

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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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How is the average passenger trip length on the DC streetcar 4 miles? There is not 4 miles of track to run that streetcar on. Are you anticipating people just riding it back and forth to rack up mileage?

This makes the H Street Streetcar look more efficient than it truly is. Such a waste of resources...

by Um, Editors? on May 15, 2014 10:30 am • linkreport

Well, if you look at the graphic they are talking about the entire planned DC Streetcar network and the Columbia Pike streetcar. Not just the one line.

by MLD on May 15, 2014 10:34 am • linkreport

I am guessing the trip lengths are averages from the APTA database, not DC specific.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 15, 2014 10:35 am • linkreport

This is a (somewhat surprisingly) easily readable, very informative, and comprehensive infographic. It would be nice if every resident of the DC Area could look at this. Too often I hear people confusing rapid transit/heavy rail with commuter rail or referring to the Purple Line light rail as a "trolley." Most people also don't seem to understand the difference between different bus modes either unless they're patrons.

(Maybe looking at this the Arlington County govt will finally see how much cheaper BRT is, for only a relatively small reduction in capacity)

The only thing I would change with the graphic is to maybe add an additional tier to both the high and low ends. Some people actually do use intercity/high-speed rail (i.e. Amtrak's NEC) to commute from other states, and identifying the most basic local bus services (eg. local Metrobus, RideOn routes), despite the huge variation in costs and land use, could be useful to smaller suburban jurisdictions.

by King Terrapin on May 15, 2014 10:56 am • linkreport

Isn't parts of the CCPY route in mixed traffic?

by JDC on May 15, 2014 10:58 am • linkreport

Regarding the "Corridor Cities Transitway" Is 22K people expected to be riding the bus (or 11K to/fro) from Clarksburg a day?

by asffa on May 15, 2014 11:05 am • linkreport

Here's what doesn't surprise me: yet again, WMATA shows they know nothing about how people use the system and what's involved with taking transit.

Zero mention of headways or service quality, just theoretical capacities here. Frequency is SO IMPORTANT and it's constantly ignored by WMATA. This just reinforces that.

by LowHeadways on May 15, 2014 11:08 am • linkreport

The other part of that is if that's the case, which I doubt, is with the CCT project costing 350 million, wouldn't that be around $15,000 per passenger - not .60?
I don't understand this math.

by asffa on May 15, 2014 11:08 am • linkreport

sigh. please look at the footnotes. The capacity and cost figures are based on WMATA experience (presumably for the modes WMATA already runs) and on averages from national databases. It is NOT projections for projects currently in planning. It is also NOT theoretical, but based on empirical data.

Why do people not bother to read footnotes?

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 15, 2014 11:14 am • linkreport

Why is "ordinary" local bus not listed among the items in the chart? Sure it may not seem glamorous compared to the modes listed, but it can be efficient and certainly has its place.

Besides, it would make an ideal benchmark for comparison.

by Lord Baltimore on May 15, 2014 11:17 am • linkreport

@asffa, where are you seeing the 22k figure associated with CCT? I'm not seeing that. Also, read the footnotes.. the data is based on national databases. The figures are typical representations of a particular mode and not indicative of any specific project. Also, .60 figure is operating cost, not capital cost (design and build).

by dcmike on May 15, 2014 11:19 am • linkreport

The other part of that is if that's the case, which I doubt, is with the CCT project costing 350 million, wouldn't that be around $15,000 per passenger - not .60?
I don't understand this math.

One is capital cost, one is operating cost. How would you measure capital cost per passenger? The infrastructure lasts for decades.

by MLD on May 15, 2014 11:19 am • linkreport

You are right. I missed the meaning of the footnotes: numbers are done in WMATA figures. And the next train is coming in six minutes..

by asffa on May 15, 2014 11:20 am • linkreport

" How would you measure capital cost per passenger? The infrastructure lasts for decades."

You could annualize it, using an assumed interest rate, life, and salvage value. A very standard financial analysis. But seldom done for govt infra projects, I believe.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 15, 2014 11:25 am • linkreport

@King King Terrapin,

The comparison on Columbia Pike is not Streetcar vs. BRT, but Streetcar vs. Enhanced bus. Enhanced bus is listed on the chart with half the capacity of a streetcar (passenger per hour per direction). I'd also like to see adding basic local bus service on the chart as you suggested and see how it compares to enhanced bus.

by TS on May 15, 2014 6:06 pm • linkreport

The regular bus is on there even though they don't explicitly mention it. Metroextra and the other services at the bottom don't use different buses than normal ones.

by drumz on May 15, 2014 9:27 pm • linkreport

I ride VRE and sometimes MARC, and I'm sure that neither has a vehicle that seats 190 people. Also, I wouldn't call their right-of-way "dedicated" except for the MARC Penn Line, which is virtually all passenger trains. The VRE lines and the other MARC lines are shared between passenger and freight trains.

by Steve Dunham on May 16, 2014 4:39 pm • linkreport

@Steve Dunham: "Dedicated" here means "not shared with cars or other modes" (though I wonder then what it will be called if a streetcar and buses share the K Street Transitway). I suppose what you mean is more like "exclusive." And that's without getting into "grade separation..."

by LowHeadways on May 16, 2014 4:46 pm • linkreport

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