Greater Greater Washington

BRT comes to Northern Virginia on August 24

The first bus rapid transit line in the DC region will officially begin service on August 24.

The "Metroway" route will run from Crystal City to Braddock Road, partly in mixed traffic and partly in a dedicated transitway. A later phase to open in 2015 will extend the route to Pentagon City, and shift more of it into dedicated lanes.


Route 1 Transitway under construction in Alexandria. Photo from the City of Alexandria.

Metroway is a joint project between Alexandria, Arlington, and WMATA. Alexandria and Arlington are building the transitway in two phases, and WMATA will operate the buses.

For now, only the Alexandria phase is ready. Arlington's phase just began construction and should be finished next year.

But rather than wait until 2015 to start service, WMATA will begin running buses in August, and simply run in mixed traffic through Crystal City until Arlington's phase is complete.


Metroway initial route (left) and route starting in 2015 (right). Images from WMATA.

Metroway will run every 6 minutes at peak times, dropping to every 12 minutes at midday and every 20 minutes on weekends.

Arlington will eventually convert its portion of the route to streetcar.

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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Something doesn't add up, if Arlington is to convert its portion to streetcar...what of the Alexandria portion?

by The Truth on Jul 2, 2014 1:42 pm • linkreport

FYI, kudos to Alexandria and Arlington for getting it done...DC's working on its streetcar...what does Maryland have to show for itself?

by The Truth on Jul 2, 2014 1:42 pm • linkreport

alexandria wants to finish the Potomac Yard infill metro station before spending money on the street car. I am not sure the operating plan for the period after the ArlCo streetcar portion is done and before the Alexandria portion is done. I presume the street cars will reverse direction at the County line, while the metroway buses continue to provide through service.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 2, 2014 1:51 pm • linkreport

I'm curious, with Arlington planning to convert its portion into streetcar, what will happen to the rest of the route? Would someone planning to travel the whole route have to get off and switch?

It also just seems awfully short for a streetcar. If the whole route were to convert it would make more sense.

by Stillwell87 on Jul 2, 2014 1:54 pm • linkreport

@The Truth- Alexandria does not have the money to convert its portion to streetcar because of the in-fill Metro station. There is a plan (again, with no funding or timeline) to possible convert the BRT to streetcar after the Metro station is completed.

by Thad on Jul 2, 2014 2:03 pm • linkreport

Looks nice!

But every 20 mins on weekends? That's BS. Just goes to show you that BRT as frequently implemented in the US is a poor substitute for rail.

by h st ll on Jul 2, 2014 2:04 pm • linkreport

Also, just checked that Crystal City Streetcar website and their latest route map seems to suggest that the streetcar would share the CCPY transitway ... so, would that mean that WMATA would continue to run buses the entire length and the streetcar would only run half of it?

(Map is in this publication - http://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/172806447?access_key=key-2nxnerhxxle4ude53if7&allow_share=true&escape=false&view_mode=scroll)

by Thad on Jul 2, 2014 2:08 pm • linkreport

H street

Not too many bus lines in NoVa that run as frequently as every 20 minutes on weekends. The problem isn't the lack of rail, its that the demand likely is not there. While this is a densifying area it has a long way to go, and probably has a lot more carlite households (who have a car available on weekends) than carfree household.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 2, 2014 2:11 pm • linkreport

20 minutes on the weekend is better than most bus or train lines for better or worse.

Note that a possible streetcar option is to just use it as an extension of the Columbia Pike line. That would certainly alleviate some of the concerns about the route being too short for a streetcar line.

by drumz on Jul 2, 2014 2:18 pm • linkreport

Since this mostly duplicates the Blue/Yellow Lines, why is it even being implemented in the first place?

by DaveG on Jul 2, 2014 2:23 pm • linkreport

As one Alexandria resident said to me a few years back about the busway, "At least they're getting the right of way. Once they realize their mistake (bus instead of rail), it'll be a lot cheaper to put rails in than to start from scratch at that point."

by Railing for Rail on Jul 2, 2014 2:23 pm • linkreport

In Arlington there are only three stops that cover this area and two of them (Pentagon and DCA) aren't very useful for local trips. The other two are relatively close and that means a lot of the areas to the south of Crystal City are in a sweet spot for last-mile bus service.

by drumz on Jul 2, 2014 2:27 pm • linkreport

@h st ll,
So running a transit service at low headways has absolutely nothing to do with whether it's a BRT, bus, light rail, or metro. In fact, on weekends Metro frequently runs service at 20 minute headways, which is appalling.

by TransitSnob on Jul 2, 2014 2:33 pm • linkreport

Since this mostly duplicates the Blue/Yellow Lines, why is it even being implemented in the first place?

There's a Metro stop at the Target?

by Another Nick on Jul 2, 2014 2:38 pm • linkreport

I don't need the intro, thanks. Metro is running 20 min head ways on weekends because of track work/rebuilding ... and people hate it. Hardly something to emulate. Normal weekend frequencies should resume on metro once rebuilding is done. The fact that a new, allegedly premium BRT service is being run at 20 min headways on weekends shows that it's not a great substitute for rail.

If the DC streetcar runs at head ways like that i will gladly eat my hat.

It's BRT creep, plain and simple. That said, I'm sorry I replied the first time. I don't want to start another tired rail/bus argument. Sorry, y'all be blessed.

by h st ll on Jul 2, 2014 2:43 pm • linkreport

I used to live on this route, across from Potomac Yard, and I took the 9a all the time to get between Old Town and the Pentagon, stopping all along the way. Compared to 9a service, which is 30m headways even during rush, 20m headways on weekends is a huge improvement. I take the bus in the area of Old Town/Pentagon/Shirlington a lot and at all hours, and none run that frequently, except overlapping routes betwene the Pentagon and Shirlington during rush. Just a note, on weekends, the 9a (runs up and down US1) is never full even with 30-45m frequency. Starting at the Target at PY, you have to walk 2 miles to Crystal City or 2 miles to Braddock Road to get to the Metro. The Blue/Yellow provide no service in this area unless you want to walk 2 miles in either direction. Just because it runs by doesn't mean it provides service.

by Sarah on Jul 2, 2014 2:44 pm • linkreport

@ DaveG because a lot of the area covered by this transitway is not anyway near the existing Metro stations, and Potomac Yards is scheduled for massive re-development, a lot of which is already in the works. Even if the Potomac Yards Metro stop is built, which is no guarantee, this bus trip alleviates the need for short-trip Metro rides, which are more congested w/ long-haul passengers and much more expensive.

by JDC on Jul 2, 2014 2:51 pm • linkreport

+1 Sarah "Just because it runs by doesn't mean it provides service."

by JDC on Jul 2, 2014 2:53 pm • linkreport

@The Truth

Maryland is building the purple line.....

by Murlin on Jul 2, 2014 2:59 pm • linkreport

Unless there is a stop the yellow/blue line here is just something neat for my toddler to look at as trains whiz past.

by NikolasM on Jul 2, 2014 3:04 pm • linkreport

FYI, kudos to Alexandria and Arlington for getting it done...DC's working on its streetcar...what does Maryland have to show for itself?


----
The Purple Line, which is more than the Arlington-Alexandria BRT, the Columbia Pike streetcar and the H Street streetcar combined.

by august4 on Jul 2, 2014 3:07 pm • linkreport

The Purple Line is a big deal. Instead fretting about transit headways after they are built, we need to work on the headways between conception and getting the lines built.

Let's see, if we want to add a new Metro line by 2050, we better start ticking people off today. It all starts with a line on a map.

by The Truth™ on Jul 2, 2014 3:16 pm • linkreport

20min headway isn't bad for now. A large chuck of that area from Monroe to Target is just one big construction project. Once established I can see it reduced. Also, it is rumored that the Target is going under a major expansion soon (second story).

by RJ on Jul 2, 2014 3:24 pm • linkreport

I live right across the street from one of the stops along the dedicated lanes and I can already tell you it will be a big improvement over existing transit options. As Sarah mentioned existing buses along Route 1 have 30 minute headways and not all the buses feed into the nearest Metro stop (e.g. Pentagon, not Pentagon City, Braddock or Crystal City).

The new Metroway buses are meant to serve as a feeder into those metro stops. The Oakville triangle industrial area, which sits on Route 1, is considering massive redevelopments due to the Metroway buses.

Also if you look at Alexandria's planning for the Potomac Yard shopping center it will eventually be torn up and will become a dense urban neighborhood with mixes of commercial, residential, office and hotels.

by Fitz on Jul 2, 2014 3:47 pm • linkreport

"I don't need the intro, thanks. Metro is running 20 min head ways on weekends because of track work/rebuilding ... and people hate it."

because their expectations of a heavy rail line are higher. And many are car free.

" Hardly something to emulate."

the metroway is not trying to emulate metrorail, its establishing a new service on relatively cheap infra, parallel to a metro line. It will mostly serve weekday riders, and can be scaled up even before rail is added, if new development justifies it.

"The fact that a new, allegedly premium BRT service is being run at 20 min headways on weekends shows that it's not a great substitute for rail. "

Alexandria was not going to build rail there till they are done with the new blue/yellow stop. The alternative would be to do nothing. I do not see why that would better.

"It's BRT creep, plain and simple."

If you are going to attack it for BRT creep, you might as well attack it for having so much of the line in mixed traffic. I don't know that it was ever marketed as "premium BRT". Just as a short transitway that will improve service and ridership AND be capable of switching to rail. It IS however the closest thing we will have to BRT in the region for a while.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 2, 2014 3:49 pm • linkreport

Have they done anything on the Purple Line yet? I'll believe it when I see it.

by observer on Jul 2, 2014 3:59 pm • linkreport

They are making, ahem, headway.

by The Truth™ on Jul 2, 2014 4:02 pm • linkreport

Now this is just making me wish they'd been able to build a walkway and tunnel from the south end of Main Line Blvd, burrow under the tracks, and give Braddock Road a second entrance that doesn't require really really long walks from almost anywhere west of the station.

by Another Nick on Jul 2, 2014 4:37 pm • linkreport

Does anyone have a rough estimate of what this BRT will cost, including all associated costs when its all said and done taking in account the cost to Arl., Alex, fed and the state?

by Tom S. on Jul 2, 2014 4:44 pm • linkreport

I find it discouraging that they are adding all of that density and this is the only transportation improvement. The metro infill station, if it ever gets built, could be over a decade away.

They are tearing down the two story projects, with large open court yards, and filling in most of the lots with 4 floor of retail/residential. What if their transit usage numbers for the new residents is off?

How are the residents of the new condos on the wrong side of the train tracks, near the YMCA and Giant, going to get to the Braddock Road Metro Station?

What's going to happen on the Weekends when metro use is down?

by TheCharlie on Jul 2, 2014 4:49 pm • linkreport

TC

1. its not that difficult to walk from the area near Swings to the braddock rd metro. several routes possible.

2. this is a great improvement, and scaleable

3. The infill station will take time but so will the development.

4. Where are two story projects being torn down? Most new development is on the former RR yard

5. on weekends many will use their cars, some will use transit and some will bike.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 2, 2014 4:54 pm • linkreport

So I went back and read Dan's original (linked) piece from may 2013. It (and the pdf linked to) said weekend frequencies would be 15 mins. Still unacceptable, but not as bad. Any idea why it was scaled back (rather dramatically) before it even opened?

I couldn't find anything further with a rudimentary search.

by h st ll on Jul 2, 2014 5:06 pm • linkreport

Walker,

I too think that new development is appropriate. I just think that it is optimistic to believe that a sizeable number of the many new/existing residents are going to use public transportation and a less than perfect BRT section.

Judging by how close the new development is to the road, I guess there aren't any plans to widen Jeff Davis? It is only 2 lanes through most of that corridor.

Also. Why did they put down sod in the right-of-way only to take it down a short time later? Water runoff? If so, It's going to be impervious surface from here on out anyway.

The housing projects that are being redeveloped into much higher densities are located south of the Monroe Bridge on Rt.1.

by TheCharlie on Jul 2, 2014 5:55 pm • linkreport

no bike racks?

by asffa on Jul 2, 2014 6:01 pm • linkreport

Alexandria's "plans" to put a streetcar on that route have been abandoned. Yes there WERE plans so you can find old links but basically they know there is no money and would rather invest in better ROI projects like the Potomac Yard infill Metro station and dedicated lane buses. Arlington would be taking a huge gamble if it lays tracks on this route; however, the main difference between ALX and ARL is that the leaders in the former know they don't have the money for Disneyland transit while the latter hope for money to fall from the sky.

Arlington talks about streetcars while off-peak transit remains at 20-30 minute headways.

by Peter Peter on Jul 2, 2014 7:20 pm • linkreport

Where are two story projects being torn down? Most new development is on the former RR yard

Other side of the tracks. South of First, North of Madison, East of Henry, that part.

by Another Nick on Jul 3, 2014 1:36 am • linkreport

Alexandria has a whole page devoted to re-developing the Braddock Rd. area. http://www.alexandriava.gov/Braddock

by JDC on Jul 3, 2014 8:27 am • linkreport

but those are places close to the Braddock Road metro stop, and a walk to the heart of old town. A different planning/transportation situation than the area along the BRT ROW, which is PotomacYards and Del Ray.

Peter

Do you have a link saying Alex does not intend to eventually put down tracks? everything I have read suggests they want to do the infill station first, and then do the tracks on the transitway. They also want more bus lanes, but I know of no statement that they believe that in conflict with rail for CCPY.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 3, 2014 8:37 am • linkreport

http://alexandriava.gov/news_display.aspx?id=62212

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 3, 2014 8:38 am • linkreport

TheCharlie wrote:
I too think that new development is appropriate. I just think that it is optimistic to believe that a sizeable number of the many new/existing residents are going to use public transportation and a less than perfect BRT section.

Currently there are four huge multi-family developments either almost finished or are being built along Route 1:
-Bell Del Ray at Main Line Blvd. and Monroe
-Station 650 at Potomac and Route 1
-The Frasier at Swann and Route 1
-The Exchange at E. Glebe and Route 1, which is three buildings

This doesn't include the fact the Oakville Triangle industrial area will likely be redeveloped to include multi-family housing as well. And don't forget that the Potomac Yard shopping center has been rezoned for dense, mixed-use's too.

by Fitz on Jul 3, 2014 10:06 am • linkreport

but those are places close to the Braddock Road metro stop, and a walk to the heart of old town. A different planning/transportation situation than the area along the BRT ROW, which is PotomacYards and Del Ray.

Given that they're all of a quarter mile from the other new stuff and the buses coming off the BRT have stops *in* that new stuff...it's not different. Its part of it.

by Another Nick on Jul 3, 2014 10:16 am • linkreport

except being close to the metro station, they are likely to have higher transit mode share than the places further north (because heavy rail will be a much stronger transit draw than any BRT) and their transit share will not depend on frequency on BRT. and being close to the amenities of old town, they are likely to generate few trips to the BRT corridor at least until there is much more critical mass of activity there (are we really worried about the all the trips from the building in NW old town to the big boxes?) So there isn't reall a case, I think, for those new developments having a significant impact on traffic on Rte 1.

Note also, that there ARE new N-S lanes. Potomac Aveue and Mainline Blvd. Alexandria is accommodating motorist needs, not by widening a "traffic sewer" but with a highly permeable street grid.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 3, 2014 11:04 am • linkreport

Re Braddock Road, they are extending the new bike/pedestrian path along the south end of Main Line Blvd. It will connect with Braddock Road. While it may not be a tunnel under the tracks, it will improve access from the west side of the Metro station. The path will also make it easier to bike from Potomac Yard/Crystal City to Braddock Road.

by Citizen on Jul 4, 2014 1:59 am • linkreport

Interesting, how seldom transit really is the best answer, even in still more dense places such as the district: http://youarehere.cc/p/bestmode/washingtondc

by I Also 95 on Jul 6, 2014 9:21 am • linkreport

20-minute headways are pretty bad. But streetcars can also have 20-minute headways or even worse. And if the ridership increases the headways can improve - I don't see any danger of a bus lane in this corridor being over capacity for a long time.

by Eric on Jul 7, 2014 11:18 am • linkreport

"Interesting, how seldom transit really is the best answer, even in still more dense places such as the district"

1. If there weren't hundreds of thousands of people taking transit, then car travel would be intolerably slow due to road congestion.

2. The areas with bad transit access are large in terms of area, but they tend to be low-density residential areas that few people WANT to go to. Denser areas and employment hubs tend to have much better transit access.

3. For many people, the "best" transportation mode is a slightly slower one that saves that a significant chunk of their income. The map does not take that into account.

by Eric on Jul 7, 2014 11:23 am • linkreport

I also

That showed a huge number of places where biking is the best answer. Lots of people won't bike, and many more will not bike when in bad weather, or when they have to carry a lot of stuff with them. I don't think those maps really argue against transit. There are also the areas where car is fastest - but that's looking only at total time, there are many folks who prefer transit if it takes slightly longer, because of cost and other issues.

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

Why not go to Pentagon City in August

by kk on Jul 8, 2014 12:16 am • linkreport

Headways should not be determined/solely informed by capacity. They are what makes a system usable, and what allows people to enjoy the same freedom to go when they please as someone in a car.

20 minutes is ridiculous, and the fact that this is a significant improvement is even more ridiculous. Sure, the 45-minute bus might not be full...because who's willing to wait 45 minutes for a bus? Better headways induce demand and nobody in this region understands that yet.

by LowHeadways on Jul 8, 2014 3:53 pm • linkreport

The 20 min headway is ridiculous. Ultimately, it needs to come down to 10 min or so.

But, I don't get how people are then making the logical leap to say this proves BRT is crap. As was pointed out, Streetcars (or Metro) can also have long headways. I really don't see what advantages laying rail would bring over BRT?

In theory, streetcars offer environmental benefits from running off electricity in place of gas. But, buses can run off electricity as well.

Streetcars can hold more capacity, but is there really the demand at this point? Also, since buses are cheaper than streetcars, you could purchase more and run them at greater frequency.

by Chris on Jul 9, 2014 9:58 am • linkreport

The Potomac Yard area is cute and inviting, but I never considered living there because the walk to Metro stations was too long. Once I heard about the new BRT, I gave the area a second look. Result? I'm signing my lease in Potomac Yard next week! The idea of the DC area's first BRT sounds really cool. And 20 minutes on a relaxed weekend sounds reasonable. Hope I won't regret it!

by dru on Aug 8, 2014 5:01 pm • linkreport

@RJ "Let's see, if we want to add a new Metro line by 2050, we better start ticking people off today. It all starts with a line on a map."
Haha so true

by LouDC on Aug 13, 2014 6:05 pm • linkreport

@DaveG: Route 1 BRT is about convenience. Street-level service is something that Metro can't provide even in the best-case scenario. Also, Route 1 is incredibly congested and needs more and better transit options to help ensure that people who live in the area don't have to use a car for every trip.

by Omar on Aug 14, 2014 2:34 pm • linkreport

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