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Breakfast links: Videos and lanes

Image from StreetSmart.
Slow down!: Area transportation departments staged a little demonstration of how just 5-10 mph more speed turns a close call into an injured pedestrian or an injury into a fatality. DCist's video of the event is even more harrowing.

Slow them down with road design: A University of Connecticut study analyzed driver speeds on various roads and found that closer-in buildings and other urban factors affect driver speed when speed limits are the same. The biggest factor: on-street parking, which reduced speeds almost 10%. The Europeans have been saying this for years, but now we have good old American data. (Infrastructurist, Bossi)

NYC video squad likes our lane: Streetfilms made a video about our 15th Street bike lane featuring DDOT's Jim Sebastian and Gabe Klein. We can forgive those New Yorkers confusing "capitol" (the hill neighborhood or the building with Congress) with "capital" (the city containing the seat of government). (Mike E.)

Lanes of enchantment: Bike lanes aren't just happening downtown. DDOT is about to install new lanes (PDF) on New Mexico Avenue and Tunlaw Road in Glover Park, as recommended by the Glover Park Transportation Study. (Ben Thielen)

Purple subway?: Some Maryland Senators have asked the MTA to study heavy rail on the planned Purple Line and Baltimore Red Line. The state has chosen light rail, but given new FTA guidelines and since nothing is happening yet anyway, they'd like the state to look into heavy rail. However, there's no way heavy rail would become cost-effective even with the changes. (Maryland Reporter)

JetBlue at National, Southwest too?: JetBlue will start service from National Airport, after the FAA required US Airways and Delta to give up some slots as part of a swap deal. Southwest wants in as well, but hasn't been able to get any slots so far. (Post)

A light hearing: Few people attended the Vienna hearing on the WMATA budget Monday night, but perhaps that's because it was fairly far from Metrorail. Tonight is the SE DC hearing; the Arlington, NW DC, and Rockville hearings right near Metro stations are likely to draw more people. (Get There)

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David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Wasn't Monday's hearing at Oakton High School? A five min TOPS walk from Vienna metro? I understand that Vienna itself is far from the Metro CORE, but saying that a <5 min walk is "fairly far from Metrorail" is overdoing it a bit.

I'd wager the bigger reason the turnout was so lousy is that too many of the Metro users around there are either A) already committed to switching to personal auto because their cost difference was small before; or B) government contractors who don't care about the expense of commuting by Metro or affluent enough they don't care either.

A meeting somewhere closer to where Metrobus' highest ridership in that area would have probably gotten more attendees.

by kidincredible on Mar 24, 2010 9:34 am • linkreport

"Fairly far from Metrorail"? Nope. It was at Oakton High School, which is less than a mile from Vienna Station.

I doubt a lot of Vienna riders knew about the hearing. If WMATA had posted signboards at the station encouraging attendance, I'm guessing they would drawn a better crowd.

Then again, this is mostly a park & ride or kiss & ride station. Riders there figure the worst outcomes are higher fares/parking rates and/or longer headways/more crowded trains, both of which are still better than the long slog down I-66 and Rtes. 50 & 29 during rush hour.

by c5karl on Mar 24, 2010 9:38 am • linkreport

The Purple Line should be heavy rail. The amount of time it would take to traverse from Bethesda to New Carrollton undermines the effectiveness of it as an option for transit. In addition light rail adds to maintenance costs by having different types of trains in the WMATA "fleet". Think Southwest and the synergies created by having one fleet type.

If we do it, do it right.

If it is light rail, make it the same type of streetcars DDOT is using. Efficiencies people!

by Redline SOS on Mar 24, 2010 9:45 am • linkreport

Heavy Rail on the Red Line could be feasible if the city didn't insist on building the entire 15 mile system at once. Instead, if they build in phases like they did the Baltimore Metro Subway or the DC Metrorail, it could be done more effectively.

by Chris on Mar 24, 2010 9:47 am • linkreport

re: "far from metro", yeah, that sounded a bit off.

It would be interesting to know how many Fairfax rails riders are federal government workers who get the federal transit benefit. I'd suspect it is very high.

With the silver line, fairfax would have to kick in a lot more for the jurisdiction subsidy, no? Essentially a line of their own.

by charlie on Mar 24, 2010 9:54 am • linkreport

It seems a bit odd for DDOT to say that the bike lanes do not affect the automobile lanes (see linked letter). They do, in that they make them narrower. In this location, however, the road is plenty wide to accommodate the lanes, so it's a non-issue. It's just peculiar that they highlight an incorrect statement.

by ah on Mar 24, 2010 9:54 am • linkreport

I live in the HOA right next to Oakton HS, and walk daily from my townhouse to the metro. Door to door it is about a 10-12 minute walk, and given the area HOAs' reluctance to maintain the property (not sure what those pesky HOA fees are for), sidewalks are obstructed for a good portion of that walk now due to the snowfall bringing down trees, etc.

I would have liked to have attended the hearing, especially since it was just across the street from my house. However, after a full day of work and the hour door-to-door commute time, the last thing that I wanted to do was go straight to the hearing.

Despite the cluster of HOAs around the north side of the Vienna metro and around Oakton HS, there isn't a huge amount of people who walk to the metro, at least from what I see on a daily basis in the mornings and evenings. Most people I see using the Vienna metro get there by car or bus, and I'm sure the last thing that they want to do is walk the 3/4 of a mile to Oakton HS after work+commute, attend the hearing, then walk back to the metro and hope their bus route is still running, or drive back to western fairfax county or loudoun/prince william county.

by DK on Mar 24, 2010 9:55 am • linkreport


I haven't looked at the ridership projections for the Purple Line in a while, but I highly doubt most riders would be going from end to end, from Bethesda to New Carollton. Most trips would likely be more along the lines of Bethesda to Silver Spring, Silver Spring to College Park, etc.

As far as investing in subways goes - I'm all for higher levels of transit investment. That doesn't necessarily require subway vehicles. Look at Seattle's new light rail. It is light rail, does have some street running sections, but is also substantially grade-separated (like a subway) and achieves high operating speeds. If you invest in Light Rail to that level, you can achieve subway-like service at a substantially reduced overall cost. Some of the Baltimore Red Line proposals would do just that - tunneling under most of the city's core and making use of dedicated ROW outside of that.

by Alex B. on Mar 24, 2010 10:02 am • linkreport


Gabe Klein in the video said that the bike lanes on 15th Street did not affect vehicle throughput, not that they didn't change the lanes at all.

by Alex B. on Mar 24, 2010 10:04 am • linkreport

ah-- You're correct. I think in the Glover Park Transportation Study it mentions this and lists these bike lanes as a traffic calming measure because of this.

by Ben on Mar 24, 2010 10:25 am • linkreport

I live in Vienna, and was planning to stop by the meeting at Oakton HS last night, but the massive backup on the Orange/Blue Line last night (train with mechanical problem at Foggy Bottom/Farragut West) meant that by the time I was able to squeeze onto a train at Rosslyn, I didn't get to Vienna until after 7.00 PM and at that point considered the whole thing a washout. This after leaving work at Braddock Road at around 5.30 PM.

There's irony in that statement somewhere, but I don't feel like looking for it.

by sg on Mar 24, 2010 10:36 am • linkreport

Re: Heavy Rail

I'm curious what the environmental benefits of heavy rail that the article mentions would be. Higher capacity? Also, running light rail vehicles through a tunnel would require a larger tunnel profile to accommodate catenary wires and a pantograph (unless light rail can be powered by third rail). Wouldn't that actually be more expensive?

I'm also interested to know what the new criteria for federal funding of transit projects are. I know that the former "cost effectiveness" formula was deeply flawed.

In any case, Baltimore City badly needs rapid transit. Anything is an improvement!

by Matthias on Mar 24, 2010 10:46 am • linkreport


The environmental benefits are indeed nebulous. Heavy rail certainly has higher capacity, but I'm not sure what they're arguing for there.

With regard to pantograph height - take a look at Seattle's light rail, where they used an existing transit tunnel.

In that video, take note of the pantograph height in the various tunnel segments versus the above-ground segments. In short, you can change it to save on tunneling costs if need be.

by Alex B. on Mar 24, 2010 10:59 am • linkreport

"The Purple Line should be heavy rail. The amount of time it would take to traverse from Bethesda to New Carrollton undermines the effectiveness of it as an option for transit. In addition light rail adds to maintenance costs by having different types of trains in the WMATA "fleet". Think Southwest and the synergies created by having one fleet type."

The Purple Line is not being operated by WMATA or DDOT, it's being operated by MTA (right? All I know is that it won't be WMATA operated.)

by Phil on Mar 24, 2010 11:14 am • linkreport

@ Alex B. -- that may be true (and I suspect would be here-- the road is plenty wide for one lane in each direction--but that's not what the letter says. It seems to say that the bike lane is being carved out of the parking lanes, which is not true.

by ah on Mar 24, 2010 11:15 am • linkreport

@ Ben -- You're right -- from the report, Section 1.2.1, "The bike lane will also narrow the effective travel lane widths that will help slow traffic on the roadway."

by ah on Mar 24, 2010 11:17 am • linkreport

@ Phil - From what I heard and read MTA is building it but will turn it over to Metro for operation.

by Redline SOS on Mar 24, 2010 11:18 am • linkreport

The bikes lanes on New Mexico should help to calm traffic. Between Nebraska and Cathedral there is enough room going south for two lanes of cars, yet no markings for such. That doesn't stop people from speeding up and passing on the right. I've often thought they need markings to show that it's not a lane (or is, if meant to be). If I'm imagining this correctly, this will take up that space and make things clear.

by rdhd on Mar 24, 2010 12:19 pm • linkreport

As far as I know, it has not been determined who will operate the Purple Line once it's complete.

Regardless, your fleet concerns are not pertinent. WMATA already has 5 types of railcars, with a 6th on the way. The Purple Line would use a 7th, even if it was heavy rail. And while a lot of the components might be the same on the heavy rail vehicles now, they're still not exactly the same.

Re: HRT on the Purple Line:
An LPA has already been selected for the Purple Line. What the Senate wants Maryland to do, is drop the LPA, and redo the environmental impact statement and the alternatives analysis. Personally, I would prefer NOT to add 18-24 months to the completion date, especially since there is no way heavy rail will be cost-effective under FTA guidelines.

by Matt Johnson on Mar 24, 2010 1:13 pm • linkreport

Why isn't the purple line crossing the potomac to connect to one of the Falls Church stations?

by James on Mar 24, 2010 1:27 pm • linkreport

You're jumping the gun a bit, I believe, to say that Jetblue
"will start service from National Airport." The deal still must past regulatory muster...and Southwest certainly has a prima facie case that the other airlines have colluded to keep them out of a major, publicly-owned airport.

There's also the issue that, since ATA folded, you can't fly non-stop from DCA-MDW, and Southwest has a major hub at Midway.

It ain't over, and the lawyers haven't even started billing on this one, so don't book any Jetblue flights from National just yet.

by Mike S. on Mar 24, 2010 3:51 pm • linkreport

Because A) that part wasn't studied, and B) you'd have to get NPS involved, and past indications are that they don't want another bridge over the Potomac.

by Froggie on Mar 24, 2010 3:53 pm • linkreport

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