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Arlington plans to increase capacity at Rosslyn Metro

Metro Center has four main entrances. Gallery Place and L'Enfant Plaza each have three. Union Station, Silver Spring, Dupont Circle, and countless others have two. Rosslyn, the highest-ridership station in Virginia, has but one.

Rosslyn's new entrance.

One entrance with one set of long, slow escalators and one often-broken elevator, to serve all 36,000 daily passengers who enter and exit there (more than Baltimore's entire light rail line). It is serious capacity bottleneck and safety risk, and has to be fixed if Rosslyn is to accommodate its slew of planned new skyscrapers.

Therefore, Arlington is building a second entrance across North Moore Street from the existing entrance, in what will become a new plaza.

The entrance will include three new high-speed elevators (like those at Forest Glen), an expanded mezzanine area, a new station manager kiosk with additional fare gates and pay stations, and an emergency stairwell. It will also include additional parking for cars and bicycles as part of the private development above.

The rendering below illustrates how it will all work. The image shows the street at top and existing Metro tunnel at bottom. The existing escalator and mezzanine are shown in dark gray near the center. The new elevators, stairs and mezzanine are in lighter gray to the right.

Rosslyn new entrance
Image from Arlington County.

When complete, this new entrance - and the new development it is attached to - will make for a dramatically improved Rosslyn neighborhood and station. It's a good project, and it's been a long time coming.

For more renderings, check out Arlington's web page.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and professor of geography at George Washington University, but blogs to express personal views. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado, and lives in NE DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post


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I've never exited or entered through Rosslyn, and it's been years since I've actually seen the inside of the station, but... it looks like they're adding this literally across the street from the current entrance, to enter on the side end of the station? Why not at the opposite end, like many other stations, and get a little more separation?

by Andrew on Sep 24, 2010 10:03 am • linkreport

Very odd choice of location, to have a second entrance that's even closer to the river and even further from Courthouse and Arlington Cemetery. I would have expected the second entrance to go either in the Boeing Building (across Wilson to the south) or, if they're a little more ambitious with their budget, on North 17th St.

by tom veil on Sep 24, 2010 10:12 am • linkreport

Arlington did an extensive study (I think they've trademarked that process) about where to site a second entrance. The report is available online although I forget where. It shows schematics for several alternate locations and explains their justification for the approved solution. I think a lot of the justification really came down to the ability to dovetail the improvement with the new twin tower development that will sit atop the new entrance. That project is delayed now, so Arlington is paying for everything up front. More bait and switch from a developer.

by Lou on Sep 24, 2010 10:30 am • linkreport

I think that they should put in giant slides down to the platforms and charge people $0.25 for the ride.

Considering the amount of foot traffic and its connections to bus lines, this is a long overdue improvement.

by Geof Gee on Sep 24, 2010 10:50 am • linkreport

Is the one entrance really a bottleneck? I think the broken escalators and the world's slowest elevator are more of a problem.

I hate being so nitpicky, but:

1) Is this being done with the developer, or is it being paid for by Arlington (as Lou suggested)

2) What happened to the existing elevator?

3) How is all this going to fit into the bus lanes?

The neglect of Rosslyn is pathetic. Can't they put some shade up for the people waiting for the buses? The buses coming in and out are chaotic, and they are then going to elimate the bus alley for turning around?

by charlie on Sep 24, 2010 10:56 am • linkreport

The documents are here:

Bottom of the page. Study and Final Report. I don't have time to track down the cost agreement, but if my memory serves me right, it's JBG that was supposed to pay part of this, and facilitate the construction since it will occupy part of the garage they will be construction for the towers development.

by Lou on Sep 24, 2010 11:08 am • linkreport

@Lou, if I reading that link right the price tag was 18 million in 2002; probably at least 20-25 million now. Sigh.

And I see very little in that study about making things better for bus passengers.

by charlie on Sep 24, 2010 11:15 am • linkreport

@geof gee, 50cents during peak of the peak.

by Michael Perkins on Sep 24, 2010 11:20 am • linkreport

They could have saved a lot of money by just hiring clowns to entertain people on the long escalator ride.

by Gavin on Sep 24, 2010 11:37 am • linkreport

I use Rosslyn everyday, peak-of-the-peak like, and have never noticed a serious overcrowding issue. The only time crowds become a problem is when the Orange line breaks down (which is approximately once a week). I'd rather see 8-car trains run consistently on time than an additional entrance. Also, prevent tour groups from entering the system during p-of-the-p. It's an absolute nightmare waiting for 50 boy scouts at 8:00 AM trying to figure out which way is up on their metro ticket.

by OX4 on Sep 24, 2010 12:01 pm • linkreport

@tom veil, & Andrew

The current metro entrance is pretty much in the middle of the station. The station platform is in a location where if you put the new entrance at the end of the platform, you're really only a couple hundred feet south of where this new entrance will be. Combine that with the cost of reconfiguring one end of the station entirely to put the exit there and I think this way gets you more bang for your buck.

The real question is, will people still use the old escalators once this goes in?

by MLD on Sep 24, 2010 12:14 pm • linkreport

The bottleneck in Rosslyn is not the escalator, but the limited amount of trains that can get through the station.

by Jasper on Sep 24, 2010 2:12 pm • linkreport

OK, I found the 2002 study.
It appears that the Wilson Blvd option did get studied. It seems Lou's right, that it all came down to assuming that a private developer would help them out: "The Wilson Boulevard Entrance option is not as convenient to construct as the North Entrance option, because there is no planned redevelopment at the location of the proposed entrance
portal." Worse, it literally did not occur to them that it could be anything other than a cut-and-cover pedestrian tunnel to let people walk over to the North Moore elevator bank. With that restriction, obviously, the Wilson Blvd plan didn't make any sense under the study's metrics.

by tom veil on Sep 24, 2010 4:04 pm • linkreport

firemen's poles

by andy on Sep 24, 2010 4:55 pm • linkreport

The more I think about this, it's bugging me. Aside from the decision on where to put it (I don't have an informed opinion one way or the other), why are we going ahead with this before the towers? I go through Rosslyn during peak times 3 or 4 times a week. I never sense a bottleneck with the vertical transportation. The need for extra capacity doesn't come until the extra capacity leases all that space on the block. Besides, there's still only one platform elevator

Instead Arlington is floating more debt, to fund WMATA's project, ahead of JBG's development, and at a premium cost because they are going to have to build without the benefit of the garage pit being dug. Then finish up all exposed sides of that building in the renderings, a large part of which is going to be absorbed by the multi-level plaza between the new towers. Parts of what we pay for now, and continue to maintain, are going to be covered over by concrete and landscaping later.

Makes no sense.

by Lou on Sep 24, 2010 7:22 pm • linkreport

Interesting that's it's an additional entrance. I thought the original plan called for closing the existing entrance and converting the whole to the high-speed elevators like Forest Glen.

by dcseain on Sep 25, 2010 5:52 am • linkreport

@ Lou; yep, right. I think they were concerned about putting one or two more towers into Rosslyn and dealing with capacity issues. Given those towers are on delay, I'd drag my feet on this project and instead spend 1-2 million on making it better for bus users - or replace the existing elevator.

by charlie on Sep 25, 2010 10:49 am • linkreport

Another factor affecting Rosslyn's capacity is the planned completion of the Pentagon renovation. It's on track for December 2011. For the last decade the DoD has leased a lot of office space in Rosslyn as swap space for the project. Once the project is done, approximately 8000 people will directly relocate back to the Pentagon. Furthermore other offices could relocate to Crystal City to be physically closer to the main building and reduce transportation logistics.
For Rosslyn, this means there will be a short-term dip in use. If the new construction goes up, there will be a lot of unused capacity. Given Rosslyn's prime location, the capacity will eventually fill as business relocate and consolidate office from around the region. However, given the slow economy this could take years.

by Smoke_Jaguar4 on Sep 25, 2010 2:47 pm • linkreport

this is probably just a nitpick, but rosslyn has two sets of escalators, not just one. two going up, two going down.

by AJ on Sep 25, 2010 6:21 pm • linkreport

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