Greater Greater Washington

Transit


How should the region's transit grow?

How should the Washington region grow its transit system to benefit users across the region? Will the streetcar and rapid bus projects create into a disjointed patchwork or will they mesh well across jurisdictional borders? How can Metrorail avoid running out of capacity by 2040?


Photo by alykat on Flickr.

These are some questions regional officials ought to be discussing, but mainly aren't. The Transportation Planning Board, which is supposed to plan regionally for transportation, instead acts as a "stapler" to simply assemble the different states' transportation projects into a formal, constrained plan as required by law.

Individual jurisdictions have some great surface bus and rail projects, from DC's and Arlington's streetcars to the Purple Line and a number of BRT proposals, but so far these don't cross jurisdictional borders. It's important to analyze how they could all fit together to meet regionwide transportation needs.

WMATA is the region's regional transportation body and runs services in all jurisdictions, but the Metrorail system is running out of capacity. Even if Metro can get the money to upgrade power systems and add railcars to make all trains 8 cars, the system is likely to pass its maximum limits before 2040, in some areas possibly much sooner.

Trains on the Orange Line from Arlington are crush loaded today, and the "Orange and Blue Line Service Increase" plan will relieve the bottleneck, but soon create a new one for Yellow and Green Line trains merging at L'Enfant Plaza. There will be more Yellow Line trains coming in from Virginia, and meanwhile growth at the Capitol Riverfront and hopefully east of the river and in Prince George's County will increase demand for more Green Line frequencies.

To try to answer these questions, WMATA has begun a study of regional transit mobility. That includes how the many projects around the region fit together or could fit together, and how Metrorail can meet its capacity needs.

For the Metrorail portion, planners are looking at a number of options including a new tunnel for the Yellow Line from the Potomac River to downtown DC. It could travel up 9th Street, as we reported last year, or head east past Waterfront and turn north to meet the Red Line at either Judiciary Square or Union Station.


Left: Possible separated Yellow Line tunnels. Right: Possible track and pedestrian connections. Images from WMATA.

The long-discussed pedestrian connections between Farragut North and West and between Metro Center and Gallery Place will be on there. The study will also look at new track connections between Orange and Blue near Rosslyn, Blue and Yellow near Pentagon, and Yellow and Green south of L'Enfant.

Combined with a new Yellow Line tunnel, this could allow different service patterns, such as this one as an example. (Note that GGW readers came up with this; WMATA has not yet proposed or evaluated this or any other service pattern in published documents to date.)


Potential service pattern suggested by GGW readers.

At the same time, parking demand will increase in many car-dependent areas, creating a demand for up to 40,000 more spaces. However, it's very expensive to build those spaces. Many of the riders who park at stations are or will be coming from less than 3 miles away. Therefore, Metro can probably best expand the ability for residents to access its stations by improving pedestrian and bicycle accessibility. The study is also looking at the possibility of creating park-and-ride centers away from Metro stations and running feeder buses to the rail system.

Besides looking at Metrorail, the study will look at how jurisdictions' individual bus and rail projects can and will meet regional transportation needs. Should DC's streetcars connect to Maryland or across the Potomac? Should the Purple Line eventually continue its circle around to the south and to Alexandria? And what about the often-suggested Metrorail extensions to Centreville, Gaithersburg, BWI, Bowie, Waldorf and Dale City?


Left: Possible extensions of surface rail and bus projects. Right: Possible Metrorail extensions. Images from WMATA.

Growth trends in the region will require new transit solutions. Commuting between suburbs is expected to grow by 45% in the next 30 years, while commuting to the core will keep growing as well, by 12%. It'll be interesting to see what WMATA planners come up with, and it's great to see them trying to answer these fundamental and absolutely vital questions. Someone has to do it.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. 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 loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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Capacity should be increased where it can do the most benefit: at the core. These are people who choose to live downtown because Metro is most convenient for them. Suburb to suburb growth will continue, but adding rail capacity there doesn't seem to be to be as cost-effective. You will continue to have people buying houses in Gaithersburg and commuting to Tysons. Metro isn't an option for them and never will be no matter how convenient you try and make it.

by monkeyrotica on Oct 12, 2010 10:16 am • linkreport

Capacity should be increased where it can do the most benefit: at the core.

Good point. That's one of the critical (and least talked-about) benefits of re-introducing the streetcar system to DC: tying our fortunes to the vicissitudes of suburban politics for funding and planning DC transit is--frankly--nuts. Our interests are totally orthogonal.

by oboe on Oct 12, 2010 10:20 am • linkreport

DC's streetcar system could and SHOULD extend into neighboring jurisdictions. At a minimum, the Georgia Ave line should extend up into Silver Spring (a much better terminus point than Takoma Park), and the K Street line should extend across Key Bridge into Rosslyn (which would have the ancillary benefit of mitigating the "Orange Crush"). Also, as some of you have seen, I've devised a way to extend a streetcar line across Memorial Bridge to connect to the Pentagon, the planned Columbia Pike streetcar, and the CCPY transitway.

One possible Metrorail extension that has seen basically zero press, and aside from a small blurb in the Fairfax County transportation plan and my continual mentions of it, is an extension of the Yellow Line south from Huntington. The Route 1 corridor between Huntington and Ft. Belvoir has plenty of opportunity along it, and a metrorail extension would easily be the catalyst that converts it into Fairfax County's own version of the Ballston-Rosslyn corridor.

by Froggie on Oct 12, 2010 10:32 am • linkreport

Froggie's got it dead on. Granted there are serious jurisdictional issues to grapple with, we should still work in a wholeistic mode, thinking about how live is actually lived rather than focus on old, archaic political boundries.

by Thayer-D on Oct 12, 2010 10:38 am • linkreport

Just to carry Froggie's point a bit further; the Connecticut Avenue line used to run past Chevy Chase Circle to Chevy Chase Lake. The Wisconsin Avenue Line used to run ostensibly up to Rockville and the Palisades line to Glen Echo, MD.

Given the transportation center at Silver Spring, and the opportunity to connect a fixed surface system to the Purple Line, it seems like the potential capacity for the reimplementation for some of these transit corridors would be advantageous.

Either way, there absolutely needs to be coordination across the jurisdictions to ensure seamless mobility across the region. How that gets funded is a whole different question.

by Andrew on Oct 12, 2010 10:41 am • linkreport

The Yellow Line extension south along Route 1 would also serve the influx of new BRAC employees too.

And Froggie, post your map on here soon and possibly submit it to the people who could get this in the planning books. That goes for you too, David.

by Zac on Oct 12, 2010 10:44 am • linkreport

DC's streetcar system could and SHOULD extend into neighboring jurisdictions.

And I don't disagree that it should connect into neighboring jurisdictions. But that should happen when it makes sense for DC. Metro rail has *always* been primarily focused on getting commuters into and out of the city. The bulk of that should be funded by suburban jurisdictions.

My issue is with planning/funding issues, as Andrew touched on.

by oboe on Oct 12, 2010 10:47 am • linkreport

oboe: keep in mind that what happens outside of DC can and will have an impact within DC. It shouldn't be looked at as just "what's best for DC".

Zac: I'll consider that...probably on either Flickr or on my blog.

by Froggie on Oct 12, 2010 11:08 am • linkreport

As metro extends further from the city, it introduces a greater need for express options. Personally, I think MARC and VRE might be better options but that would take some adjustments as well.
We want people from the suburbs using transit. That makes life easier for all of us. But nobody who lives by BWI and works at the Pentagon is going to ride the metro past 26 (or however many) stops to get there. That defeats the purpose of saving time.
Overall, great suggestions.

by Pat on Oct 12, 2010 11:12 am • linkreport

How far can the Metro extend before the lines become bogged down? Extending it to BWI Marshall (and, by extension, the Baltimore rail system) sounds great, and I think it could be good, but just how many cars would that require to keep up proper headways?

Seeing Dale City on there, where I lived 24 years ago, was a surprise, I never thought of that as terribly close. But you have a good idea with Centreville, and that benefits from the I-66 right of way. I suggest going another short bit and linking to Manassas.

And I still think the Purple Line should extend from Bethesda to Dulles or Tysons, linking to the Silver Line. Right now, with Metro, all roads lead to downtown, but DC is also a very regional city, with business centers all over the place. And connecting Bethesda directly with Tysons Corner would be a huge thing.

by Andrew on Oct 12, 2010 11:12 am • linkreport

I really like the idea of having the lines connected better. Metro is great in that you can get anywhere in the system by only transferring one time.

However, the problem is that you're often very, very restricted in where that transfer can take place to a very small handful of stations (Metro Center, Gallery Place, and L'Enfant come quickly to mind). If people could transfer at other locations throughout the system, congestion would be more evenly distributed and relieved not only at the core transfer stations, but at other, ancillary stations as well. A trip from Cleveland Park to Foggy Bottom would no longer require going through Metro Center. A trip from Convention Center to Courthouse wouldn't require either 2 transfers at MC+GP or 1 at L'Enfant (out of the way, adds several extra stops). At least, they wouldn't if additional transfer stops were built, and tunnels, as well. A tunnel between MC and GP would make Gallery Place feel like part of the Orange line (if you haven't gathered by now, my job is off the Orange line). Transfers at Farragut would relieve congestion on Metro Center, etc.

So I'm all for the tunnels, as well as making the system more of a network rather than a couple of criss-crossing lines.

by J on Oct 12, 2010 11:14 am • linkreport

Is separating the blue and putting it into G-Town and over to Union Station off the table? That one would be killer.

by NikolasM on Oct 12, 2010 11:24 am • linkreport

If they build a second Yellow Line tunnel I hope there's serious thought given to how it would link up with a new Blue Line in the same area. A new transfer station would be a significant opportunity for new growth and development. Also, whither the Pink Line?

Building Metro further out in the suburbs only increases crowding in the core, and it defeats the purpose of a metropolitan subway system. Let commuter rail handle the additional demand from the exurbs. An extension to Fort Belvoir could make sense though, since Metro was originally designed to serve federal workers (the direct link to the Pentagon couldn't hurt either). And U.S. 1 could use some redevelopment.

by Anonymous on Oct 12, 2010 11:33 am • linkreport

I agree with oboe. Regional planning for metro is necessary, but consideration of different transit needs is also crucial. DC, MD and VA all have different interests -- Political boundaries are not "archaic jurisdictional boundaries" but rather have real meaning in terms of local politics, the public fisc, and voter motivation.

DC has taken steps independent of Metro, at cost to its taxpayers, to resolve its own transit issues. The Circulator and streetcars are funded by the district for the district's benefit -- a nice internalization of costs. An extension to Virginia (key bridge connection) or Maryland (extension to silver spring) would let those states (and their commuters) free-ride. There is no way that DC could justify the expenditure to its tax base, nor should it have to -- the streetcar system was not created to relieve orange line overcapacity. If Virginia wants to resolve that problem (which it created through its sprawl-supporting policy), let it pay for a new tunnel instead of holding Metro funds hostage.

In short, it's wrong to conflate Metro with transit generally. The district has transit needs that are not shared (and likewise, MD and VA have their own transit needs). Metro is an inherently interjurisdictional body, which is both a benefit and a curse.

by reader on Oct 12, 2010 11:36 am • linkreport

@NikolasM

No, a separate blue line is not off the table. It's mentioned in the PDF David linked to in the initial post.

The whole point of this effort is that nothing is off the table, within reason. The idea is to gather a list of what the region and what the system's needs will be.

by Alex B. on Oct 12, 2010 11:37 am • linkreport

Looking forward, always a good thing.  A couple of observations:
  • A new yellow alignment serving Union Station would be excellent, partly because it would give the Silver Line a far better place to go than, uh, Stadium-Armory and also because a large number of MARC riders are going to the same Crystal City locations as many of VRE's riders.  This would relieve much of the Red Line and Gallery Place crush. 
  • But better (and cheaper) yet would be to add conventional rail capacity to run through MARC and VRE service, taking folks where they actually want to go while diverting sufficient volume of ridership to flatten out those two recurring crush spots. 

As ideas go this is probably too good a one to ever have a chance to happen, but one can always dream. 

by intermodal commuter on Oct 12, 2010 11:41 am • linkreport

@Froggie, @Andrew, @Zac - don't forget the Rhode Island Ave line used to go all the way to Laurel...

by Tina on Oct 12, 2010 11:42 am • linkreport

@Alex,

Which .pdf? There is maybe a scant mention of it, and it is certainly in none of the accompanying drawings.

by NikolasM on Oct 12, 2010 11:46 am • linkreport

I really only see 2 problems that are effecting transit in the DC and in the area around it

1 Transfer points we need more of them throughout the system all we really have are the stations downtown plus Stadium Armory, King Street, Pentagon and Rosslyn.

2 Separate all lines; if we separated all of the metrorail lines plus the Dulles line and gave the Purple Line its own right of way we could cover all of DC, Alexandria, PG, and Arlington counties two where atleast all areas within their borders are within a 2 miles of a station

Once those two are fixed we could create new lines from bus, streetcar, lightrail, metrorail and commutter rail until everything within 30 miles from the borders of DC has transit.

MARC & VRE if we could change the structure of WMATA and add those two we could simplify the transit in the region and have it more interconnected by getting rid of separate stations (Silver Spring, Franconia Springfield, Greenbelt, College Park)

Circular Line if we had some circular lines most of the travel problems when a station or two are closed would be gone

Lines that do not go through DC; everybody does not need to go to DC and why should they be forced to travel downtown if they are not going there.

by kk on Oct 12, 2010 11:46 am • linkreport

I think @pat has hit the nail on the head. Expanding a one-track metro system might be great in the short term but there needs to be more emphasis on creating more express lines (multiple tracks) to accommodate the expansion. I don't want to stop at every metro stop from here to Baltimore in order to get to end of the line or downtown DC. Maybe street cars can be used for "local" riders while metro is used as an express transit system (eliminate some stops). The same goes for bus routes. Just an idea - don't kill me.

by Snowpeas on Oct 12, 2010 11:48 am • linkreport

Others have said it or hinted at it, but I'll state it: before we consider extending any lines, we should decouple the blue and orange lines. That would increase capacity throughout the entire system. It is way more important than Metro to BWI.

Adding the pedestrian tunnels and decoupling the Yellow and green lines may rank above the Blue-Orange decoupling, but nothing else does. In my opinion.

by David C on Oct 12, 2010 12:06 pm • linkreport

Many of these ideas are great but conspicuously absent from the discussion is how any of them would be paid for. WMATA can't afford to maintain the current system without frequent fare hikes, deferring preventive maintenance and not acting on safety issues. The DC government is running a nine-figure budget deficit and the governments of Maryland and Virginia aren't doing much better. New plans which would require tens of billions in capital investment plus substantially increased operating costs just don't seem realistic no matter how much we want them to be.

by Jacob on Oct 12, 2010 12:15 pm • linkreport

Isn't the strategic question is whether WMATA should be the driver of regional integration?

Among its other problems, WMATA seems to be failing at the regional integration and tying bus service into raill service. Perhaps it is time we say scrap bus and turn it over to local jurisdictions.

by charlie on Oct 12, 2010 12:16 pm • linkreport

@ Many of You

Great points, thank you very much, and there should be more opportunities for detailed review and discussion of sub-elements of the plan overall. We're looking forward to that.

Spreading transfer loads across more stations -- very important, because platform capacity may be more limited than line-haul capacity. This is also a SAFETY issue.

Separating lines -- this is key for reliability and system redundancy, as well as providing for more platform/transfer capacity

Regional transit is not the same thing as Metro -- that's true. This work, led by Metro, aims to evaluate what the region's transit needs are. Some solutions might obviously "belong" to Metro, but many others may equally obviously belong to the jurisdictions.

Capacity "across the Potomac" and streetcar connections versus heavy rail -- the key questions will be performance (does the mode meet the demand) and affordability/"willingness to pay." A new Metro bridge/tunnel could be very expensive, but might have greater capacity to support growth. Streetcar connections could be much less costly but provide a lot less capacity. Which would be more affordable, though, given those broad costs and benefits? This study will aim to at least frame that question better with numbers. The question can't be answered without the region's response aggregate response.

by A Metro Planner on Oct 12, 2010 12:16 pm • linkreport

@Andrew (the other, capitalized one)

I'd imagine that we'd have to run an every other/every-third type of service out to BWI in order for it to be economical.

If we did it, I'd propose building a special set of trains just for that purpose that would be capable of running at ~110mph (vs. the current theoretical 70 mph maximum), given that it'd be a very long, straight corridor with few stops. Obviously, commuters would appreciate the increased speeds as well. Running trains at 100mph isn't rocket science (powering them via third rail is, but also seems like an engineering hurdle that we can overcome).

Also, what about the downtown blue line realignment? Ideally, you'd want a separated Yellow Line to be planned in conjunction with an additional east-west downtown (presumably Blue) line. There are a few obvious transit-deprived neighborhoods that we could hit, as long as we planned the new alignments carefully.

We could also talk about extending transit to the parts of DC that don't need it. Although the short-term benefits would be negligible, there are areas of DC that have almost no residential (or active commercial) activity that could be easily opened up to future development. The New York Ave corridor is the most obvious example, as it's only about a mile from the Capitol, has almost no residential development to speak of, and plenty of space to build a railroad down the entire length with minimal disruption to existing buildings.

Other food for thought:
What about National Harbor and the Wilson Bridge?

What about the handful of other existing railroads in the DC area? If that alternate freight alignment gets built, we'll have a handful of extra tracks to do something with, and MARC/VRE will have vastly increased capacity. We could build an "express metro" system modeled after the Paris RER or London Overground. (Which really would be the best way to get out to BWI, and probably should have been how the Silver Line got built).

by andrew on Oct 12, 2010 12:16 pm • linkreport

Metro to BWI is probably the worst idea of all of these. All that needs to be done is to build the purple line so that there is a connection at New Carrollton and to buy some more MARC express trains that stop Union - NC - BWI - Penn. That would probably save at least $4 billion.

by NikolasM on Oct 12, 2010 12:18 pm • linkreport

Growth sholdn't be in the vocabulary until the system that we already have is made better & more dependable. For example, turn back the sevice cuts, roll back the fare increases, add more tracks(bigger tunnels), and increase the repair budget so that stations do not have to be closed during operating hours, for repairs.

by Mark on Oct 12, 2010 12:25 pm • linkreport

at what point does tacking on extensions to the ends of the lines become just another way of encouraging sprawl? what is the difference between metro creating a corridor of more sprawl vs. a new highway creating the same thing? (just because it would encourage *transit* oriented development isn't an excuse.) planning should focus on metro being able to support growth within the core or in semi-dense areas that can be built up further. so with that, @David C is absolutely right.

separating blue & orange downtown (and a new river crossing from rosslyn, because let's face it, even if you run silver through pentagon somehow, as shown in the graphic above, the rosslyn tunnel will again be a major choke point sometime in the future.) this will esp. help with transit access downtown north of K street.

of course, to increase density in DC, you need changes to zoning regulations and height restrictions, which is another can of worms.

by matt on Oct 12, 2010 12:39 pm • linkreport

A line down Columbia Pike with an endpoint in DC and stops at pentagon City and the Pentagon would take the burden off the already overstretched bus bucket brigade that now runs. A streetcar would work, though I can't see VA accepting losing a lane each way, even if Arlington County might get on board. Right now that area is one of the underserved areas in terms of volume vs. capacity to carry.

by copperred on Oct 12, 2010 12:44 pm • linkreport

Separated blue line on M street is needed more than the 9th street line. More jobs will be on M from Georgetown to the Convention Center than on 9th from the river to the Convention Center. Additionally, the M street line would be 4 blocks from the current Eye street line, a 9th street line would be <2 blocks from the current 7th street line.

That said, if we can have both do it!

by Alex on Oct 12, 2010 12:48 pm • linkreport

I just moved here from NYC, and am appalled to see that the MARC and VRE don't run on the weekends. Is there a demand for weekend service? I couldn't imagine MetroNorth/NJ Transit/LIRR not running on the weekends. Aside from driving (not an attractive option for me), it seems that my only public transport options for a trip to Baltimore, for instance, would be Amtrak.

by Jess on Oct 12, 2010 12:49 pm • linkreport

@NikolasM,

This is the PDF I was referring to:

http://wmata.com/about_metro/board_of_directors/board_docs/101410_RTSPpackage.pdf

Page 11 of the PDF: "New rail lines through the core, additional Yellow and Blue lines" - i.e. they are considering separating the interlined portions of the Orange/Blue and Yellow/Green lines through the core of DC.

The document is a briefing for the WMATA board, not the plan itself. I'm sure more will be released later.

by Alex B. on Oct 12, 2010 12:50 pm • linkreport

You know, as soon as the tunnel is finished in Tyson's there will be a TBM sitting around here in the area that we could use to start separating the blue line... :-)

by NikolasM on Oct 12, 2010 12:50 pm • linkreport

@Jess MARC and VRE don't run on the weekends. Is there a demand for weekend service?

Yes.

Another option to Balto on weekends besides Amtrak is the greenline to Greenbelt to the p30 express to BWI to the lightrail to Balto. Longer, but a lot cheaper and more shedule options.

by Tina on Oct 12, 2010 12:59 pm • linkreport

There's already a connection between Metro Center and Gallery Place: it's called F Street. I can't believe it's more cost effective to build underground pedestrian tunnels between these two and the Farragut stations that it would be to rewrite the gate software to allow for virtual tunnels.

by OX4 on Oct 12, 2010 1:03 pm • linkreport

First of all, to say that the State, the District and the Commonwealth have different interests is rather naive. The arbitrary lines on the map separating us politically, do not prevent our economies, traffic and transit interests being very intertwined.

Having said that, we need a significant expansion of our rail, metro, streetcar and bus systems.

Metro:

For metro we need a separate Blue Line downtown and the tunnel connections mentioned by others. Possibly also an extra line thorough northern DC between the spokes of rht Red Line. We also need a switch at Rosslyn that would allow a line from Vienna to Alexandria. This would be a relatively cheap fix for VA travelers and congestion into DC.

We also need to extend all lines further out. You can bitch all you want about sprawl, but it's happening and by not extending transit in that area, you're just causing more congested roads.

I live in VA, so I"ll outline what I think is needed for VA. I don't want to ignore MD, but since I don't live there, I just don't know the geography as well. I assume that similar expansions are needed as in VA.

The Yellow Line needs to be extended to Ft Belvoir, Woodbridge and onto the Prince Williams Parkway to Manassas. The VA congressional bobos are already working on the extension to Ft Belvoir, but it is silly to think that most incoming BRACcers will move to Alexandria (Fairfax). In fact, most will move to south of Belvoir.

The Blue line needs to be extended along 7900-7100-123 to GMU and Fairfax City and then hook up to the Orange and Silver lines. And the Purple one if it could please come across the Potomac. This is important for interconnectivity and because many people live out there in sprawl country that need to get to GMU/Tyson's/Alexandria and downtown DC. Now these people drive, and congest our roads.

The Orange line needs to extend to Centreville and Manassas where it can meet the extended Yellow Line.

There should also be a line along I-395 from the Pentagon to Franconia-Springfield. Combined with the streetcars proposed below, this line would unlock the road hell in Shirlington, west-Alexandria and Bailey's Crossroads.

I'd also propose lines along Route 7 and Glebe, but those could be streetcars too. The one along Route 7 could go by downtown Alexandria and hop over the WW Bridge and hook up to the Purple and Green Lines in MD.

For MD, I'd guess that the Green and Purple lines can be easily extended on both ends.

Streetcars:

DC made a fantastic start and should look where it can jump across the border, where the other jurisdictions can build their own lines. Arlington is planning some lines, and I'd suggest putting one along Rt 50 on top of the above mentioned possible routes along Rt 7 and Glebe. I am sure similar extensions can be proposed for MD.

Bus:

We clearly need a more extended bus system to pick people up and bring them to the new metro lines. These buses should not only cater to commuters, but also to shoppers and sport spectators and the late night folks. Perhaps at lower frequencies, but if we want to keep drunks of the road, this is actually very important.

We need BRT along all major roads, riding on the emergency lanes when congested. And of course with communication to the traffic lights ad stops just after intersections.

Rail:

For people from further out, who need to get to downtown and across town, we need to massively expand VRE and MARC. Both should go twice an our along existing lines and 4 times an hour at rush hour.

On the VA side, the Manassas line could be extended to Culpepper and possibly Charlotteville, while the Fredericksburg should in the end connect properly to Richmond.

The MARC network has already those proportions, but needs more trains at all times of day. I do not know how much need there is for an extension from Frederick to Hagerstown. A good rail connection to Annapolis would be nice as well, I guess long Rt 50/301 (I-595).

MARC and VRE should work together in such a way that people can travel easily from Baltimore to Richmond.

Roads:

Finally, since I am dreaming anyway, I'd propose a far out outer interstate by-pass for long-distance travelers from beyond Baltimore to beyond Richmond along I-97 and MD-301. That would get a lot of people of off I-495 that don't need to be there. Note that this would not be an outer Beltway, but a complete bypass of DC for long distance travel on I-95. It could be very limited access to protect southern MD.

So, my lunch break is over and I have to stop dreaming.

by Jasper on Oct 12, 2010 1:12 pm • linkreport

There needs to be a way to get CSX from Virginia Beach to Baltimore/Midwest without going through DC. In the long run, that is the cheapest way to get increased transit capacity.

Imagine a rail service between Rockville and Silver Spring every ten minutes.

by mcs on Oct 12, 2010 1:13 pm • linkreport

Triple and quadruple tracking please.

by Redline SOS on Oct 12, 2010 1:34 pm • linkreport

The tunnels allowing different transfer points are key in eliminating bottlenecks. Please don't forget the suburb-to-suburb commuters. For example, the well-documented mass of travelers who live in eastern Montgomery County or PG County and travel west by Beltway to their workplaces in Bethesda, Rockville, and Virginia. There are many who drive because public transportation would take too long, though they prefer to take public transportation for environmental reasons. For example, Forest Glen Metro should be connected by a direct bus with Bethesda.

by Sheila on Oct 12, 2010 1:39 pm • linkreport

First of all, to say that the State, the District and the Commonwealth have different interests is rather naive.

Just to elaborate: in the case of the close-in suburbs of Northern Virginia and, say, Montgomery County, of course you're correct. But as we see with the perenniel issues of under-funding WMATA by politicians in Richmond and Annapolis, I think it's simplistic (I won't say naive) to say that "Maryland, DC, and Virginia share common interests".

They do until they don't. Heck, "Virginia" and "Northern Virginia" don't even share common interests.

by oboe on Oct 12, 2010 1:47 pm • linkreport

@NikolasM: extending the Green Line to BWI would be super convenient for those of us who live on the Green Line! I'm at U Street - 9 stops to National, and to BWI would be 7 stops to Greenbelt and however many would be built after that. It would be great to have a choice of airports available via rail. (And yes I have taken the bus from Greenbelt.)

by M.V. Jantzen on Oct 12, 2010 1:50 pm • linkreport

Japser, it's important to think "big" when developing ideas like this. The concepts can always be whittled down by the "realists" later on. Remember: "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will not themselves be realized." --Daniel Hudson Burnham, American Architect and Urban Planner

by KentW on Oct 12, 2010 1:52 pm • linkreport

If I were in charge of Metro, my priority would be to build more flexibility - via more connections. Thus, "Y" tracks for Court House to Arlington Cemetery, Arlington Cemetery to L'Enfant Plaza, and Pentagon to Waterfront. And maybe a way to switch from Green to Red at Ft Totten? And that Farragut tunnel!

by M.V. Jantzen on Oct 12, 2010 1:55 pm • linkreport

Extending the streetcar (where it used to run) across Key Bridge into Virginia at Rosslyn Circle and beyond would provide a crucial mass transit link between North Arlington and Upper NW. A cross-river connection to the Columbia Pike streetcar is similarly important. And as these streetcar lines tie into other proposals such as a line along Rt 7, then a large part of Northern Virginia, not served by the subway will finally see modern, efficient, rail mass transit. I hope Metro, DDOT and other stakeholders can together plan for this and other issues of neighborhood and regional connectivity outlined in Metro's document.

by JP on Oct 12, 2010 2:15 pm • linkreport

When it comes to long-term solutions for the area's transportation woes, we need to look more closely to expanding Metrorail, not just in the suburbs, but in the District as well. A separated Blue Line, combined with new lines crossing the expanding SW/Waterfront area, Georgetown, and other underserved areas need to be examined and built.

I think DDOT's vision for streetcars is admirable, but they should really be studying rebuilding vast stretches of the old DC Transit system. Any bus line that is a 2 digit number (32/70/42/92, etc) should be replaced with a streetcar.

Although streetcars will make it easier to get around the city, I have a feeling DC will be getting a lot denser in the next few decades, which means more rapid rail (and the costs associated with it).

I'm also a fan of the idea of creating a circumferential Purple line, connecting the ends of the existing Metro system together. It shouldn't require a transfer at Metro Center to get from Bethesda to Falls Church (a 25 min. drive v. a 60 min Metro ride).

by John on Oct 12, 2010 2:20 pm • linkreport

@ oboe: Heck, "Virginia" and "Northern Virginia" don't even share common interests.

Your mistake is that you focus on the tiny slice of reality that is politics. Kinda hard in this area to realize that there is more to life than just politics, but it is nevertheless.

All of us in the DC will benefit from good infrastructure, helping with good economics development. Regardless of what politicians say, it does not really matter whether a metrostation or company is in Alexandria, Bethesda or NE. We all live in this area, and share the ups and downs. It is not only Richmond that takes NoVa for granted. Annapolis does the same with MoCo and PG. And quite frankly, the Feds do the same with DC. This should embolden us to collaborate more, in stead of allowing idiots from Oklahoma, Utah, Alaska or Annapolis and Richmond to play us against each other.

@ KentW: it's important to think "big" when developing ideas like this

Just describing the reality of large cities Europe, Asia and quite frankly, some in South-America. Since when do Americans mutter that copying the rest of the works is dreaming big? You guys invented the Big Dream!

by Jasper on Oct 12, 2010 3:35 pm • linkreport

@Jasper. That was before partisan politics made any big projects a political impossibility. I wasn't being facetious.

Here's what I would call "big, bold idea":

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/image.cgi?src=201006/gilmermaplarge.jpg&ref=6079

by KentW on Oct 12, 2010 3:52 pm • linkreport

@MV Jantzen - You already do have rail access to BWI. The whole area out that direction is much more ideally suited for commuter rail - which can and should be improved, but can provide for a much cheaper cost a quicker way to BWI than metro ever could achieve. Perhaps extending the Green line to Laurel is a good idea. I don't know how much further I'd go past that though.

For $~100 million we could buy several high speed commuter sets that do nothing but Union-New Carrollton-BWI-Penn all day every day. Piggyback on NEC improvements that are coming on this stretch anyways. This would be 20-23 miles of extra metro track that we'd be saving from building, easily billions of dollars in cost- which could go to separating the blue line and perhaps the yellow, both of which are far more crucial for core ridership.

by NikolasM on Oct 12, 2010 4:10 pm • linkreport

Airport access would be a secondary priority if a Metro extension to BWI were built. The main priority would be providing transit access to the massive employment center at Fort Meade, which is currently unserved by transit. Much like how the main point of the Silver Line is providing service to Tysons.

by Phil on Oct 12, 2010 4:15 pm • linkreport

Extending the Green Line to BWI would of course connect more than just BWI - I think the primary goal is to connect to Ft Meade first, so BWI is a smaller incremental extension (see http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post.cgi?id=627). To use MARC, I still have to go on the Green Line, but south, then transfer to the Red Line, then transfer to MARC. Riding just the Green Line means no need to check the schedule; once MARC is used you had better be sure there's a train waiting for you. Even if service is hourly (and it currently doesn't run at all on weekends), it is still slower than just hopping on and off the Green Line. (Yes, this is the perspective of someone who lives on the Green Line - but you have more density along the Green Line (and thus more customers) than along MARC, I'd wager. MARC's service should still be improved regardless. So, the answer is, do both!

But yes, in general, I'd say it's better to invest in the core region. I'd make more use of a new downtown Metro line than I would of that Green Line extension.

I'm all for options. Hey, I'd love to arrive at National, then take a water taxi to Georgetown, then a pedicab or Circulater to home! (Boston has water taxis from the airport - fun way to connect to the ferry terminal if you're headed to P-town.)

by M.V. Jantzen on Oct 12, 2010 4:27 pm • linkreport

@ KentW: before partisan politics made any big projects a political impossibility

What partisan politics? As far as I can see, the DC region is ruled by mostly democrats. DC is completely dominated by democrats. All four MD and VA senators are democrats. Most of our House reps are democrats. The MD government is totally controlled by democrats (Gov, House, Senate). The VA senate is controlled by democrats. We just had two democratic governors in VA. We have both the majority and minority whip in the US House coming from our region. What else do you need? Extermination of republicans?

Seriously, you can't blame republicans for this one.

by Jasper on Oct 12, 2010 4:30 pm • linkreport

The best bet for that would be to build a commuter rail extension from just north of Laurel that turns east and follows Laurel Ft Meade Road (198), then follows 32, and then connects to the NEC line in Odenton. Far less construction necessary and opens up some intriguing commuter rail prospects.

by NikolasM on Oct 12, 2010 4:35 pm • linkreport

@KentW: That map does not address how to extend the lines. Sure, adding 2 or 3 lines seems like it'd make everything easier, but we need to extend the lines.
The Blue Line should be extended to Woodbridge, by means of the CSX RoW, then possibly to Potomac Mills or so.
The Yellow Line should extend through the Rt 1 corridor, helping to revitalize the area. We could make Rt 1 Fairfax's Ballston or Clarendon.
The Orange Line needs to be extended to Centreville or Manassas using the I-66 median.

by Herp on Oct 12, 2010 4:38 pm • linkreport

I honestly think the Yellow line's southern terminal should stay at Huntington.

1. Theres no open space along Rt. 1, so extending the line would would A. destroy lots of homes or B. cost trillions to bore all of that tunnel to Ft. Belvoir/Lorton.

2. I'm pretty sure must residents who live along that corridor don't want it to become the next Arlington.

However I do think the yellow line should separate at Shaw-Howard just before the curve into U street and go up Georgia Ave to Silver Spring then go up Colesville Road then finally coming from underground on Columbia Pike (Rt. 29) become elevated until Burtonsville.

Stations would be at:

-Georgia and Howard Pl
-Georgia and Irving
-Georgia and Park Rd
-Georgia Ave Petworth
-Georgia ave Kansas
-Georgia and Kennedy
-Georgia and Piney Branch
-Georgia and Blair Road/Eastern ave
-Georgia and Wayne (Free out of system transfer to the Redline)

^The stretch of track along that segment would have four tracks to have express trains.

Also the stations would be designed different with lower ceilings and be more to the surface. Station entrances would be like the ones in NYC, staircase to the 1st mezz and an escalator to the 2nd mezz/platform. Also an elevator would be placed at each station as well.

-Four Corners
-White Oak
-Briggs Chaney
-Burtonsville

Many of you may disagree, but Georgia Ave could be the D.C. version of Broadway or Lexington Ave.

by Mike on Oct 12, 2010 5:21 pm • linkreport

I take that back, have the yellow line make a left after Huntington and head for the National Harbor.

I wish I knew how to create one of those metro maps...

by Mike on Oct 12, 2010 5:26 pm • linkreport

The VA senate can't do anything if the house is weighted heavily to rural conservative Virginia...

by NikolasM on Oct 12, 2010 5:28 pm • linkreport

@jasper: VA house blocks attempts to raise Virginia share for transit improvements.

We don't need a GOP extermination, just a realization that it would be nice to devote tax revenue to infrastructure sometimes.

by Michael Perkins on Oct 12, 2010 5:35 pm • linkreport

Also create another branch for the Green line to veer off just after Congress Heights to head for National Harbor with stops at:

Southern Ave and Southview Dr (Oxon Hill)
Eastover-Glassmanor
National Harbor

This would have good access for both MD and VA residents to the Harbor with DC residents having two options depending on where they're at.

by Mike on Oct 12, 2010 5:40 pm • linkreport

Why does the Silver Line have to run along the already crowded Orange Line?

Why can't it intersect at Falls Church and instead head to connect with Route 1 and either the Blue or Orange Lines?

That would resolve the congestion problems at Rosslyn some?

by Jonathan on Oct 12, 2010 5:52 pm • linkreport

@ Mike

Why not just extend the Yellow Line to Potomac or McLean via crossing Rock Creek stopping at one of the Red Line stops creating a mirror image of the Green Line after Columbia Heights and then extend the Purple Line to a station on the extended Yellow Line.

by kk on Oct 12, 2010 5:53 pm • linkreport

Several comments:
Union Station - Already busiest station in Metro, should start thinking of it as DC's version of NYC Penn Station and Grand Central. Makes sense to run a 2nd Metro line to it with direct service from VA. Union Station can become the major transportation hub for east coast and regional rail lines. If/when VRE, MARC (Penn Line anyway) go to 7 day/week service with frequent service in both directions; NEC sees major improvements to NYC and Boston, and if the SE HSR corridor to Richmond to Charlotte, NC is built & electrified to become an southern extension to the NEC (someday running to Atlanta), Union station becomes the major HSR connection to up and down the east coast. With a huge increase in ridership.

Blue line reroute with new tunnel to Georgetown and new stations in NW DC for filling in gaps in DC service - is this idea dead?

Extending the Metro lines - A good idea for several short extensions, but can't extend them too far because without express trains, not going to get much ridership outside of commuter hours with so many stops.

Blue line extension south in VA - an extension turning southeast to Ft. Belvoir makes sense if there can be development around the several additional stations along with servicing the commuter needs for the base relocations. But rather than extending the Blue line to Woodbridge, cheaper to expand VRE service to 7 days/week regular service as part of building a separated set of passenger rail tracks along the RF&P corridor for both VRE and Amtrak.

Orange line extension to Centreville - The I-66 median strip disappears for some stretches west of Vienna. Not going to be cheap to add outer lanes to I-66 to restore the median gap for the Orange line to use. Maybe add 1 or 2 stops further west pass the I-66 / Rt. 50 interchange to a new station near the malls there and the Fairfax county government center, but not all the way to Centreville.

Extending the Metro all the way to BWI? Good grief, it is a Metro line, not intercity rail. The NEC corridor between DC and Baltimore will be upgraded to 3 and 4 tracks anyway; just run regular 7/day a week MARC service to the current BWI station. Much cheaper and already planned for.

How about four tracking the Orange/Blue/Silver line from Rosslyn to Stadium Armory for greater capacity and express service? Hideously expensive at this point, but in hindsight, maybe what they should have done from the start.

Wild idea: turn/switch tunnels at or under Metro Center with a new level. Have the Silver line coming from McPherson Sq turn onto the Red line eastward at Metro Center. Would provide flexibility in constructing new service routes combining segments of current Red, Orange, Blue, future Silver lines.

by Alan F on Oct 12, 2010 6:35 pm • linkreport

FWIW, wrt this particular topic, I'd recommend your acknowledging my presentation/writings on metropolitan transportation planning (vs. metropolitan transit planning) in a hierarchical, networked fashion.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/34657145/Metropolitan-Transit-Planning-Towards-a-Hierarchical-and-Conceptual-Framework

I have been making this general point for a few years.

We don't do it in the region in a comprehensive, integrated way, which is how I came to understand the necessity, and come up with the framework.

The thing that needs to be added to the presentation are a couple slides on designating a high frequency surface transit network within the primary transit networks, and priority transit corridors for surface transit at the core, and in other high frequency transit corridors.

But yeah, investments in transit in the core are going to have more impact than investments outside the core. (This is comparable to the debate about the inner vs. the outer purple line.)

by Richard Layman on Oct 12, 2010 6:37 pm • linkreport

One of my criticisms of DC streetcar planning which hasn't been supported by the blogosphere is the point that it isn't sufficiently regional in scope, nor does it differentiate between light rail and streetcars, and that it is too hermetic/DC focused in terms of recognizing that interdicting traffic into and out of the city should be seen as a legitimate and important goal of surface based rail transit.

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2010/04/looking-backwards-vs-looking-forwards.html

by Richard Layman on Oct 12, 2010 6:40 pm • linkreport

I agree with Jacob. Show me the money. Most of these proposals require 11 figure investments but right now we are barely capable of 10 figure investments.

If you guys want to be taken seriously, develop back-of-the-napkin estimates for what these things would cost then present a $10B plan, a $50B plan, and a $100B plan. In reality you'll be doing good to get the $4B plan.

by movement on Oct 12, 2010 9:12 pm • linkreport

@NikolasM There is no TBM at Tysons. Tunnels are dug using the NATM. Facts, people.

I understand that people don't want to extend metro to create sprawl, but extending existing lines might make sense in some locations. Extending the Yellow line to Fort Belvoir and the Green line to Fort Meade (Maryland's largest employer) would reduce sprawl. These gigantic job centers are unlikely to move near a Metro stop, so it's probably easier to bring Metro to the job centers instead. As for the argument "who will ride the Metro [large number] stops if an extension is built", pretty much no one. And no one really rides from one end of a line to another as is. People who work at Fort Meade or Fort Belvoir would live a few stops away, not at the other end of the line.

The streetcars are probably better off under local control and not under some shared DC/VA/MD organization. Streetcars are not meant to move people from the suburbs into the city; they're meant for transportation between neighborhoods. Separation from far-away jurisdictions makes streetcar lines easier to build; separation from MD and VA is a major reason why DC's streetcars are moving forward. And any extension from one jurisdiction's streetcar lines into another's ought to be built with the option to "turn off" the extension in case of any conflict.

by Amber on Oct 12, 2010 9:31 pm • linkreport

We had the green line to Ft. Meed argument last year. My position remains unchanged.

by David C on Oct 12, 2010 9:49 pm • linkreport

Express tracks through downtown is never going to happen. To retrofit existing tunnels and underground stations would cost north of $50 billion(!) dollars and take segments of our existing lines out of commission for years. We're not going to do all that to shave 20 min/day off of people's commutes. Separating a line, such as the blue, while still an enormous task is probably less costly and disruptive.

by Jason on Oct 12, 2010 10:46 pm • linkreport

@A Metro Planner
If you really are a Metro planner
Spreading transfer loads across more stations -- very important, because platform capacity may be more limited than line-haul capacity. This is also a SAFETY issue.

Then please put the Farragut invisible tunnel into service now. It's a no-brainer, would take a few thousand dollars of programming, could be done in a week or two if someone in charge wanted it to, and would do exactly what you prescribe above. Please see these previous posts (and the links in them to the originals):
http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post.cgi?id=1368
http://greatergreaterwashington.org/tag.cgi?label=Farragut%20tunnel

by Steve O on Oct 13, 2010 12:09 am • linkreport

The invisible tunnel is overrated on GGW. I believe very few people would take advantage of it during rush hour. The duration for taking to escalator up to street level, waiting for walk signals to cross busy streets, then descending the escalator to get back underground is not a trivial amount of time. Not too mention exposing yourself to the elements (rain, heat or cold) mid commute.

We need the underground tunnel if we want the casual metro user to consider Farragut West/North a transfer point.

by Jason on Oct 13, 2010 12:40 am • linkreport

@Mike

VDOT and Fairfax County want to reconstruct Route 1. Doing that in conjunction with a Yellow Line extension underneath the road would kill two birds with one stone and also save some dollars.

Also, as a resident of Route 1 (my address is officially Richmond Hwy), I would love to see a Yellow Line extension south towards Belvoir.

by Froggie on Oct 13, 2010 7:14 am • linkreport

What Washington and most U.S. cities lack, is a system of efficient, integrated and well-situated regional rail lines similar to the Paris RER and the German S-Bahn. Extending Metro further above ground is costly and unmanageable.

by Pragmatist on Oct 13, 2010 7:45 am • linkreport

@ Jason; I tend to agree, but: the number of friends of mine (not-GGW types) with smartphones checking metro time apps is astounding. If you could get 5% of riders using something like the invisible tunnel it could be a real win. Imagine a app that send you a pic of the farragut north station so you can determine how crowded it is, and you can decide whether to make the walk (granted, in nice weather) or transfer at MetroCenter.

by charlie on Oct 13, 2010 9:32 am • linkreport

@ Jason: Not too mention exposing yourself to the elements (rain, heat or cold) mid commute.

This weather argument is bogus. People perceive the weather to be much worse than it actually is, especially with the weather channels hyping every rain drop and snow flake.

People who jog, run, have a dog or just look out of the window know this. People who listen to WTOP, or only watch the weatherbug flash in their system tray on their computer don't.

I have been walking across Key Bridge twice a day since March. On only four (4) occasions, rain forced me to take a bus. I got soaked once, and sprinkled on just a few times. Furthermore, people do not live and work in metro stations, so if they can get to a metro station, they know what the weather is and that they won't die when spending two minutes in the outdoors.

I do think that checking out, taking elevators and crossing busy roads is a time killer. The NPS should suck it up and allow the d@mn tunnel.

by Jasper on Oct 13, 2010 10:35 am • linkreport

Based on current platform crowding at Gallery Place, an underground tunnel with moving walkways there is already ridiculously overdue. A tunnel under Farragut Square would no doubt help with crowding at Metro Center as well.

Also Jasper, just because you like to be exposed to the elements doesn't mean everyone does. One of the benefits of Metro (when it's working properly) is climate-controlled stations. It makes the experience more comparable to using a car.

by Anonymous on Oct 13, 2010 10:49 am • linkreport

The invisible tunnel isn't going to save enough time at rush hour to get people to walk up escalators and cross two busy streets. Who's going to do all that just to maybe save 5 minutes? It probably would be more helpful during times when the trains are running 15 minutes apart. Though in reality only psychologically b/c if you were going to miss that train at Metro Center (which is at most what, 5 minutes from either Farragut?) you sure as hell aren't going to make it by walking up and out of the station and over to the other.

by MLD on Oct 13, 2010 10:55 am • linkreport

Who's going to do all that just to maybe save 5 minutes?

People who place a high value on their time. Young people who are willing to walk fast, climb the escalators etc... for whom the time savings will be better. People who want to work a little extra walking into their day. People who want some extra outside time on nice days. In short: Some people will. That's who.

by David C on Oct 13, 2010 11:12 am • linkreport

Regarding the time to walk between Farragut West and Farragut North...

I can get off at Farragut West at rush hour, hit the bank to make a deposit and walk to Farragut North and still beat or meet the same train I would have made if I had just rode to Metro Center and transferred. There is a time savings that can be realized here at rush hour. It may be minor but it's still time. Not to mention if it's a beautiful day outside getting out of the system for a short walk is kind of nice.

by Craig on Oct 13, 2010 11:21 am • linkreport

Bit off-topic, but just to respond to @Jasper:

What partisan politics? As far as I can see, the DC region is ruled by mostly democrats. DC is completely dominated by democrats. All four MD and VA senators are democrats. Most of our House reps are democrats.

I know that, at least on the national level, folks on the right like to pretend that "majority rules", but if the last Congress has shown us anything, it's that--even with a super-majority--there's very little that the party in power can do without buy-in from the minority party. (That's why the passage of ACA was so stunning.)

Cutting taxes, funding sprawl, and loosening regulations on industry is always easy; any kind of major infrastructure effort is a non-starter.

by oboe on Oct 13, 2010 11:53 am • linkreport

@ oboe: any kind of major infrastructure effort is a non-starter.

Nonsense. Where did the ICC, the Springfield interchange (that they're still building on), the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge (+ all the upgraded on both sides of the bridge), the connection of the Fairfax County Parkway to itself and the HOT lanes come from? Are those not infrastructure? That's a few billion right there.

The money is there. It is being spent. There is just not the political will (and demand from voters?) to spend it on transit.

This has nothing to do with bipartisan politics. This has to do with voters not telling their representatives what to do.

by Jasper on Oct 13, 2010 12:58 pm • linkreport

@ Anonymous: just because you like to be exposed to the elements doesn't mean everyone does.

And how do people who do not like to be exposed to the elements get to and from the metro?

BTW, "not liking to be exposed to the elements" is comparable to "not liking to be exposed to finite amounts of money", or "not liking to be exposed to traffic congestion": reasonable, but unrealistic desire. Buck up and deal with it.

by Jasper on Oct 13, 2010 1:06 pm • linkreport

Nonsense. Where did the ICC, the Springfield interchange (that they're still building on), the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge (+ all the upgraded on both sides of the bridge), the connection of the Fairfax County Parkway to itself and the HOT lanes come from? Are those not infrastructure? That's a few billion right there.

Sorry, I thought I covered this under my caveat "funding sprawl". You can always find money for sprawl-inducing traffic lanes. (Or "roadways" if you want to keep things anodyne)

Upkeep of Metro? Not so much. But now that I understand your argument, I agree: if Democrats were so inclined, they could probably get funding for all sorts of massive highway projects. Of course, that's not a particularly interesting observation.

by oboe on Oct 13, 2010 1:32 pm • linkreport

(not liking to be exposed to the elements) is an unrealistic desire. Buck up and deal with it.

When something is optional to save 5 minutes mid commute people don't have to deal with it. Most won't. It's not comparable to being exposed to the elements before or after getting on Metro - those segments of the trip are not optional. Are you incapable of discerning the difference Jasper?

I'm not disputing that some hardcore people who are either transit geeks or obsess over train arrival times on their smart phones would take advantage of this. But they represent a very small share of riders. If WMATA REALLY wants to take the load off Metro center this is not a substitute for an underground tunnel.

by Jason on Oct 13, 2010 1:56 pm • linkreport

@ Jason: If WMATA REALLY wants to take the load off Metro center this is not a substitute for an underground tunnel.

Oh, I agree with that. I said that before. But it's a time and convenience issue, not a weather issue. As I mentioned, the weather is a lot better than most people think.

by Jasper on Oct 13, 2010 2:31 pm • linkreport

To take the load off Metro Center and Gallery Place, Metro needs to connect stations on different lines to each other, and not just by pedestrian tunnels, though those are a start. Connections could be done by express bus or light rail if cost is an issue. For example, why not connect Rosslyn with Dupont? Or Forest Glen with Bethesda? Or Greenbelt with Glenmont and Medical Center?

by Sheila on Oct 13, 2010 2:33 pm • linkreport

DC's weather is less than ideal most of the year, Jasper. We were a swamp before we got paved over. Many people get to Metro by car, and they enjoy sheltered access to stations. Shelters have also been added to bus waiting areas, most notably at West Falls Church.

Increasing passenger comfort should be a priority of any transit agency seeking to lure people from their cars. The "tough guy" argument works for machismo, but not for attracting riders. And besides, our subway system is supposed to be among the best in the world--rider comfort is a big reason for that.

If Washingtonians were tougher we could go without air-conditioned cars and insulated windows. People could bring earplugs to block out the noise of the scraping metal in the tunnels. Heck, forget sheltered stations even. People can use umbrellas, right?

by Anonymous on Oct 13, 2010 4:35 pm • linkreport

Two things:

1) The Blue Line needs to be separate and be a higher priority than a separate Green Line; Rosslyn-L'Enfant is one of the busiest sections of the Metro system. However, instead of running under M Street all the way, it should move upwards to connect to Dupont Circle, then run to Logan Circle, down to Mt Vernon Square, and then to Union Station. How to connect the Blue Line back I'm not sure of.

2) DC in many ways is similar to Paris in terms of growth patterns: there is a defined core section with limited available growth and a number of economic hubs in the surrounding area. To improve the region, we need to plan it within a web formation. DC should act as the center, with Tysons, North Arlington, South Arlington, Alexandria, Bethesda, and Silver Spring as suburban hubs all connected to each other and DC by rapid transit. The Purple Line can serve as an interim measure, but in the long run suburb-suburb traffic will need Metrorail.

What the Washington area needs is an RER-type system that connects suburbs while running express through the core. This will increase capacity while reducing travel times and improving interconnectivity.

by Phil on Oct 13, 2010 6:00 pm • linkreport

DC's weather is less than ideal most of the year, Jasper. We were a swamp before we got paved over.
Both of these statements are factually wrong. The invisible tunnel doesn't decrease anyone's comfort, but it does increase their options.

Phil, Blue line. Here's what I'd do. 35th to Q to Florida Avenue to V to Florida to Benning Road. Ped tunnels to DuPont, U Street, and NY Ave metros.

by David C on Oct 13, 2010 7:44 pm • linkreport

Metro to Dale City seems redundant, as does Metro to BWI, given that VRE and MARC upgrades could serve these purposes equally well for a fraction of the cost. And Orange line extension to Fair Oaks/Govt Ctr/Ffx Corner is an ABSOLUTE (where I-66 & Rt-50 essentially combine), but extending to Centreville is not necessary. Express bus service past the 66/50 choke pt would be just fine.

by stevek_fairfax on Oct 13, 2010 9:44 pm • linkreport

...and no, for those who don't live in Fairfax City/Fair Oaks/Centreville, the Manassas VRE line doesn't serve the I-66 corridor :). It serves Burke and Mannassas. That is why I advocate for the Orange line extension (just one station is fine - no other transit is really accessible, and the Vienna station lots fill up at 8 AM.

by stevek_fairfax on Oct 13, 2010 9:48 pm • linkreport

I've always wondered if someone could produce an interactive flash mass transit map using a vector-based program and simple algorithms that could calculate cost/benefit efficiencies of different schemes.

some factors could be:
mode type - 1) high occupancy grade separated $$$$, 2) low occupancy grade separated $$$, 3) light rail or BRT dedicated lanes at grade $$, 4) light rail or bus priority mixed traffic $, 5) upgrade of existing service $, 6) grade-separated in existing urban area $$$$$

distance efficiency - # of stations per length of service laid. The flash map would include a simple "draw line" vector tool like google maps, but the line would be one of the 6 types above and run a multiplier which would calculate cost of that line.

density efficiency - res or work population within radius of station....station traffic.

proximity to existing transit and used capacity of existing

Calculated would be:
-total cost of proposed lines
-distance efficiency
-density efficiency
-redundancy punishment (if new service duplicates existing (only if existing is underutilized). Whether or not a service is underutilized or not would be a predetermined constant.

The end result would give a user a grade A-F based on their results...think a really simple version of this game:
http://marketplace.publicradio.org/features/budget_hero/

but map-based.

Thoughts?

by stevek_fairfax on Oct 13, 2010 10:13 pm • linkreport

Well, we might as well be a swamp with the mosquitoes and humidity we get during the summer. And weather is a matter of opinion, not fact. It's simply not comfortable to be outside most of the year.

I'm not arguing these things to say the invisible tunnel is useless. Just that it is no replacement for an underground one, and that weather should be a very valid consideration for all transit projects where connections can be put underground (say, the new station at Dulles Airport, which I believe will have an underground pedestrian tunnel).

We don't have the frigidity of Minneapolis or the heat of Charleston, but we're not the Bahamas or San Diego either. Tourists do not come here for the weather.

by Anonymous on Oct 14, 2010 9:13 am • linkreport

* Marc serves bwi to new carrollton + union station continue that on weekends as well.
* Make tunnels so people walk to relieve the "crush", its exercise and safety away from the elements.
* Light rail/tram/streetcar/bus to link short distances especially during rush hour in high density areas.
* Silver line only to East falls Church so Rosslyn line is not more busy. Have a low cost rapid bus system from East Falls to DC as an alternative to the "orange crush"; it will only get worse with silver line ridership.
* Develop New Carrollton to connect to annapolis to relieve traffic on route 50; new carrollton is a major transit route that is not used heavily.

by douche on Oct 14, 2010 9:57 am • linkreport

And weather is a matter of opinion, not fact. So whether or not it's raining is a matter of opinion? Comfort is actually a matter of fact. There is a "comfort zone" based on temperature and humidity that is used to determine whether or not most people are comfortable. I'm not sure how many days DC is in that zone, but I suspect it's pretty high. But considering so many people walk in the city - and walk to work - on so many days of the year, I'd say it's at least comfortable enough to walk a block on most days of the year.

I'm all for the actual tunnel, but this is an interim solution. It would have a benefit, and a small cost. Depending on how far out the actual tunnel is, it may be cost-effective.

by washcycle on Oct 14, 2010 10:57 am • linkreport

Well, with today's rain as an example, I wouldn't say temperature and humidity are the only concern.

by Anonymous on Oct 14, 2010 11:08 am • linkreport

Re: The Invisible Tunnel

Everyone is right. The point isn't to do this because most people will use it or that some people don't like bad weather while others love to be outside or whatever reason you can think of.

The point is that unquestionably some people will use it. Trying to paint everyone with a broad brush ("everyone else is just like me") is silly.

Through testing it myself, my rough guess is that taking the effort to make this transfer will get an able-bodied person on the previous train 2-5 times a week during rush hour. Maybe that's not worth it to YOU, but it will be worth it to some. Some of those are also trying to avoid the crush at Metro Center, so they may like it better just for that reason--even if it puts them on the same train anyway. And there's no downside. Repeat: no downside. If it's raining, then I can just use Metro Center the exact same way I do now. No one is forcing anyone out in the rain, heat or cold. It does not change anything at all for those who don't want to do it differently.

Wait--actually it does. It reduces crowding at Metro Center even for those who never, ever use it. Win-win.

The real question is, why shouldn't Metro do it? It will cost at most a few thousand in programming. My estimates are that as many as 1000 people or more may use it every day. That's using my estimate that the other 14,000 won't. Even 1 out of 20 is still hundreds of users.

It's a total no-brainer. No downside, and even if the upside is small, it's a very, very low-cost improvement in flexibility for a capacity constrained system.

Think about it this way:
The real tunnel costs $25 million, say. If 15,000 use it every weekday (the WMATA study's estimate), call that 90,000/week, it would take 10 years before the investment dropped below $1 per passenger. Even assuming growing ridership, it's still the better part of a decade.

If only 375 per day use the invisible tunnel (2.5% of the 15,000; 1:20), and it costs $20k in programming, it takes about 8 weeks for the investment to drop below $1 per passenger.

No brainer.

by Steve O on Oct 14, 2010 12:33 pm • linkreport

Well said, Steve.

On the topic of why people might choose to use the invisible tunnel: Sometimes I just want to get off the train I'm on as quickly as possible. Maybe the person in front of me has strong perfume that's giving me a headache, or maybe I'm motion sick from the train operator who feels it necessary to lurch forward 10 times during each start or stop.

by BeyondDC on Oct 14, 2010 12:43 pm • linkreport

Steve, I agree with you, but do you have any basis for the "few thousand in programming"? It shoudn't be too hard, but Metro has said that the faregates are very limited and unfortunately they are locked into one vendor for many changes which makes some things very expensive. It's just just some script on a Unix box they can go into and tweak a couple lines of code (though it'd be better if they could).

by David Alpert on Oct 14, 2010 12:45 pm • linkreport

I suppose times have changed such that the option of a line to Georgetown can even be a topic for discussion. The consensus, for lack of a better word, for the longest while was that no line went to that area to keep certain elements from going there. As a matter of fact, that same crowd that is now viewed as undesirable in the Gallery Place quadrant. Generally, there will be no perfect solution and the system will grow, or not, as people do, in fits and bounds.

by Lawson Wellington on Oct 14, 2010 2:45 pm • linkreport

I'll refute Steve's claims on the usage statistics. I don't think the participation in the invisible tunnel will be 1:15 or 1:20. I'd put the estimate at 1:150 during rush hour. As for the costs of implementation I'd agree with David that Steve has likely underestimated those as well due to the faregate vendors. Nothing costs a few thousand dollars these days...

At the end of the day I'm not saying don't do this. But understand that few people will use the invisible tunnel and WMATA has a lot of concerns so this isn't going to jump to into the top priorities anytime soon.

by Jason on Oct 14, 2010 2:57 pm • linkreport

Invisible Tunnel:

So what is to stop people from getting off doing what they have to do and then getting back on the train and pay on fare instead of two.

Say I'm on the train going wherever I need to go to the Bank, Pharmacy, or some fast food and get off at Farragut North to get it and then get back on at Farragut West.

Why should that not be counted as two trips whereas the same at other stops would not be.

I have done stuff that only takes a few minutes such as taking the train to go pick up something up from a store, dropping off mail and then get back on the train.

Before anyone says a time limit think about this the time limit will have to be favourable to seniors and the disabled to get between the stations or get ready for a discrimination lawsuit.

by kk on Oct 14, 2010 4:51 pm • linkreport

@David Alpert
Clueless on what it really would cost. $20k is 200 hours @ $100/hr. That's 5 weeks full time for 1 person. Seems like that ought to be more than enough. But maybe not.

A couple years ago I spoke to someone at Metro who told me that the capability existed even then, including for paper farecards. He did not give me an estimate for level of effort or cost however.

@Jason - Your assertion of 100 per day (still worthwhile in my opinion: investment drops below $1 per person after 200 days @ $20k) is exactly as valid as my assertion of 1000 per day. So let's split the difference. :-)

Lastly, Metro indicated they were going to look at this again this year. We'll see if they live up to their word.

by Steve O on Oct 14, 2010 9:01 pm • linkreport

@kk
Actually, I think it would be a great idea to allow people to leave the system for short periods and re-enter at no additional cost. That makes transit more attractive, and more people might use it.

One of the reasons many people choose to use their cars is because it gives them this kind of flexibility. They can make a quick stop or two along the way, which is much less convenient by transit. Providing small conveniences like this makes the system more attractive and users happier.

Another thing Metro should do is allow people to leave the same station without charge if they are only there a few minutes. Think how much better you'd feel if you forgot something, realized it while waiting on the platform, and could go back and get it without being charged twice for what is essentially just a single trip.

Likewise if you enter the system and the platform is mobbed due to a breakdown. One should be able to leave and find an alternate way to go without incurring a charge for not taking a trip.

by Steve O on Oct 14, 2010 9:15 pm • linkreport

Back to the original subject, I can not believe I didn't suggest massive bike share expansion to achieve complete saturation.

by David C on Oct 14, 2010 9:48 pm • linkreport

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