Posts about Green Line
asked passengers not to open emergency doors. One did on a recent Green Line train at Shaw, creating delays. Reader Bitter Brew posted more details of what happened, and says the biggest problem was incomprehensible announcements and no other information from Metro staff. Here's Bitter Brew's comment:
What should you do [on Metro] when the crackling, incomprehensible intercom says something that sounds like "evacuate"?
My girlfriend was in the car where they opened the doors. She said the intercom and speakers, as with so many Metro cars, barely worked.
They stood there in the dark for over 20 minutes, with the typical semi-comprehensible Metro announcements. First "**static** be **static** momentarily," which we can all translate as Metro's favorite lie. Then "***static** hold **static** control ***static***." Five minutes later, "**static** something brakes **static** apologize **static** delay."
Then a Metro employee came through the car from one end to the other, saying nothing, and not responding to anyone's questions. A couple more minutes of silence. Then "**static** evacuate **static** train **static** something safety."
At that point, a buzz went up through the car. "Did he say 'evacuate'?" someone asked. That's when a knot of passengers by a door began to discuss whether they should open it and evacuate. Why? Because Metro told them to evacuate.
After another minute or two with no more announcements and no sign of any Metro personnel, they began to open the door. And just after they opened it, someone from Metro finally came in from the front of the car and began giving instructions to offload that way.
If Metro is unable and unwilling to communicate with passengers during its frequent lengthy breakdowns, or is going to make unclear announcements with words like "emergency" and "evacuate," it can't blame passengers for following the instructions they do have. And it shouldn't
Yesterday evening, a derailment snarled the Green Line. A colleague and I both commute from Silver Spring to Greenbelt. His trip took 2.5 hours, mine took 52 minutes. What was the difference?
Part of the difference was simply luck, but most of the difference was due to having a Plan B.
My colleague and I both work in Downtown Silver Spring and connect to a (different) bus at Greenbelt station. Normally, we walk to the Silver Spring station, take the Red Line to Fort Totten, change to the Green, and ride the train to Greenbelt.
Normally, this commute takes about 30 to 35 minutes. Yesterday, it was a bit longer for both of us, and everyone else affected by the derailment.
My coworker left the office at about 5:00. At this point, the Green Line had been blocked by the derailed train for 15 minutes already, though neither of us knew that.
The news of the derailment, apparently broken by the Prince George's County Fire Department over Twitter, was first reported at about 5:08, probably about the time my colleague (we'll call him "B") was getting on the Red Line.
Slightly earlier, at 5:00, Metro tweeted that passengers on the Green Line would experience "significant delays" due to a disabled train near West Hyattsville. Following along on Twitter, it was not immediately clear to me that this was a different event from the single-tracking around a disabled train at Fort Totten (the next stop south of West Hyattsville).
Metro sent out an email to Metro Alerts announcing the derailment at 5:25, 40 minutes after the derailment. I don't know what announcements they were making in the stations. But by then, B was probably amidst a sea of unhappy, ill-informed riders at Fort Totten.
According to Metro spokesperson Dan Stessel, the first shuttle bus arrived at 5:20, but bus bridges take time to set up. By 8 pm, Metro was using over 40 buses in the shuttle operation.
By this time, it was probably apparent to everyone at Fort Totten that the commute was not going to be a smooth one. My coworker, B, stayed with the mob of passengers, hoping for a shuttle bus toward Greenbelt.
I was stuck at the office. I had to finish working on a few things before I could leave, but I was monitoring the Metro situation. I knew that my commute was going to be rough.
Finally, I finished my tasks, checked Metro's trip planner, and left the office at 6:43, 1 hour and 43 minutes after B. I walked down to the nearest Metrobus stop on route F4, and caught a bus bound for New Carrollton.
The bus was crowded, though based on trips I've taken in the past, not by a whole lot more than usual. At Prince George's Plaza, I hopped off and headed for the train platform.
A train was sitting on the platform normally used for Greenbelt trains, but WMATA workers were directing everyone over to the Branch Avenue platform. The transit police officers on the Branch Avenue platform didn't know why we were all being directed there, but eventually discovered that another Greenbelt train would be arriving there shortly.
Risking it, I rushed back up to the mezzanine and then down to the Greenbelt platform, I managed to cram myself onto the first train just before the doors closed, and we headed off to Greenbelt.
I arrived at Greenbelt at 7:35, only 52 minutes after I'd left my office. While waiting on the 7:40 bus to my apartment, I saw B walking by. He'd just gotten off the same shuttle train I'd been on. He stopped for a moment to chat, and recounted that he'd been commuting since 5:00, and still wasn't home.
My trip from the office to Greenbelt took 1 hour 43 minutes less than his. What was the difference? I took a regularly scheduled bus instead of fighting for a spot on a shuttle.
In fairness to B, he was already at Fort Totten before he discovered the snafu playing out a few miles up the Green Line. But what it suggests is that if he'd gotten back on the Red Line and ridden to Silver Spring, he could have caught the F4 (it runs about every 20 minutes) and gotten to Greenbelt much earlier than he did.
In my experience, waiting on the bus bridge is almost never faster than finding an alternate, regularly scheduled service.
But it's not always that simple. The F6 bus runs from Fort Totten to Prince George's Plaza. But because of the mass of desperate commuters at Fort Totten, it would have likely been swamped, too.
The real trick is to go to a station not full of displaced riders. Know the alternatives for getting to your destination, not from wherever you got offloaded. It may be faster to get back on the train and head to a different station.
For example, you can get to Greenbelt station on Metrobus routes C2 (from Wheaton), R12 (Deanwood), G12, G14, and G16 (New Carrollton), and also on TheBus routes 15X and 16 from New Carrollton.
For me, the F4 proved to be a huge time saver. I saved over an hour and a half simply by having a Plan B.
No matter how hard Metro tries, something will go wrong sometime; it's inevitable. If you take a few minutes right now to figure out some alternate routes home, you may save yourself a lot of pain one day in the future.
Commenters raised a variety of objections to the possibility of extending the Green Line to Fort Meade, as Prince George's County is proposing.
Some argued that the corridor was not viable to support Metro, it was already served by the Camden Line of MARC, and that it's too far away from the city. For full disclosure, I am employed at Fort Meade, and I was stationed there while I was enlisted in the Army. But with of my experiences commuting there, I feel that a case can be made in support of the extension despite these arguments. Here are some responses to the major objections.
Upgrades to the MARC Camden Line would be a more suitable, cheaper alternative that would service the same areas.
The MARC stations closest to Fort Meade are Savage and Odenton. They are two and five miles, respectively, from the NSA main gate, and each three miles from the main gate of the fort. For comparison, the main intersection in Tysons Corner is less than three miles from Vienna and West Falls Church stations, but they are building the Silver Line specifically to serve this enormous job center. But shuttle buses from the existing Orange Line stations in Virginia are certainly not accepted as suitable transportation options for Tysons Corner.
According to the MARC Growth and Investment Plan (pdf), if all improvements to the Camden Line are made by the end of the improvements phase in 2035, the Camden Line will have a ridership capacity of 17,000/day. There are 50,000 jobs today on Fort Meade alone, not to mention the surrounding areas. BRAC jobs are coming, and that area could have 80,000+ jobs by 2035. With such a low capacity and no stations serving the base directly, this service would be grossly inferior next to a Green Line extension. Also, the current ridership of the Penn Line is 19,000/day. No stops on the Penn Line have induced serious transit-oriented development anywhere on the system where a Metro station is not present. Why should we expect the Camden Line to do so with lower ridership capacity?
The MARC Brunswick line also duplicates the part of the western branch of the Red Line. Twinbrook, Rockville, and Shady Grove are at similar distances from downtown as Laurel and Fort Meade. It would be far cheaper to shut down these three stations and operate MARC only, but there are no calls for that. MARC began operations in 1983, whereas these Metro stations opened after MARC began service on the corridor. And MARC's Brunswick Line offers more service than the Camden Line. Why is this sort of transit set-up acceptable in Montgomery County, but not Prince George's? Nowhere along that corridor is there a concentration of jobs like there is at Fort Meade.
Fort Meade would never allow a Metro station for security reasons.
Precedent has certainly been set for this with the heavily-used Metro station underneath the Pentagon. There are also proposals to extend the Blue or Yellow Line to Fort Belvoir. The new streetcars will serve Bolling AFB. I find it hard to believe that a transit station would be considered more dangerous than the thousands of cars entering and exiting the base every day.
Fort Meade would not generate the ridership to warrant a dedicated full service transit station.
Fort Meade is currently the largest job center in the State of Maryland, and after Tysons Corner and Downtown Washington, the third largest in the region. It is also the fastest growing. According to the 2000 James Bamford book Body of Secrets, the NSA has 30,000 employees. Most of those are at the Fort Meade facility, and it is safe to assume that those numbers have increased greatly since Bamford's pre-9/11 book was published. The hundreds of acres of parking on the NSA campus are filled to the brim on even an average workday. Certainly a direct-service transit station would be a welcome relief.
What about a light rail line connecting Columbia and Annapolis to MARC and Fort Meade?
It would probably be a good compliment to a Metro Line and MARC service, much like the Corridor Cities Transitway proposal would compliment existing Metro and MARC service in Rockville/Gaithersburg. It would not induce transit-oriented development along Route 1, and it would not improve Fort Meade's connectivity to other defense employment centers as much as the Green Line Extension. Furthermore, light rail would require a transfer for commuters coming from Baltimore and Washington, which is known to deter transit ridership.
Fort Meade is too far from the city center to warrant Metro service.
- The final station on the Silver Line, VA Route 772, is 30 track miles from Metro Center and 27 miles from the transfer at Rosslyn.
- On the Red Line, Shady Grove station is 19 track miles from Metro Center, which is the closest transfer station. This does not take into account ACT's proposal to extend the Red Line 7 miles to Germantown.
- Franconia to Metro Center on the Blue Line is 19 miles, and Virginia is proposing extensions several miles further south and west.
- The Odenton Green Line station would be 29½ track miles from Gallery Place, 24½ from the transfer at Ft. Totten. If the line were to only go to Laurel (the extent of the proposal in the county's transportation plan), subtract 10 miles. But in my opinion, if the line were to go all the way to Laurel, it may as well go those last few miles for the sake of servicing a job center that rivals Tysons Corner in size and importance.
This corridor has the potential to grow Washington's urban fabric into Baltimore's urban fabric. This is a good thing. If Metro should extend 30 miles outside the center of the city in any direction, it should be towards Baltimore, its most prominent neighbor, the largest population and economic center in the state of Maryland, and the next big city along the Northeast corridor. The Silver Line, Red Line, and Blue Line punch into areas that 20 years ago had little beyond them other than farms. They're more like "greenfield" lines, whereas this Green Line Extension is more like a "brownfield line" repurposing existing development in a more transit friendly manner.
Fort Meade would be better served by Baltimore public transportation.
Debatable. Fort Meade would best be served by BOTH transportation systems. However, Fort Meade is a large government facility with mostly government-related jobs in its vicinity. Government, of course, is the leading "industry" of Washington, DC. Especially government defense. Jobs at Fort Meade are more closely related to jobs in the DC area than the Baltimore area for the most part. It makes more sense for a DC system to directly service this bustling defense job center. Of course, I certainly wouldn't object MTA light rail or rapid transit eventually serving the base as well.
Most employees at Fort Meade live in Howard and Anne Arundel Counties and would not benefit from the new transit line.
Anecdotally, I have several friends who "reverse commute" from Capitol Hill, Silver Spring, and Arlington to Fort Meade. Many also commute from Federal Hill and Canton up in Baltimore. But if our mass transit systems are to grow together, Fort Meade would be an ideal location, directly in between the downtowns of DC and Baltimore. Having worked at Fort Meade for 8 years, I've noticed that newer, younger employees tend to live closer to the cities and older employees settled in Howard and Anne Arundel. If city-dwelling youngsters choose to remain close to DC and Baltimore as the older "car generation" employees retire, this trend towards the cities will obviously increase over time. More importantly, if the base were directly served by mass transit, it stands to reason that new and existing employees would move to areas along the route that serves the base, much like we can expect workers at Tysons Corner to move toward areas closer to the Silver Line once it opens.
This area is different from Tysons Corner because it is further away from the city, and Tysons isn't served by any rail service at all.
As mentioned above, Tysons Corner is more closely served by Metro than Fort Meade is served by MARC. True, Tysons is closer to DC, but Fort Meade lies along the Northeast Corridor, arguably the most important corridor extending from Washington, DC. And Fort Meade is still pretty close to both DC and Baltimore, which, as mentioned above, makes it a logical place for Baltimore and Washington's transit systems to meet. Furthermore, job centers in Montgomery County along the western Red Line lie further outside the Beltway than Tysons and those areas are served by both Metro and MARC.
This area is different from the western Red Line Corridor because that area is a growing job center.
Fort Meade is in fact a growing job center. The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) will be moving 5,700 government jobs to Fort Meade. These will mostly be defense-related jobs that could benefit greatly from having a single-mode transit connection to other defense/government job centers in the DC area, such as the Pentagon, Fort Belvoir, Bethesda Medical Center, and Andrews AFB. Additionally, many stations on the western Red Line are used to connect into points south, hence there is little "reverse commuting" to Rockville and Gaithersburg. On the other hand, a job center at the end of the Green Line could certainly induce transit use in both directions during the rush hours.
The real purpose for the line is to bring transit to Kingdon Gould III's Konterra development. I don't want my tax dollars going toward giving a rich guy a bigger return on his investment.
It's very likely that pro-Konterra lobbyists pushed to include this measure in the Prince George's County Transportation Plan (1, 2). The plan's alignment, however, does not run through Konterra. It is about a mile from the planned town center. If a Metro station opens adjacent to the existing Muirkirk MARC station, perhaps it could induce better land use on the mile of office parks that separate the two locations. And even if it makes Mr. Gould a little richer, more efficient land use benefits a lot of people, not just the land owner.
Route 1 is not conducive to transit oriented development.
The Route 1 corridor is a commodity. From Mount Rainier to Laurel it is mostly traditionally-laid-out towns and neighborhoods. The stretch north of the Beltway lies directly between 1-95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, which could act act as natural growth boundaries for development. Route 1 has a Main Street feel in Mount Rainier, Hyattsville, and parts of College Park, then it deteriorates to strip malls until Laurel, where it becomes more of a Main Street again. Metro stations could induce growth that will tie all that good urbanism together, creating a giant Main Street from the DC line to the Patuxent River and perhaps a little beyond.
Laurel is a city of 20,000 people, too small and out-of-the-way to warrant Metro.
Commenter David C brought this up, comparing the size of Laurel to that of Bowie and suggesting extending the Blue Line through Bowie instead of the Green through Laurel. Incorporated Laurel proper was estimated in 2007 as having a population of about 21,600 compared to Bowie, which has over 50,000. But Bowie is far more spread out than Laurel because it has been annexing sprawling residential developments for decades. If Laurel City were to annex every community that had a Laurel zip code, its population would be close to 90,000 in a size roughly the same as incorporated Bowie. Laurel is a dense, centralized municipality that has been taking progressive transportation measures and has the potential to grow around a Metro station probably faster than anywhere else in Prince George's County. But like Kensington in Montgomery County, Laurel has not been able to induce as much transit-oriented development that the town could potentially support because it has a MARC station, not a Metro station. Bowie, on the other hand, is far more car-oriented, decentralized and sprawling. Laurel was on the radar to get a service when the plan for Metro was conceived. in the '60's, certainly it hasn't diminished in importance since then.
MARC can induce transit oriented development along Route 1.
Again, the Penn Line currently has higher ridership than the Camden Line will have in 2035 if all the improvements are made to the line. Nowhere on the Penn Line supports strong transit-oriented development without a Metro station there, not even Penn Station in downtown Baltimore. This is not an anomaly. Transit-oriented development has not occurred very much near standalone MARC stations.
Prince George's County has not proven that it can grow in a transit-friendly way around Metro stations.
This is true. Prince George's County has not implemented TOD well at any of the 15 Metro stations currently operating in the county. Many of the stations, however, are relatively new. All of the Green Line and the last two stations on the Blue Line have opened in the last 10 years, and good TOD takes time. Gallery Place/Chinatown was empty buildings and warehouses not too long ago. But the fact remains, Prince George's County has been slow moving on progressive development around transit. Fairfax County has notproven much better though, and yet the Silver Line is still being constructed largely there with bits in super-sprawly Loudon County
Prince George's County has initiatives (PDF) to improve land use around Metro, and the future looks good at stations like Suitland, Branch Avenue, New Carrollton (pdf), Capitol Heights (pdf), Addison Road, West Hyattsville, Prince George's Plaza, and Greenbelt. The county's development policies certainly are not the best, but they are progressively improving implementation of transit-oriented development.
Okay, fine. But it's too expensive.
No doubt any extension of Metro will cost billions of dollars. In Prince George's County, unfortunately, the many highway additions outlined by the Transportation Plan will be competing for that money. But "too expensive" almost kept the Orange Line out from under Wilson Boulevard and instead in the median of I-66. It very well may have kept the Silver Line from getting built. If Fort Meade is a job center with the size and importance comparable to Tyson's Corner, it is worth the investment.
Will it get built? Who knows. Should it be prioritized over other Metro expansions that could increase core capacity? Certainly not. But dismissing this plan because it is far out there, expensive, or could be served by inferior methods is a mistake. More importantly, Prince George's County has finally taken progressive stances to promote mass transit. Arguing it down is the quickest way to send that investment to another highway widening in a county notorious for dangerous pedestrian conditions and high rates of traffic deaths. As commenter Jasper pointed out, transit advocates ought to unite behind mass transit expansion, lest proposals like these be dropped for yet more highways.
On Monday night, Prince George's County voted on its transportation master plan update, including a recommendation to extend the Green Line to Fort Meade.
The master plan calls for creating, extending, or widening several highways throughout the county, greenfield development outside the Beltway, and some other Cold War-era fixes to Prince George's transportation problems. The county's ample highways have been described to me by my coworkers as "the only thing worth visiting in Prince George's County". As a resident, I disagree wholeheartedly, but it is hard to dispute that many people use the B-W Parkway, I-95, US-50, MD-4, MD-5, and Indian Head Highway as through routes to get to "nicer" exurban communities in Howard, Anne Arundel, and Charles County.
The plan does, however, propose many transit improvements. Most notably, at least for Laurel residents like me, is the Green Line extension proposed through Beltsville, Laurel, and on to Fort Meade. The county's proposal for this extension doesn't cater directly to greenfield development like older proposals for the extension that followed I-95 to MD-32 on a circuitous route through southeastern Columbia en route to BWI. The route shown below follows the CSX corridor in Prince George's County, as indicated in the master plan. If the Green Line is extended to Fort Meade, it would probably look a lot like this:
View Green Line Extension in a larger map.
Here's a possible list of stations:
- Beltsville (Baltimore Avenue and Powder Mill Road)
- Muirkirk/Konterra (Baltimore Avenue at Muirkirk Road)
- Laurel Lakes (Cherry Lane between Baltimore Avenue and MD 197)
- Laurel (Main Street at First Street)
- Savage/Annapolis Junction (Brock Bridge Road at Dorsey Run Road)
- National Business Park (MD 32 and National Business Pkwy)
- National Security Agency (MD 32 and Canine Road)
- Fort Meade Main Gate (MD 32 and Mapes Road)
- Odenton Town Center (Odenton Road and Morgan Drive)
Fort Meade is the largest job center in the state of Maryland, and it is currently unserved by transit. A Green Line extension would enable reverse commutes from Washington, DC and the Route 1 corridor while facilitating transit-oriented development along Route 1.
Servicing Fort Meade also would meet some of the transportation challenges presented by BRAC's relocation of 5,700 jobs to Fort Meade. Metro access to the base's facilities would eliminate the need for massive highway widening around this job center. The existing transit on the corridor, the MARC Camden Line, suffers from poor service because it shares tracks with the CSX freight trains, does not serve Fort Meade, and has not induced any TOD. This alignment would most likely overcome those shortcomings and better integrate northeastern Prince George's County into the urban fabric of the DC metropolitan area.
Cross-posted on Imagine, DC.
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