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Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 93

On Tuesday, we featured the ninety-third challenge to see how well you knew the Metro system. Here are the answers. How'd you do?

This week, we got 37 guesses. Nine of you got all five. Great work, ERD, Alex B, Peter K, Stephen C, J-Train-21, Solomon, AlexC, dpod, and JamesDCane!

Image 1: Rosslyn

All of the stations featured this week have one thing in common: They're all served by the Blue, Orange, and Silver Lines on the common segment between Rosslyn and Stadium/Armory.

The first image shows the outbound end of the lower level at Rosslyn. The "welcome to Virginia" sign is distinctive because it's the only one of its kind in the system.

An additional clue is the wall to the left. Because it's a flat wall instead of a coffered wall, you can see this is a split level station rather than a side-platform station.

All 37 of you got it right.

Image 2: Smithsonian

The second image was taken looking up from the Independence Avenue entrance to Smithsonian station. There are two signs partially visible. The upper sign "...ture" is attached to the Department of Agriculture, which is located next to this station.

The lower sign is also a clue, though one that misled some of you. The "Ca..." isn't the first part of "Capitol South", but rather "Carmen Turner", to whom Smithsonian station is dedicated. Carmen Turner was the general manager at WMATA from 1983-1990 and became Undersecretary at the Smithsonian Institution after leaving the transit agency.

30 figured it out.

Image 3: Eastern Market

The third image shows a portion of the nameplate at Eastern Market, visible through the train windows. Eastern Market is the only station on the Blue Line to start with the fifth letter of the alphabet.

31 knew the right answer.

Image 4: Foggy Bottom

The fourth image shows the mezzanine at Foggy Bottom. The main clue here is the solitary escalator at center. This is the only place in the system where a single escalator drops down through a hole in the mezzanine unaccompanied by stairs or an elevator.

We featured it from a different angle in week 30. 21 of you remembered.

Image 5: Potomac Avenue

The final image shows Potomac Avenue. Solving this clue took a little base knowledge of the system.

The waffle-style vault narrows it down to 32 stations, and eliminating side, split-level, and cross-vault stations narrows this to 17.

The definitive clue was the presence of a single escalator next to an elevator on a T-shaped mezzanine. Virtually all of Metro's early island platform waffle stations have a mezzanine with side-by-side escalators at one end, and an elevator at the other end.

Potomac Avenue is unique in having a third escalator next to the elevator. Waterfront has a similar design, except it has a staircase next to the elevator rather than an escalator. And at Federal Triangle, the third escalator is alone, with the elevator descending through the center of the mezzanine.

Finally, the shape of the mezzanine is fairly distinctive. Most mezzanines are golf club-shaped or hatchet-shaped, when the entry is through the side of the vault or spatula-shaped, when the entry is from the station's end wall.

Typical island-platform station mezzanine types. Sketch by the author.

Potomac Avenue is T-shaped because it has long sections on either side of the entry, rather than just on one side, like with a golf club-shaped mezzanine.

12 of you put the clues together.

Thanks for playing. Great work! We'll be back in two weeks with another quiz.

Information about contest rules, submission guidelines, and a leaderboard is available at


The shutdown is coming! The shutdown is coming! (On the Red Line)

SafeTrack's biggest shutdown is just about here: for 25 days, from October 29th through November 22nd, Red Line trains won't run between the NoMa-Gallaudet and Fort Totten stations. If you use the Red Line at all, regardless of where in the system, you can expect fewer trains, delays on the ones that come, and lots of crowding.

If you use the Red Line on the parts that are staying open, this might be your life for the next few weeks. Photo by ep_jhu on Flickr.

Be prepared for significant service impacts

This is the tenth of SafeTrack's "surges," which just means it's the tenth area where Metro is doing a deep dive on maintenence work. Trains coming from Grosvenor or Shady Grove will not (!) go all the way to Silver Spring or Glenmont—they'll all turn back around at NoMa. Similarly, trains from Glenmont and Silver Spring will turn around at Fort Totten. Anybody needing to go farther than those two points will need to find a bus, or transfer to the Green/Yellow Lines at Gallery Place or Fort Totten to bridge the gap.

Since NoMa and Fort Totten weren't designed to be terminal stations which might allow trains to turn around quickly, and accounting for the various speed restrictions along the Red Line, trains will only run every six minutes between Shady Grove and NoMa, and every 10 minutes from Glenmont to Fort Totten.

Impact of the SafeTrack Surge 10 shutdown. Image from WMATA.

If you usually rely on Metro to travel in these areas, here are your options

Metro's SafeTrack advisory page lists a number of Metrobus, Ride On, MARC, bike, and carpool routes and options that might be able to help to get around the 25-day shutdown, or provide alternate routes when traffic or a breakdown inevitably snarls your commute during the surge.

Metro's bus shuttles will operate between NoMa, Rhode Island Avenue, Brookland, and Fort Totten stations from system opening to closing. Ride On is offering its own free shuttles between the Silver Spring, Takoma, and Fort Totten stations, and Montgomery County will be giving out some free round-trip MARC tickets through Friday the 28th.

Other buses available for passengers to get around the shutdown are the 80 which connects Fort Totten and Brookland to Union Station, Gallery Place, and Metro Center, the S9 directly from Silver Spring to to Columbia Heights and McPherson Square, and the P9P6 connecting Anacostia to Metro Center up to Rhode Island Avenue.

Last but certainly not least, Montgomery County has an interactive map showing park-and-ride lots, and there are also bike maps for how to traverse the area on bike along with the SafeTrack-specific detour signs

What work will Metro do during the shutdown? It's not saying so we have to guess.

Unfortunately, there's no information posted on Metro's website about what specific work is being performed. Communication about the specific work being done is one of the big sticking points between Metro and passengers, and it has been since SafeTrack started and well before even for Metro employees.

It'd be nice for customers to know what work is being done to repair the tracks so they can see what kind of tangible benefits the present headaches might yield; without that kind of information, it's hard to continue to support the system.

In the absence of a planned work schedule, I can look at previous surges and take my best couple guesses at what Metro will be doing during the 25 days.

  • Likely, there again will be four main sections of work that they will try to get done: track, structures, automatic train control, and traction power.
  • Track work being done between NoMa and Fort Totten will likely again include major rail tie replacements numbering in the hundreds or thousands. Depending on the status of the ballast—the gravel that the rail ties rest on—crews may need to place more under the track, or replace some of what is already there if it's not in good condition.
  • As with the other surges, power cables will be checked and replaced, the intrusion detection warning system will be refurbished where needed, emergency trip station lights will be repaired, and any signals in the area should be converted to LED lights if they aren't already.
But apart from these generic work summaries, there's no real way to know exactly what's scheduled to get done during this surge. Even if there were, though, the agency itself still doesn't have metrics to determine if SafeTrack was a "success."

Hopefully, at very least, the speed restriction near Rhode Island Ave which was put in place to "minimize structural deterioration" is addressed, and trains can resume going normal speeds through the station without fear of concrete falling from the ceiling.


Ask your Metro funding questions tonight at our live Q&A

Metro is staring down ever-more-serious long and short-term funding challenges. Tonight at 6 pm, regional officials and experts will tackle these challenges, including the prospect of dedicated funding, at a livestreamed forum we're cosponsoring.

Once the event starts, the player above will livestream it. After it's over, we'll swap out the livestream player for a recording when it's available.

The two-hour discussion will kick off with remarks from WMATA Board Chair (and DC Councilmember) Jack Evans and a response from Rob Puentes, the President of the Eno Center for Transportation and fellow at the Brookings Institution. Then, Maryland state delegate Marc Korman (D-16), Kate Mattice of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (the Virginia signatory to the WMATA compact), Emeka Moneme of Federal City Council, and Stewart Schwartz of the Coalition for Smarter Growth will join them for a panel discussion and one hour of audience Q&A.

The forum is happening at Georgetown University's Urban and Regional Planning program, hosted by the Coalition for Smarter Growth and several partner groups including GGWash. Uwe Brandes, Executive Director of Georgetown's planning program will moderate.

If you have questions during or before the event, you can tweet them to using the hashtag #WMATAchat. During the Q&A portion of the program, we'll pose as many of them as possible.


Prince George's County leaders join the chorus to keep late-night rail service

The WMATA Board of Directors is considering a proposal to permanently end late-night rail service. Many elected officials from Montgomery County have spoken up to oppose the cuts, as has the public. Now, Prince George's leaders are doing the same.

Photo by James Jackson on Flickr.

Metro staff is proposing that cuts to late-night rail service, which are currently in effect as part of SafeTrack, become permanent so that there's more time for much-needed system maintenence. As of now, if this plan moves forward, Metro customers would have to turn to paltry bus service for public transportation late at night.

WMATA staff has asked the Board to make one of these sets of hours of operation official. Image from WMATA.

Many Greater Greater Washington contributors have called the idea terrible from the start, describing how it'd leave Metro with the most limited hours of any major transit system in the US and saying Metro has provided far too little evidence for why such a drastic move is actually necessary.

Last month, 40 Maryland elected officials, mostly from Montgomery County, sent a letter to WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld saying they, too, think this is a bad idea (though Montgomery County Council Transportation Committee chair Roger Berliner and County Executive Ike Leggett were notably absent from the letter). But when September's letter went out, there was a key contingent missing from the group of signatures: most leaders from Prince George's County, including the whole county council, were never given the opportunity to sign on—or not.

As an elected official in Prince George's, I volunteered to help set the record straight. Over 50 elected leaders, including seven members of the state legislature and three county council members from Prince George's County, have joined me to send a letter (which you can read in full here) to hammer home the following points:

  • No proposal put before the public has explained why permanently closing every line of the Metrorail system during the pre-SafeTrack late-night hours is necessary on a continuing basis.
  • The economic future of our region depends on achieving a jobs-housing balance through transit-oriented development, including in mixed urban-suburban jurisdictions like Prince George's County. A transit system that supports live-work-play hours, not just white-collar work hours, is an essential foundation and a social justice issue.
  • We ask that the WMATA Board provide a more transparent study of the equity and ridership impacts of this proposed change as well as consider alternatives to improve maintenance before making a decision.
I thank my council colleague Jesse Christopherson and County Councilmember Deni Taveras for their invaluable help in circulating this letter for consideration. Every county council member, along with County Executive Rushern Baker, had the chance to sign on. As in Montgomery County, I'm struck by how many local leaders do not seem to realize the significance of what is at stake for Metrorail.

The overwhelming response from many local municipal leaders, who are closest to the people who will be most impacted by this proposal, and many of whom are personally, professionally, and politically invested in Metrorail speaks volumes. But it is clear to me that we will all need to engage more as advocates to help our county and state decision makers understand what WMATA needs, and how vital WMATA is to our communities.

So...what's next?

Before the board makes any decision, WMATA staff will analyze whether the proposed service change would violate the civil rights of minorities and low-income people (this is called a Title 6 analysis). I spoke to Malcolm Augustine, Prince George's County alternate representative to the WMATA Board, who asserted "that analysis and the a part of the information that goes into any kind of position that the board will eventually take."

Augustine also emphasized that SafeTrack alone is not sufficient to clear a maintenance backlog that took decades to accumulate, and that more track access at night means more continuous hours for maintenance.

Maintenence doesn't have to mean permanent closures

Will suspending late-night service for some length of time create enough of a window for WMATA to clear the maintenance backlog? Will the board consider weekend closures on a line-by-line basis? There are very basic questions still to be answered before this proposed change in service can be thoughtfully considered. I hope the WMATA Board will ask these questions, and not just react to the proposal that is in front of them.

We all understand the imperative to improve safety and reliability in the system. Otherwise, the downward spiral ridership is in will only accelerate. However, to pose a strict dichotomy between safety and service is a false and harmful framing.

WMATA needs to transparently document all the achievements and outcomes related to improved maintenance and reliability beyond increased track access, especially the corrective action items still pending from last year's FTA review, many of which concern WMATA's troubled Rail-Operations Control Center. The bottom line is that transit is far and away the safest mode of transportation, and reducing access to the safest mode in the name of safety cannot be a permanent solution.

Permanent is not reasonable. So the question for WMATA is, what about one year? 18 months? With measurable conditions that the board can revisit on a specified timeframe? SafeTrack has enjoyed wide support because of its transparency and widespread understanding of it's necessity, but also because so many share the goal of seeing Metrorail be a safe, reliable, world-class transit system. Let's be specific and transparent about a plan to get there.


Our endorsements for ANC in Ward 4

A series of hilly neighborhoods at the top of the District, both in terms of geography and elevation, comprises Ward 4. Residents here are from Petworth, Manor Park, Brightwood, 16th Street Heights, and Takoma, among other places. We found five candidates running in contested Ward 4 races for Advisory Neighborhood Commission to endorse, and we hope you go vote for them.

Map created with Mapbox, data from OpenStreetMap.


What are ANCs, and why should I care?

Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, or ANCs, are neighborhood councils of unpaid, elected representatives who meet monthly and weigh in with the government about important issues to the community. ANCs are very important on housing and transportation. An ANC's opposition to new housing, retail, a bike lane, bus improvements, etc. can stymie or significantly delay valuable projects. On the other hand, proactive and positive-thinking ANCs give the government suggestions for ways to improve the neighborhood and rally resident support.

Each ANC is divided into a number of Single Member Districts (SMDs), averaging about 2,000 voters. Races often hinge on a small handful of votes; Your vote—every vote—really counts.

Not sure which SMD you live in? Find out here.

Here are our endorsements

After reviewing the candidate responses from each competitive race in Ward 4, we chose five candidates to endorse. You can read their positions for yourself here, along with responses of many unopposed candidates.

Brightwood. Photo by las.photographs on Flickr.

In ANC 4A, we endorse Patience Singleton

ANC 4A is a long, narrow area that runs along 16th Street from the top corner of DC to Piney Branch Parkway. It's a place with a mix of churches, single family homes, parkland, and some apartment buildings, and one lots of people pass through as they commute down 16th Street from Maryland.

Transportation and the heavy commuter traffic are primary concerns for many neighbors here. Better bus service, both along 16th Street and nearby 14th Street, could make a huge difference to the area, but some proposed changes (for example, dedicated bus lanes) could require residents to sacrifice some on-street parking. We hope commissioners in this area will work through this situation with tact, but a clear preference for improving bus infrastructure and service.

One candidate in this area earned our endorsement: incumbent Patience Singleton. Singleton is running to keep her seat in 4A04, a small district on the eastern border of the ANC between Van Buren and Rittenhouse Streets.

Right away, Singleton was clear that "[a]s a commuter who uses the 16th Street bus lines most work days, [she] would support a dedicated bus lane along 16th Street" even if it meant removing some on-street parking. Similarly, she "strongly support[s] express bus options for the 14th Street corridor," and has worked closely with District agencies during her tenure to improve street and pedestrian safety around her SMD.

On housing, Singleton is positive and forward-thinking, something we wish we saw more of across DC:

ANC 4A will definitely add more market rate and affordable housing over the next decade; much of it will be placed on or near the Walter Reed complex. Additional housing will likely be available through the conversion and renovation of multifamily housing within our ANC. I am committed to ensuring the availability of various types of housing in ANC 4A.
Challenger Michael Bethea seems less amenable to change. When asked about his vision for the neighborhood in the next 20 years, he wrote: "I truly would like my neighborhood to look very similar to the way it looks now." Bethea avoided taking strong stances on many of the issues we asked about, and thought that the area has "sufficient" bike lanes and sidewalks. To us, giving Singleton a second term is the best option here.

Takoma Metro Station. Photo by RealVirginian on Flickr.

In ANC 4B, we endorse Natalee Snider and James Gaston III

To the east lies ANC 4B, a triangle formed by the DC/Maryland border to the east, Missouri Avenue and Riggs Road to the south, and Georgia Avenue to the west.

One long-standing and key issue for these neighborhoods has been the redevelopment saga at the Takoma Metro station. After years of back and forth, some in the community still are pushing to preserve the under-used parking lots there rather than build housing or encourage more neighborhood retail.

Nearly all of the races in 4B are contested, but we only found two candidates that clearly deserved our endorsement and hopefully your vote.

The first is Natalee Snider for ANC 4B06, covering the neighborhoods surrounding the Blair Road/Kansas Avenue intersection and nearby Fort Slocum Park.

As someone who frequently uses Takoma Metro station, Snider is cautiously in favor of redevelopment there, seeing "the benefit to both residents, commuters and local businesses [of] developing housing on an under utilized parking lot." She also had very specific recommendations for where housing could be added throughout the neighborhood to better accommodate new residents.

Snider is a self-proclaimed "strong proponent of a 'walkable/bikeable' neighborhood," and would advocate for the extension of both bike lanes and the Metropolitan Branch Trail within the ANC. Overall her responses were energetic, informed, and positive. As one reader wrote: "Thoughtful, responsive answers to the questions and she understands that increased density, more transit options and balance are all important if Ward 4 is to thrive."

Incumbent and current ANC chair Ron Austin has voted in opposition to many of the plans at the Takoma Metro stop over the years, citing traffic concerns and the needs to protect green space. We strongly encourage you to vote for Natalee Snider here.

Another candidate who earned our endorsement in 4B was James Gaston III, in the race for 4B07, along the DC/Maryland border. On the Takoma Metro station controversy, Gaston is clearly hesitant to take a firm side but says that the project proposal "has true merit" and later advocates for "more development near the Metro station."

Gaston's opponent, current commissioner Judi Jones, also responded to our survey but didn't reveal much in her short answers. In the end, we have a better idea of what Gaston's ANC term would look like and are willing to give him our support.

Petworth. Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

In ANC 4C, we endorse Charlotte Nugent

If you live in Petworth or 16th Street Heights, you probably live in ANC 4C. Along the border of this ANC lies the Old Hebrew Home, which has long sparked debate over what to build there. A plan for redeveloping it is currently under review by the District government, and the new proposal could include large amounts of affordable housing.

Other issues for these neighborhoods include the previously mentioned proposals for express bus service on 14th street and the ongoing debate about condo redevelopments and "pop-ups" throughout the area.

Out of the ten seats in this ANC, only one has two candidates in the race: 4C01, near the intersection of Georgia and Colorado Avenues. Both candidates in this race are good, but in the end we decided Charlotte Nugent was the strongest choice.

Nugent's responses were thorough and at times incredibly in sync with Greater Greater Washington values (she is a long-time reader). She explains that she supports "100% affordable housing" at Hebrew Home because she believes there is a current unbalance in market-rate and affordable housing development in the neighborhood, and "we urgently need to build more affordable housing in the Petworth area to keep residents with average or lower incomes from being pushed out."

Her answer on the spread of often unpopular "pop-ups" is worth quoting in its entirety, as it deftly navigates the issue to highlight solid arguments for increased housing at multiple affordability levels, multi-income neighborhoods, and smarter transit-oriented growth:

The greater Petworth area has seen many condo and "pop-up" developments in recent years that cater to residents with higher incomes. While we welcome these residents to our neighborhood, there has not been an equal increase in units of affordable housing. In order to keep residents from being pushed out of our neighborhood, we must build more housing to accommodate all who desire to live here. At the same time, business corridors such as Georgia Avenue and upper 14th Street have not seen as much development, while businesses on these streets sometimes struggle to gain customers and traction.

We are in this situation because the DC government has not focused on encouraging development in the locations where it is most needed. Instead of waiting for condos and pop-ups to appear haphazardly, we should encourage development on corridors such as Georgia Avenue and 14th Street, and in areas where zoning already allows taller buildings."


Nugent's answers on transportation issues are similarly balanced and thoughtful; she is a strong supporter of bus improvements and bike lanes, being that her immediate neighborhood is not closely situated to Metro stations.

Opponent Sean Wieland is a good contender. He wants to advocate for both retail and housing at the Old Hebrew Home, including a percentage being affordable, and hopes the same style of development can happen along Georgia Avenue. Wieland also has clear ideas for bike lane improvements, though he is slightly skeptical of the proposal to add express bus service to 14th street.

In the end, it's great this SMD has such good candidates to choose from. This term, we think Charlotte Nugent is the one who should get a chance to serve.

Brightwood. Photo by thebrightwoodian on Flickr.

In ANC 4D, we endorse Amy Hemingway

Directly north of ANC 4C is 4D, including Rock Creek Cemetery and the neighborhood of Brightwood. One particularly salient topic for this area is the concentration of vacant buildings there, an issue current commissioner David Sheon (running unopposed this year) took on this summer on our blog.

What is more, the area has seen a spike in crime recently that demands the attention of ANC commissioners, and neighbors are anxious to see the continued revitalization of Georgia Avenue as a place for businesses to thrive.

Amy Hemingway caught our attention for 4D06, a district west of Sherman Circle. Hemingway believes "all of us should be aware of... if not concerned" about the issue of vacant housing, and supports current legislation that grew out of the ANC's work on this issue.

She also proclaims that "local economic development is a passion of [hers]," and that she will work hard to encourage smart development and support businesses along Georgia Avenue, including the production of more housing along the corridor.

Hemingway's opponent is incumbent Bill Quirk, who did not reveal much about his positions in his short responses to our survey. When asked about the biggest controversy in the neighborhood, he responded: "Whether or not to have benches in Sherman Circle has previously been a contentious issue. While previously I've opposed them, there has been one placed there recently and it hasn't had a negative impact. It might be time to revisit the issue."

Oh, ANCs, the place where neighbors tackle everything from affordable housing and crime to... benches. Unless you're a single-issue voter and your issue is benches, we suggest voting for Hemingway.

Want to read the responses of all of the Ward 4 ANC candidates who responded to our questionnaire and judge for yourself? Check out the full PDF for Ward 4. You can also see responses and our endorsements for all 8 wards on our 2016 ANC Endorsements Page, and we'll publish our rationale for those in upcoming posts.

These are official endorsements of Greater Greater Washington. To determine this year's endorsements, we sent a reader-generated candidate questionnaire to all ANC candidates. We then published candidate responses and collected feedback. Staff evaluated all candidate responses and feedback for contested races and presented endorsements to our volunteer editorial board, which then made the final decision.


Think you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 93

It's time for the ninety-third installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Below are photos of 5 stations in the Washington Metro system. Can you identify each from its picture?

Image 1

Image 2

Image 3

Image 4

Image 5

We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun.

Please have your answers submitted by noon on Thursday. Good luck!

UPDATE: The answers are here.

Information about contest rules, submission guidelines, and a leaderboard is available at


We know where most of DC's population lives. Does Metro run through those places?

The maps below show where DC's most densely-populated pockets are, as well as where its Metro stops are. It turns out they aren't always the same places, or in other words, DC isn't building enough around transit.

Highest density census tracts comprising 50% of DC population, with Metrorail overlay. Map by John Ricco, overlay by Peter Dovak.

Back in July, John Ricco created a pair of maps showing that 50% of DC's residents live on 20% of the land, and a quarter of the population lives on just 7% of the land. Peter Dovak, another Greater Greater Washington contributor, did me the favor of overlaying John's maps onto the Metro system.

Looking at the map above, which shows where 50% of the population lives, there are some obvious areas of overlap between density and Metrorail access, including the Green/Yellow corridor through Shaw, Columbia Heights, and Petworth. The southern area of Capitol Hill also has multiple Metro stops and is relatively dense.

But what stands out are the dense places that aren't near Metro. The northern end of Capitol Hill, including the H Street corridor and Carver Langston, as well as the areas to the west around Glover Park, a few tracts to the north near Brightwood, and two larger areas east and west of the Green Line in Ward 8, near Congress Heights and Fort Stanton Park.

All of these places show that DC's growth isn't being concentrated around its transit (its transit isn't being extended to serve dense areas either, but that's harder to do).

Of course, Metro is far from the only way to get around. Residents of high density, Metro-inaccessible neighborhoods rely on buses and other modes to get where they need to go; specific to northern Capitol Hill, for example, there's also the DC Streetcar). Also, some areas next to Metro stops are low density due to zoning that restricts density or land nobody can build on, like federal land, rivers, and parks.

Still, it's useful to look at where DC's high-density neighborhoods and its high-density transit modes don't overlap, and to understand why.

25% of DC's population lives close to metro... mostly

Really, the S-shaped routing of the Green Line is the only part of Metro in DC that runs through a super dense area for multiple stops.

Looking at the map that shows 25% of the District's population, the Green/Yellow corridor helps make up the 7% of land where people live. But so does Glover Park, Carver Langston, and a tract in Anacostia Washington Highlands near the Maryland border—and these places are a long way from a Metro stop.

Highest density census tracts comprising 25% of DC population, with Metrorail overlay.

There are historical reasons for why things are this way

According to Zachary Schrag in The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro, Metro wasn't meant to be an urban subway; it was always meant to be a regional rail system. It explicitly bypassed the relatively few people in DC's high-density areas, in favor of speeding up rides for the greater number of through-commuters. Apparently, DC had little say in that decision, which is evident in the map.

On the other hand, the citywide streetcar plan was meant to bring rail access to many more DC residents—partly because, well, it was to be built by DC's government, for DC's residents, which Metro was not.

The first version of this post said that a tract was in Anacostia, but it's actually in Washington Highlands.


Here's what the public told the WMATA Board about the idea to permanently cut late-night Metro service

On Thursday, WMATA held a nine and a half-hour public hearing about its proposals to cut late-night Metro service. Lots of people turned out to say they depend on Metro, while others stressed an array of options to consider before moving forward with late-night cuts.

Metro staff is proposing that cuts to late-night rail service, which are currently in effect as part of SafeTrack, become permanent so that there's more time for much-needed system maintenence.

While it still hasn't made a clear argument as to why these cuts are necessary, at least not publicly, Metro staff has moved forward by presenting the WMATA Board of Directors with four different options for shorter hours. The WMATA compact stipulates that before the board can make any of them official, it has to hold public hearings like yesterday's.

WMATA staff has asked the Board to make one of these sets of hours of operation official. There are Image from WMATA.

A quick rundown of how these hearings work: anyone who wants to testify signs up to do so, and when it's their turn, they get to address the board directly for three minutes (elected officials get five). Yesterday, board members mostly listened, withholding comment except to thank whoever had spoken once they finished.

Regarding testimony to the Board, Justin Lini, who recently explained why closing Metro stations in Wards 7 and 8 would (that's a separate-but-related matter), said that most of the people who showed up to speak were regular riders from DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

"There were also a number of ANC reps from Wards 2, 4, and 7," he said, "as well as DC Councilmembers and a councilmember from Capitol Heights, MD. There were some disability activists there as well, and and African American activists. The local service union had a large contingent too."

Nicole Cacozza, another GGWash contributor, added that when she got to WMATA's headquarters, a group with signs was outside to protest the cuts.

Photo by Nicole Cacozza.

According to Justin and Nicole, nobody who showed up at the hearings was there to support cutting service. People cited all kinds of arguments for why Metro needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with better options, from saying it would damage to the city's reputation and economic growth and that it would do disproportionate harm to low-income communities to asking why Metro couldn't do a better job with the maintenence time it already has.

Nicole said a lot of people spoke about how much they rely on Metro, and how not having service late at night would be devastating:

One man came to testify on behalf of his former coworkers in the service industry who worked long shifts and needed Metro to get home.

A woman from WMATA's accessibility committee spoke about just not being able to travel on weekends if Metro cut its morning service, because she cannot get around without public transportation.

One woman who immigrated to Maryland as a child said that she used Metro to travel to Virginia after school in order to spend time with other people from her home country, and she currently knows people who use it to attend GED classes after work.

One person brought up that there have already been reports of workers sleeping in their offices because they could not get home.

Similar stories stood out to Justin:
Some spoke about how cuts will make it harder for them to get to work. Others talked about not being able to go out in DC anymore. One person got very emotional over the Nats game last week and talked about how she didn't make it home until 4 am due to lack of metrorail service.

We also had some people who were concerned about increasing drunk driving, and the environmental impact of putting more cars on our roads.

Personal accounts like these illustrate why Metro has to find a way forward that doesn't include cutting late-night service, and it's important that Board members hear them. But there was also plenty of comment regarding the technical and logistical problems Metro is up against, and how to fix them.

Justin said that DC Councilmenber Elissa Silverman pushed WMATA to develop better metrics to measure its performance, and also for the agency to do more to put out information on particular incidents or plans, like it did last year when there was a fire at Stadium-Armory that curbed service for 13 weeks.

A number of comments also suggested looking to other systems for examples of how to do massive repairs while not making such drastic service cuts. "References were made to the PATH system in New Jersey, in that its a two track system which runs 24 hours," Justin said. "Another model raised was SEPTA night owl service, which runs busses overnight parallel to rail routes."

People also said WMATA should consider doing maintenence SafeTrack-style, closing segments of lines for longer periods of time (or even entire lines if absolutely necessary) but not the entire system. Patrick Kennedy, a GGWash contributor and ANC commissioner, said this in his testimony:

Rather than taking a meat cleaver to the hours of the system across 110 miles of track, I'd encourage the Board to consider a more surgical policy of prioritizing limited service reductions—single-tracks, early shutdowns, etc.—in discrete locations where maintenance tasks are to be performed. This would require additional effort for planning purposes in order to inform customers and manage impacts on revenue service, but it would carry a significant dividend for riders over a complete service reduction as proposed.
Another common refrain: if Metro does go forward with permanent late-night rail closures, it's got to provide the bus service needed to bridge the gap—and right now, the proposal on the table doesn't come close.


WMATA is considering scrapping the Metroway BRT

Ridership on Metroway, the BRT route that runs from Braddock Road to Pentagon City, has been climbing since the service started in 2014. Yet WMATA is still considering shutting it down to save money. That'd negate years of planning and construction and sour public opinion on transit.

Photo by BeyondDC on Flickr.

In 2014, WMATA introduced a bus rapid transit (BRT) service called Metroway, whose MW1 line runs between Braddock Road in Alexandria and Crystal City in Arlington. As our region's only BRT, Metroway runs in its own lane parallel to Route 1; its ability to skip traffic makes it a reliable transportation option.

Metroway ridership has been growing since it first opened. WMATA's 9S bus, which it replaced, had a daily ridership of 1,091 in its final year running. But by June 2015, Metroway ridership was at about 1,400 people per day, and as ridership grew, Metroway expanded it's service to the Pentagon City Metro station.

Image from the City of Alexandria.

At the heart of the MW1 route (which remains Metroway's only line) is Potomac Yard, a former 295-acre rail yard, which used to be on EPA's list of hazardous sites but has been growing into a great example of transit-oriented development (TOD) over the past decade. As large apartment buildings in Potomac Yard have gone up, so has the number of people riding Metroway.

In 2016, Metroway saw a roughly 50% increase in ridership over the same months in 2015. In June of 2016, the average daily ridership topped 2,000 for the first time.

Metroway is quite cheap compared to other WMATA concerns

Last week, WMATA released several radical ideas to close the gap between its operating budget and allocated funds for Fiscal Year 2018.Included in a collection of ideas to save $10 million on bus service was eliminating 20 bus routes that WMATA has to subsidize because fares don't cover costs. In Metroway's case, WMATA pays $3.5 million extra per year to run the service, which is nearly three times the amount of money the 20 routes averaged together.

To put that in perspective, WMATA projects a budget gap of $275 million for FY 2018, and that number is likely to grow in the future. While we typically talk about rail in terms of decades and in magnitudes of billions of dollars, BRT offers options for smaller areas at a fraction of the cost-- a $3.5 million compared to hundreds of millions, for example-- and time.

For instance, the Silver Line was part of the original Metro planning during the 1960s, and the construction cost for Phase II alone is $3 billion. The Potomac Yard Metro Station also has roots dating back to the original Metro planning, was in various forms of development beginning in the early 90's, and will be complete in 2020 at an estimated cost of $268 million.

On the other hand, the time between the completing the conceptual design for the Metroway BRT Route and the grand opening was only 41 months at a cost of only $42 million for construction.

Beyond that, Metroway is just getting started. Why cut it off now?

Metroway has a growing ridership, as it serves an area that's growing. In fact, it has far more riders than the other 19 bus lines proposed for elimination, with the average ridership among the others being less than 500 riders per day. Only one other route, Oxon Hill-Fort Washington, has more than 1,000 riders per day.

Also, recent numbers Metro used to evaluate Metroway for its recent budget report were distorted: During SafeTrack surges 3 and 4 in July, anyone transferring from Metro was allowed to ride Metroway for free, which pushed ridership from being over 2,000 paying customers per day down to around 1,300. The next month, though, ridership was back over 2,000.

If Metroway stays around, ridership will grow and Metro will come closer and closer to breaking even on Metroway. With the next wave of development starting to kick off in the north end of Potomac Yard and Oakville Triangle, even more potential riders will have a chance to use the service..

That brings up another point: Metroway has come on board to serve the TOD of Potomac Yard. Eliminating the line would add more congestion to the Route 1 corridor, defeating the purpose of TOD. It could also drive up automobile ownership among residents who relied on the system.

Also, WMATA has already invested in the infrastructure needed to run BRT, and while it was far cheaper than a rail project, it's still a lot to simply throw away. The years of planning and construction are in place, which represent a cost 12 times greater than the annual subsidy, which should decrease as development continues. Shutting down these lanes would be another black eye for WMATA.

Finally, residents' opinion of BRT matters, as other jurisdictions begin to develop their own systems. Montgomery County is planning a 14 mile stretch along Route 29 that is part of a larger 80 mile system. Eliminating this line would sour the public opinion and possibly derail other local jurisdictions from developing their own.

As WMATA continues to face ridership declines from what it calls "poor service quality and high profile disruptions and safety incidents" that plague the rest of their system, it would be foolish to cut this growing asset.

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