Posts about Metro
Maryland and Virginia will both enact major new transportation funding bills this year. Neither bill says exactly which projects will be funded, but here are the top 10 projects in Maryland and Virginia that most deserve to get some of the funds.
1. 8-car Metro trains: Metrorail is near capacity, especially in Virginia. More Metro railcars and the infrastructure they need (like power systems and yard space) would mean more 8-car trains on the Orange, Blue, and Silver Lines.
2. Tysons grid of streets: Tysons Corner has more office space than downtown Baltimore and Richmond put together. Converting it to a functional urban place is a huge priority.
3. Purple Line: Bethesda, Silver Spring, Langley Park, College Park, New Carrollton. That's a serious string of transit-friendly pearls. The Purple Line will be one of America's best light rail lines on the day it opens.
4. Baltimore Red Line: Baltimore has a subway line and a light rail line, but they don't work together very well as a system. The Red Line will greatly improve the reach of Baltimore's rail system.
5. Silver Line Phase 2: The Silver Line extension from Reston to Dulles Airport and Loudoun County is one of the few projects that was earmarked in Virginia's bill, to the tune of $300 million.
6. Arlington streetcars: The Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcars both have funding plans already, but could potentially be accelerated.
7. Route 7 transit. Leesburg Pike is the next Rosslyn-Ballston corridor waiting to happen. Virginia is just beginning to study either a light rail or BRT line along it.
8. Corridor Cities Transitway: Gaithersburg has been waiting decades for a quality transit line to build around. BRT will finally connect the many New Urbanist communities there, which are internally walkable but rely on cars for long-range connections.
9. MARC enhancements: MARC is a decent commuter rail, but it could be so much more. Some day it could be more like New York's Metro North or Philadelphia's SEPTA regional rail, with hourly trains all day long, even on weekends.
10. Alexandria BRT network: This will make nearly all of Alexandria accessible via high-quality transit.
Honorable mentions: Montgomery County BRT network, Potomac Yard Metro station, Virginia Beach light rail, Southern Maryland light rail, and VRE platform extensions.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
Purple Line gets first sponsor: Maryland has a transportation funding bill, but to help get the Purple Line moving, MDOT has signed a deal with Six Flags Corporation to sponsor the Purple Line. The new roller coaster design will include a loop-the-loop at Columbia Country Club and feature significantly higher speeds, reducing travel time.
New tax plan for Virginia: Governor Bob McDonnell proposes eliminating the state sales tax. He would make up the revenue by a 50% tax on hybrid or electric cars, organic produce, reusable grocery bags, and bicycle inner tube replacements. Observers now consider him a shoo-in for the 2016 GOP Presidential primary.
Congestion solved: The Texas Transportation Institute found that lost jobs from sequestration improved congestion. "Therefore, the logical policy for transportation must be further job loss," said Tim Lomax. Plus, Stockton, "foreclosure capital of the world," has the nation's lowest congestion, making it a clear model to emulate.
Where's the birth certificate?: Donald Trump is offering a reward for anyone who can prove DC Councilmember McDuffie isn't a "native Washingtonian." Stronghold resident McDuffie owns the house he was raised in and says he was born here, but no incontrovertible proof was immediately available after a 5-minute Google search.
Metro becoming more self-service: As part of its efforts to create a more "self-service" system in the Momentum plan, Metro will replaces all escalators with stairs and convert trains and buses to a Flintstone's-style power system.
Examiner will keep going: The Washington Examiner has reversed course and will continue its current publishing format. "Once we saw how upset our editorial style made David Alpert, we figured we were doing our job and had to continue," said editor Stefan Schmitt. The paper will, however, still fire Kytja Weir and Liz Essley, as both sometimes had positive things to say about transit.
Cheh apologizes: After weeks of speculation and inquiries from the local press, Mary Cheh relented and issued a letter of apology for her completely legal campaign fundraising activities. "DC residents have come to expect so much more of their elected officials," said DC voter Amy Zoneger.
A Metro rider, Barbara, wrote in to Unsuck DC Metro about a problem where she added funds to SmarTrip online but then still couldn't go through a faregate. What's going on is one of the unfortunate consequences of the 1990s-era faregate systems WMATA is still using.
I had added funds online on March 4. I didn't use my card before March 18, and when I did, I had to realize that there was still only 20 cents on my card, and the $50 I had added at the beginning of the month were nowhere to be seen. ...
I couldn't use them for riding because the funds wouldn't load, and I couldn't even go through the turnstile with them. So, what I did was use my credit card to add $20 to my card (I didn't have any cash on me), entered Foggy Bottom, exited at Ballston and: voilà! there were $68 on my card all of a sudden.
This is obviously frustrating to infrequent riders who load up funds ahead of time for when they ride, or use automatic loading to ensure their card is never low on funds. But the automatic or remote loading may not work.
This happens because of the way the (fairly outdated) SmarTrip system works. When you add funds to your SmarTrip card online or automatically, the funds don't appear in your Smartrip account immediately because your balance is actually stored encrypted on the card rather than on a computer.
Adding funds online sends an instruction to the SmarTrip system to watch for your card. The next time a faregate or bus farebox reads your card, it will have information about what you added, and will load the funds onto your card.
The load instructions get copied to faregates and bus fareboxes throughout the system, but because these machines are not in constant communication (like bus fareboxes), it may take several days for the instructions to reach a farebox you use.
But Barbara waited more than a few days. What happened? She wrote:
I called SmarTrip, and they didn't have a plausible explanation: All I learned was that this could happen "with infrequent use of the card." What the heck does that mean? It shouldn't matter how frequently I use the cardHere's what's going on. The faregates have their list of SmarTrip cards that are waiting for new funds already loaded online. Unfortunately, the outdated faregates have limited computer memory (that fact restricted peak-of-the-peak, for example). They can only store so many load instructions.
— it's my money on there, it's just not in my bank any longer, it's on their card!
Spokesperson Dan Stessel said:
Each target [the SmarTrip computer system in the faregates] can hold a maximum of 85,000 auto loads. When that number is exceeded, the system has to localize, meaning the system will send your auto load purchase to every station you've used in the past month.Furthermore, based on the SmarTrip customer service response, it sounds like if you load online but then don't use the system soon after, newer load instructions may crowd yours out.
Either the Ballston gate had the instruction and Foggy Bottom did not. (Barbara said that she lives in Arlington, so Ballston is probably the station she uses most.) Alternately, once Barbara loaded her card at a machine and then entered the rail system, the central system retransmitted her load instruction to the faregates. Then when she exited, the gate at Ballston knew to add her funds.
This whole mechanism of getting the load instruction onto the faregates ahead of time is fairly messy. It would be better if, when you went onto the system, the faregate could just check your balance with a central server, but the faregates don't have a high-speed, always-on connection to a central server to accomplish this.
WMATA is studying new fare payment systems. Any new system ought to fix this irritating problem, but it may be quite some time before a new system actually comes on line.
Meanwhile, it might make sense for more infrequent riders to use the vending machines, especially if they let their cards get very low.
WMATA has been rolling out information about what will happen once the Silver Line opens. One part: a new map. The agency posted a draft for comments on its MindMixer site.
When the Silver Line joins with Orange and Blue, it will inevitably force some changes to the map. That's because the current map has small station circles and thick lines, which works for two lines together but not three.
In our map contest, designers tried a number of different approaches: much thinner lines like in most cities' subway maps, larger circle symbols, double symbols, or "pill"-shaped station symbols that could span more lines.
WMATA has taken a different approach with this draft. Each line got just a bit thinner, so that the station circles are slightly wider than a line instead of slightly narrower. For the 3-line segments, "whiskers" extend on either side of the station circles to tell riders that all trains stop there.
The map also abbreviates some stations which aren't abbreviated today, like "Metro Ctr" or "Capitol Hgts," and removes the cross streets.
What do you think of the proposed map?
Details emerge on Silver Line frequencies, endpoints
In addition, WMATA has released more operational details about planned Silver Line service.
As was previously reported, Silver trains will go to Largo; the original plan was to turn them at Stadium-Armory, but Metro determined that the existing pocket track is not adequate.
To use the pocket in rush service, Metro needs to be able to pull trains of up to 8 cars in pretty quickly. If the switches have a wide radius and the pocket track is long, the trains can go in at higher speeds, but the pocket has smaller switches and a short pocket, which means pulling trains in will likely slow down other trains behind.
Since the pocket is on an aerial structure, there's not room to expand it without massive expense, so Metro will send the trains to Largo (which gives Blue Line riders east of the river and in Prince George's more frequent service as well).
Silver Line trains will run every 6 minutes during peak, 12 minutes off-peak, 20 minutes after 10 pm, and 12-15 minutes weeknights. This will combine with the Orange's frequency from East Falls Church to Rosslyn and both Orange and Blue beyond that, but outside rush hours, people riding the line will likely have to do a fair amount of waiting.
Also, as we knew (but which won't please riders hurt by Rush Plus), there will be even more Rush Plus. 2 Blue Line trains per hour during the peak will become Yellow Line trains from Franconia to Greenbelt. That makes room at Rosslyn for the Silver Line.
Riders north of Mount Vernon Square on the Green Line will see more service, but Blue Line riders from southern Fairfax, Alexandria, and Arlington going to Rosslyn, Tysons, or Foggy Bottom will have to wait longer for Blue trains or ride through downtown DC.
The only solution to this problem is a new terminal or wye at Rosslyn, so that more trains can come in from the south without taking away capacity from trains from the west. WMATA has proposed this as part of its "Metro 2025" plan, but there's no funding yet for these important projects.
- Latest Metro map drafts add Anacostia parks and other tweaks
- Bikeshare is a gateway to private biking, not competition
- Short-term Washingtonians deserve a voice, too
- DC Council makes major policy changes overnight
- Public land deals have both benefits and pitfalls
- Parklets give every block a little park
- Judge denies injunction against closing schools