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Posts about Prince George's

Bicycling


We're getting closer to having bike trail from DC to Baltimore

Last month, a 1.7 mile section of the WB&A Trail opened, bringing the separate parts in Anne Arundel and Prince George's County as close to one another as they've ever been. A few more additions to the trail would mean an uninterrupted bike route from DC to Baltimore.


Image from Google Maps.

The WB&A trail runs from Odenton to Lanham, with a gap at the Patuxent River. There are plans to bridge the river, extend it south to Washington and north to BWI and then onward to Baltimore, which would create a full trail between DC and Baltimore.

When the WB&A was first built, it was a state of the art, electric commuter railroad that ran on three lines connecting Washington, Baltimore, Annapolis and the B&O railroad at Annapolis junction. It operated from 1908 until 1935. Work on the WB&A trail began almost 20 years ago, when the bulk of the Prince George's section from Glen Dale to Bowie was constructed, and planning dates back to the early 1990s.

During the seven years after that first section opened, the trail was extended to the banks of the Patuxent River on the Prince George's side and 5.5 miles of the Anne Arundel section of the trail was built across the town of Odenton.

Work stalled after that, though, leaving a one-mile gap between the two sections of the trail.

The trail is expanding, but there's still a gap to bridge

In recent years, hope for connecting the trails has been rekindled. Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties have resolved the issue about how to close the gap, deciding to go with a detour that was the subject of a lot of debate. While this isn't ideal for trail users, and plans to build on the right-of-way make it worse, it does mean the stalled project is moving forward.

To that effect, this year Prince Geroge's County completed the WB&A Trail Spur, which extends the trail west along the old Race Track Railroad Spur. And last month, Anne Arundel County built the 1.7 mile trail extension. This brought both trails across the river from one another, albeit nearly a mile from where the train used to cross the river.


The newest section of the WB&A Trail along Conway Road in Anne Arundel County. Photo by John Ausema.

The next step is to build a bridge across the Patuxent River. Using a $560,000 state grant, the two counties plan to begin the design phase later this year on a bridge near the location of an old road crossing that disappeared sometime prior to 1945. Once the new bridge is there, the WB&A Trail, as officially planned, will be complete.


1908 Map showing location of old bridge between the railroads

South to Washington, DC

The recently drafted Prince George's County Trails Plan proposes dozens of connections to the WB&A and extensions, most notably extending the trail south along MD-704 all the way to DC's Marvin Gaye Trail and to the Anacostia Tributary Trails via US-50.

Though these routes differ from the ones proposed by WABA in 2015 and fleshed out in 2016, the general idea remains the same, connect the WB&A to Washington, DC and the Anacostia.


Extensions to the WB&A Trail proposed in the PGC trails plan

North to the BWI Trail

Subsequent plans to the original 1990's master plans for the WB&A, South Shore and West County (what the WB&A in Anne Arundel was called at the time it was planned) trails have taken the opportunity to expand and tie into it.

The 1995 West County Trail Master Plan included a sidepath along WB&A Road from the north end of the current trail all the way to the BWI Trail—the loop trail that completely encircles BWI airport. The 2002 Severn Small Area Plan included this same trail, built in four phases. Unfortunately, this trail extension is not included in the county's 2013 Master Plan.


Severn Small Area Plan bicycle and pedestrian map, showing the WB&A trail in red running north-south.

The BWI Connector Trail

In addition to the connection to Washington, the bridge across the Patuxent and the connection to the BWI trail, finally realizing the dream of a Washington to Baltimore bicycle greenway would require one other trail: the BWI Connector (formerly the Light Rail Trail).

This trail would extend the existing Light Rail Trail, which currently runs from the BWI Trail to Maple Avenue in Linthicum Heights, 2.4 miles north to connect it to either Baltimore's Middle Branch or Gwynn Falls Trails. Such a connection was one of the top priority projects in Maryland Trails: A Greener Way To Go, the state's 2009 statewide trail vision.

It was also one of five recommendations for a hiker-biker trail network in the 2003 BWI/Linthicum Small Area Plan and was a public recommendation in the Baltimore region's Maximize2040 surface transportation plan, though it's not mentioned in the plan itself.

A complete Washington-Baltimore Greenway could end up looking something like to this:

Four separate projects, all in different stages of planning and development, would have to come together to make this vision happen. But the small section opened last month in Anne Arundel County brings it slightly closer to fruition.

Transit


A bus between National Harbor, the MGM casino, and Alexandria? It could happen.

With Metro's help, Prince George's County and Alexandria are testing a bus route from National Harbor to a number of key commuting spots in Alexandria. The NH2 would link new Prince George's developments and would make it easier for workers and visitors to get across the Potomac.


Route and service details of the proposed NH2 bus from Virginia to National Harbor. Image from WMATA.

The route would run from National Harbor to the soon-to-open MGM Casino, then to the Oxon Hill Park and Ride and across the river to the Huntington and King Street Metro stations. It'd run every half hour between the above locations, from 6 am to 1 am daily.

If the WMATA board subcommittee that's considering the proposal approves it, the pilot would last from October 2016 to June 2017, after which WMATA staff would evaluate whether the route was worth keeping around. If they think the route is worth keeping, it would become a regular part of the Metrobus network. That could happen as soon as July 2017, at the start of Metro's FY2018 budget year.

The test is expected to cost around $2.175 million, which would be covered by bus fares, a mixture of money from Prince George's County, Maryland's Department of Transportation, the City of Alexandria, Fairfax County, and $500,000 from National Harbor's developer, the Peterson Group.

A full year of service would cost closer to $2.9 million, which would be covered by the same pots of money as the pilot.

The proposal document up for review on Thursday says the jurisdictions expressed interest in creating the cross-Potomac service, which could ultimately bring more people (and their spending money) to both areas.

The NH1 is the only bus currently serving National Harbor, although several others have stops nearby. The route connects National Harbor to Southern Avenue Metro station (and then served Branch Avenue instead for a time before being restored following an outcry). Both would service the Oxon Hill Park and Ride.


Existing NH1 bus route to National Harbor from the Southern Avenue Metro station.

This pilot isn't the first time Metro has experimented with bus service connecting National Harbor to the region's transit network. Back in 2013, Metro proposed rerouting the NH1 line to run across the Woodrow Wilson bridge to Old Town Alexandria and serve the King Street station, as Matt' Johnson wrote back in 2013, somewhat similar to what's now being proposed. However, that proposal didn't move forward at the time.

However, the NH2 route is being proposed now with a large casino expected to draw in thousands to the area, which means the ridership numbers could be significantly different. The MGM development expected to open later in November will have two convention centers, the casino, a hotel, restaurants, and a 3,000-seat theater.

Public Spaces


If you want more trails in Prince George's, you'll like this plan

Prince George's has a ton of trails, but they're not all well-connected to each other. The county's Department of Parks and Recreation recently released a draft of a plan for fixing that, as well as building hundreds of miles of new trails. It's looking for public input to make the plan as strong as possible.


Image Prince George's County's draft Trails Master Plan.

There are currently over 300 miles of trails in Prince George's. Many are loop or recreational trails, such as the Watkins Regional Park loop trail, and are located within M-NCPPC property. They provide excellent hiking, equestrian, and mountain biking opportunities. Other trails, such as the Anacostia Tributary trail system or the Henson Creek Trail are great trails that connect parks and neighborhoods.

But while Prince George's has excellent individual facilities, it's not all that easy to get from one county trail to another, which makes it challenging for people to get to various destinations on foot or bike.

That's where the Trails Master Plan, created by Prince George's Department of Parks and Recreation, comes in. The county will use the plan to create a trail network that "provides all residents and visitors with access to nature, recreation, and daily destinations; enriching the economy, promoting sustainability; and increasing opportunities for health." This plan will contribute to achieving Formula 2040, the county's general plan for completing 400 miles of new trails over the coming decades ("nine miles of trail per year over the next 30 years").

There's more than one type of trail

One of the plan's key roles is to make recommendations for which type of trail should go in which locations, depending on the type of use it will get.

Primary trails will form a nearly nearly-contiguous network of paths for walking and biking that not only connect M-NCPPC parks, but also link various activity centers identified in Prince George's Plan 2035 General Plan. There are currently 65.6 miles of primary trails in Prince George's, and the plan aims to get the number up to 293.


A primary trail. Image Prince George's County's draft Trails Master Plan.

Also part of the plan are secondary trails, which will include mostly paved paths that are designed to connect neighborhoods and other parts of the built environment with the primary network. These will be for shorter trips, and may not be used as heavily as the primary trails. Prince George's currently has 110.5 miles of secondary trails, and the plan calls for 399.

The third major trail type in the plan is the recreational trail, which is designed to meet fitness, nature-access, and recreational needs. Recreational trails are often made of soft surfaces, and are primarily for mountain biking, hiking, and equestrian trips. The plan recommends an additional 102 miles of recreational trails to expand on the existing 153.


Image Prince George's County's draft Trails Master Plan.

Where trails are going

Here are some of the plan's key recommendations:

  • A primary trail along Central Avenue, which would create a connection between DC's Marvin Gaye Trail and the Largo Town Center Metro

The Marvin Gaye Trail. Image from Google Maps.
  • An extension of the WB&A Trail along MD-704

The WB&A Trail. Image from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy/TrailLink.
  • A secondary trail connecting the Woodrow Wilson Bridge with Oxon Hill Farm National Park
  • A recreational trail linking Rosaryville State Park with Jug Bay
The plan also makes recommendations for how the Department of Parks and Recreation can best manage and maintain the county's growing network of trails. Although maintenance and operations may not be as exciting as building new facilities, keeping trails clean, safe, and comfortable are critical to keeping trail users happy.

Specifically, the plan suggests setting aside money specifically for trails so it can take care of needs like resurfacing, repairing bridges, and small construction projects. The plan also recommends a monitoring program to keep tabs on trail conditions so routine maintenance and furniture inspection is sure to get done.

What do you want in Prince George's trails plan?

The Department of Parks and Recreation is hosting a public meeting today, June 7, to share its draft and solicit comments and suggestions from Prince George's residents and other trail users. It's at 8pm at the Department of Parks and Recreation Auditorium, 6600 Kenilworth Avenue, Riverdale, MD 20737.

Also, the public comment window for the draft plan is open until June 23rd. You can view the draft plan and leave feedback here.

Transit


Prince George's is not prepared for SafeTrack

SafeTrack, Metro's year-long program to fix its rail system and address safety problems, begins June 4. However, Prince George's County officials have not taken sufficient steps to help residents get around, such as designating HOV lanes or using school buses to shuttle people to and from available Metro stations.


Photo by Russell James Smith on Flickr.

The planned repairs to the rail system will cause huge problems for the region's commuters over the next year. The pain will be particularly acute for Prince George's commuters between June 18 and July 3, when all Metrorail service across the Anacostia River on the Orange, Blue, and Silver lines will be shut down for a 16-day closure of the Potomac Avenue and Stadium-Armory stations.

More than 25,000 riders a day who commute by Metrorail from Prince George's County and DC's Ward 7 on those lines will be completely cut off from downtown Washington and northern Virginia during that period.

Metro is depending on local jurisdictions to assist in the mitigation effort

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld stressed that SafeTrack "will require regional coordination, resources, communication, and shared pain." Specifically, Wiedefeld requested that local jurisdictions provide additional support and input in the form of "traffic control, parking restrictions, bus support, HOV restrictions, etc."

Some localities have already answered Metro's call. For example, Fairfax County has agreed to provide supplemental express buses from Reston and Vienna to the Pentagon during the first scheduled SafeTrack surge. Arlington County will use higher-capacity buses on selected routes, convert some streets to bus-only, eliminate some street parking, and adjust traffic signal operations as needed.

Prince George's, by contrast, is not currently planning to take these kinds of steps. Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPW&T) spokesperson Paulette Jones stated that "Metrorail plays an unparalleled role in regional mobility" but that "Prince George's County cannot replicate or significantly supplement [Metrorail's] function" without making dramatic, costly, and inconvenient changes to the county's current transportation system.

DPW&T's Associate Director of Transportation, D'Andrea Walker, added that Prince George's County does not have the same resources as Fairfax and Arlington and that DPW&T cannot afford to do anything other than try to inform residents of alternative transportation options such as ride sharing, teleworking, and working during off-peak hours.

Sadly, DPW&T is missing the point. No one is suggesting that Prince George's can instantaneously replicate Metrorail's service, even if it had unlimited resources. But the county can and should do a better job of mitigating the impact of Metro's service disruptions—and it should be able to do so without breaking its piggy bank.

One idea that I've put forward before was for Prince George's to use school buses to provide supplemental shuttle service during the 16-day shutdown period. The Prince George's County Public Schools (PGCPS) Transportation Department maintains a fleet of 1,247 school buses and employs 2,006 drivers and attendants. Those buses will be idle, since school won't be in session. Why can't DPW&T work with PGCPS to place some of those buses, drivers, and attendants into service to assist with SafeTrack mitigation?


Image from PGCPS.

When I asked, nobody at the county gave me a reason that this wasn't feasible. Sure, the county will need to spend some money to run these buses and do the other things required to provide effective mitigation. That's what government has to do when responding to any crisis. We seem to understand that intrinsically when it comes to things like snow removal. This is just a different kind of transportation crisis.

HOV lanes will help move people, not threaten the public

DPW&T's spokeswoman, Jones, said the agency has not explored the option of creating bus lanes on certain arterial roads because it believes such lanes "would dramatically increase congestion, idling time, and pollution within [those] corridors." Yet when I asked her for the specific facts or studies that support this claim, she wasn't able to cite any.

That's not surprising, for as the graphic below shows, buses transport people much more efficiently than single-occupancy vehicles. And while some have questioned the environmental benefits of high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, most serious studies show that they result in reduced emissions and better air quality.


Photo by Jeff Moser on Flickr.

There is still time for County Executive Rushern Baker and DPW&T to come up with real and workable solutions to avoid this looming transportation crisis. You can encourage them to do so by signing Greater Greater Washington and the Coalition for Smarter Growth's action alert.

A version of this post appeared on Prince George's Urbanist.

Bicycling


There's bikeshare in College Park now, but it isn't Capital Bikeshare. Here's why.

College Park just debuted its own bike share system, called mBike instead of Capital Bikeshare (CaBi). Some say not going with CaBi was a mistake, but it looks like College Park made a rational decision.


One of College Park's new mBike stations. Image from the University of Maryland.

The mBike system has 14 stations and 125 bikes, including a few two-seater tricycles. The docking stations require a smartphone app to unlock a bike, and the bikes come with their own locks so you can stop and lock up somewhere other than a dock.

Separate systems can make it harder to travel between neighboring places

mBike's provider company is called Zagster, which is different from Motivate, the company that runs CaBi. Some have said that this will be a problem because the mBike network is simply much smaller than the CaBi one, which has over 300 stations.

Another concern is that separate systems in places so close to one another will make each system less useful to potential riders. If someone routinely goes from one town to another and would consider using bikeshare to do it, they don't have that opportunity.

To illustrate this point, imagine if Fairfax or Arlington decided to introduce its own fare card for its bus systems and stopped accepting Metro SmarTrip cards. Many people who primarily use Metrobus or rail would likely hold on to their cards, and the hassle of getting a new card for a specific location might discourage them from using the bus to go there, or from going there in the first place.

Separate systems can lead to artificial barriers between neighboring places. For example, in New Jersey, the cities of Jersey City and Hoboken are currently in a bitter conflict stemming from a decision to not go in together on a bike share system. Jersey City decided to join Citibike, which is the system that New York City uses, while Hoboken went with Hudson Bike Share.

It's gotten ugly, as both cities have taken steps to try and prevent users of one system from riding in the "territory" of the other—there are even laws that say Hudson Bike Share bikes can't be parked near PATH Railway stations in Jersey City.

Locally, Car2Go seems to have recently recognized the pitfalls of walling systems off from one another. It used to be that users couldn't drive the vehicles from Arlington into DC and vice-versa because of various parking rules and the fact that each government had to negotiate separately with the company. Car2Go lifted that rule last week.

College Park had logical reasons to go with its own system

There are, however, reasons to think mBike was the right move. For starters, the system's biggest purpose is to serve people needing to get around the University of Maryland—there likely wouldn't have been a lot of people riding bikeshare between College Park and stations inside DC or other areas.

It's also possible that College Park really didn't even have a choice. When the city began planning for a bikeshare system in 2013, it set out to use Alta (now Motivate), the company that runs Capital Bikeshare. But when one of Alta's main bike suppliers went into bankruptcy, production halted on all of the company's systems, including CaBi. That left College Park in a lurch.

After Alta reorganized and emerged from the supplier squeeze as Motivate, the price for new bikes and docking stations jumped. College Park put its plans to use CaBi on hold, and eventually canceled them. Instead, the city asked other bikeshare companies to enter bids, which eventually led to Zagster.

In the end, Zagster's bid turned out to be cheaper on a bike by bike basis, which allowed College Park to purchase more bikes and docking stations than it had been planning to do with CaBi. Even though mBike is a small system, there are more bikes available in the immediate College Park area than there would have been with CaBi.

Switching between mbike and CaBi could one day be pretty easy

For now, mBike has the summer to get itself established before the next school year. If the system is successful, College Park may choose to expand it around town on the Maryland campus.

Meanwhile, the rest of Prince George's County and its cities are still studying their own bikeshare options. The results of that study may still lead to the county going with CaBi in places like National Harbor or other communities along the Green Line. In places like Hyattsville, which is in between College Park and areas in DC that have CaBi, the dynamics will be a bit more complicated.

Hopefully, the outcome will be that the two systems can co-exist. Options for that might include passes that are interchangeable, docks right next to one another, or something else.

In the interim, both College Park and the governments that work with CaBi should work together to make things easier for members so no one feels like they have to choose one membership over the other. Reciprocity could be granted for members or a discount on certain types of membership. This has also been an idea floated for current CaBi members who may travel to other cities with bikeshare systems operated by Motivate.

And even CaBi members and fans may want to pay close attention to Zagster. The bikes themselves are a little different and maybe future CaBi models could incorporate some design features like a bigger basket. Accessibilty advocates and people interested in different models of cycling may also want to pay attention to how the tricycles are used. If those models prove popular it may behoove CaBi to improve its own accessibility and even possibly introduce its own different types of bikes.

Right now only time will tell if College Park ultimately made the right decision. But what we do know suggests that the city wasn't totally crazy to not wait around for CaBi.

Education


Schools are still segregated in Maryland, and state legislators want that to change

Studies have shown that while our country is becoming more ethnically diverse, our schools have become more segregated. In fact, studies by the Civil Rights Project have found that Maryland to be among the most-segregated state in the country for black students. A bill hoping to change that just passed through the Maryland state legislature.


Photo by US Department of Education on Flickr.

Segregation is still a problem in our schools

I am an elementary school teacher in Prince George's County. In our school of over 700 students, nearly 90 percent of whom qualify for free and reduced meals. We have fewer than ten white non-Hispanic children, and most of our students speak Spanish as their first language.

It's not that we do not have white or middle class children in our neighborhood. But at present, the majority of these families are choosing private schools, charter schools, magnet programs or homeschooling. They do anything to avoid sending their kids to the predominantly low-income local public school.

Looking at Prince George's County on the whole, nine out of 10 black students attend a school where at least 90 percent of students are minorities. Nearly four out of 10 black students attend what the Civil Rights Project report called "apartheid schools," where more than 99% of the school is African American; nearly all of the 400 "apartheid schools" are in Prince George's County or Baltimore City.

As early as the 1960s, we have understood that the two greatest predictors of student academic success are the socioeconomic status of the student's family, and the socioeconomic status of the student's peers. That is to say that low-income children who attend mixed income schools will achieve at higher rates.

With a state as segregated as ours, it is no wonder that Maryland's achievement gap is also one of the greatest in the country. According to our 2013 NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores, the gap in average math scores between black and white fourth-graders in Maryland was the fifth-worst in the nation, and in reading the gap was the ninth-worst.

A new program called EDCo wants to confront these issues

Senator Bill Ferguson, a democrat from Baltimore City, proposed legislation to create the Maryland Education Development Collaborative (EDCo). The collaborative would make recommendations to the state Board of Education, the General Assembly, and local school systems about how to make schools more diverse in terms of socioeconomics and demographics.

The EDCo bill has now moved through the Maryland state legislature. If signed by the Governor, the new educational entity will be a big step to addressing the greatest civil rights issue and roadblock to educational equity in our state: socioeconomic segregation.

While equitable education is elusive, there's plenty of reason to think it's not impossible. The challenge is collecting, analyzing and sharing best policies and practices across schools, districts and regions.

In 1998 the Maryland Legislature founded TEDCo (Technology Development Corporation) to foster innovation and entrepreneurship communities across the state. In under two decades, the organization has created thousands of jobs and impacted hundreds of companies through granting and mentoring programs. The goal with EDCo is to bring the same level of growth and innovation to the field of education by connecting universities, research institutions, venture capitalists, and school districts. Hopefully, this would mean turning research into policy and practice.

For example, last year Governor Hogan launched the P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) partnership with IBM. EDCo could assess the impact of this collaboration and work to disseminate progress.

Another way that EDCo could help is by developing a model to make magnet programs more inclusive and economically integrated. While magnet programs were designed to diversify schools by drawing students from across boundary lines, the current system in Prince George's County favors families who are actively engaged in their children's education by requiring parents to apply. That leaves the neediest children isolated in their increasingly segregated schools.

EDCo would seek to break down these barriers to comprehensive integration by supporting programs that attract a broad demographic clientele, and developing lottery systems that do not discriminate against poor, under-resourced children. Rather than relying on a competitive application or lottery, magnet programs would instead use strong marketing and weighted lotteries to build demographically diverse school populations across the state.

Teachers need an organization that considers broad policy changes

Public school systems aren't in a great position to push for change because teachers, principals, and superintendents are consumed with making sure they're educating kids every day. There's little time or energy to zoom out and think about policy.

An entity like EDCo, on the other hand, can provide perspective, make connections, and help us evolve towards a better future, where all children of all colors and classes learn together in high quality schools that would make any parent proud.

Transit


Is The Bus "always late?" No. Not even close.

"This bus is always late." People say it so often while waiting for Prince George's County's The Bus that it's basically become a conversation starter. But I tracked my last 101 trips on The Bus, and my bus was either on time or very close to it 86% of the time. That's a lot better than what common complaints suggest.


Photo by the author.

I've been tracking each of my trips to and from work on The Bus since December of last year. For each, I noted the time I arrive at the bus stop, the time the bus left the stop, and the time I exited the bus. I compared this with the scheduled arrival times to see how much time I spent waiting, how many minutes the bus was late (or on-time), how many minutes I spent traveling on the bus, and the total travel time (the wait time + the travel time).


Graphs by the author.

Generally, transit agencies consider buses to be on time if the bus arrives at a stop between one minute before or up to five minutes after the scheduled time. For the 101 trips tracked, my bus was on time by definition 75.2% of the time (76 trips)—36 of the trips were exactly on time. On average, my bus arrived at the stop 3.4 minutes after the scheduled time.

My bus was 5-9 minutes late 9.9% of the time (10 trips). That's technically late, but the wait isn't bad. It isn't until the bus is more than 10 minutes late that using transit becomes noticeably inconvenient. Of the 101 tracked trips, there were 11 trips where the bus was later than 10 minutes.

Unfortunately, when I recall my transit trips, the longest waits are the trips I remember most easily.


Graphs by the author.

Knowing how long my commute will take is key to scheduling my day and making transit convenient. On average, I spent approximately 10.8 minutes waiting for the bus. The average time spent on the bus was approximately 29.2 minutes. Together, the average total trip time was 40.1 minutes and 80.1% of the trips were under 45 minutes, which is the amount of time I set aside to ride The Bus.

Although the length of my bus commute is less than ideal, the expected wait time and travel time is fairly consistent, and I can easily fit my bus schedule into my daily work schedule.

The Bus does not always run perfectly, but claiming that it is always late is simply not true. Based on the last 101 trips, The Bus is a generally predictable and dependable transit service. For a transit service that's outside of an urban environment and whose resources are constrained, The Bus is a solid service. Among some of its key strengths:

  • Dispatch number. All stops list a contact number you can call during business hours, and a helpful live dispatcher can find out exactly where a bus is and when it's expected to arrive. Some stops also have countdown timers, which help inform users when to expect the next bus.
  • Professional and positive bus operators. Operators for The Bus are friendly and perform their duties with a high level of care, respect, and customer service, often while responding to frustrated and discourteous riders.
I've also got some thoughts on how The Bus could get better:
  • Add The Bus to online mapping apps. The Bus is not currently on Google Maps, Apple Maps, or other transportation apps. This makes it very difficult to plan a trip on The Bus without reviewing all of the timetables. However, the County is in the process of collecting the GTFS data and it is possible that The Bus will be available on transit apps later this year.
  • Higher frequencies, especially during the peak. It's expensive for any transit service to run buses more often, and will be a definite challenge for Prince George's County. But a late bus feels especially inconvenient when the next bus isn't arriving for another half hour.
  • Early buses. These are a double-edged sword: While it's great to arrive at a stop early, leaving a stop early means passengers who arrive on time have to wait for the next bus. It's helpful when drivers wait until the scheduled time to leave.
Bus transit in non-urban areas has to serve low densities of people over long distances; making it work can be difficult. Prince George's County provides a reliable service to many areas of the county that are not easily accessible without an automobile and helps connect to the regional rail and bus services.

Development


Why Washington's transportation is a problem, in one map

Why does Metro have budget problems? Why is traffic bad? While there are many reasons, this map shows the biggest one: Our region keeps growing mostly on one side, which taxes strained transportation networks and wastes resources.


Image from PlanItMetro based on COG forecasts. Read the analysis.

This map shows projected growth around the region. There's a stark line between all the highest-growth areas, in the west, and lower growth to the east. The folks at PlanItMetro, who made this map, wrote:

Between 2020 and 2040, the region expects to add about 870,000 more jobs (25% increase) and 1 million more people (16% increase). As shown in the map below, much of that growth is planned where transit is already at or exceeding capacity, while many other areas that have high-quality transit continue to be underdeveloped. The result: more congestion.
These stats were part of a big new study, called ConnectGreaterWashington. Last weekend, I wrote about the broad strokes in the Washington Post. The key takeaway: Our region is not growing enough in areas, mostly on the east side of the region, where there's already ample transit (and road) infrastructure, while the growth that is happening is straining the infrastructure we have.

There's a real price tag for this.

Unbalanced growth costs money

In the ConnectGreaterWashington study, WMATA planners modeled several scenarios. With no particular change in our current path, Metro will have crush loaded trains (which are not just uncomfortable but more often delayed) on the Orange/Silver lines west of Rosslyn and the Yellow/Green lines south of L'Enfant. Meanwhile, its operations will cost local governments $350 million a year by 2040 (up from about $245 now) in subsidy.

Just making the areas around stations more walkable and bikeable and changing fares to encourage off-peak travel helped only a tiny bit on its own. Shifting predicted growth between 2020 and 2040 inside individual jurisdictions, from places far from transit to places near, helped more, but the crowding imbalance on Metro (and roads), where trains (and highways) are packed in one direction and nearly empty in the other, didn't change.

Metro could be profitable! Or, at least, closer to it

There was a scenario which fixed myriad problems: Rebalancing growth more evenly across the region from 2020 to 2040. If the region focused enough of its economic development efforts where there is underused transportation capacity, Metro could even run a surplus of $270 million a year. That's a revenue stream WMATA could bond against for fixes like a second Rosslyn station to relieve Blue Line crowding (costs about a billion), walkways between downtown transfer stations (similar), or all eight-car trains (about $1.7 billion).

Those fixes would be even more needed than they are today, as under this scenario, Metro would also need more capacity. And I wouldn't oversell the chance that Metro becomes "profitable"—it probably requires more shifting of growth than most governments, employers, or developers are willing to go for.

Besides, it's not clear that running a surplus is what a transportation system ought to plan around. We build transportation systems to move people, and they cost money. Many European cities happily spend much more on their transit systems, because they find them valuable and are willing to invest in public works projects. It's worthwhile to have transit even if its ridership isn't astronomically high.

The hole will just get deeper

However, we need to recognize that for every year the western edge of the region grows much faster than the east side, we're digging a bigger hole. New COG projections, which come from local governments' own growth plans and aspirations, estimate that Loudoun and Prince William will add 100,000 jobs each by 2045, or 75% more than they have today. Meanwhile, the forecast estimates Prince George's will just gain 19% more jobs and 10% more residents.

For every year that kind of pattern continues, we're making Metro more expensive, fiscally, than it needs to be and making the challenges of crowding on roads and rails worse. This is costing every jurisdiction and taxpayer far more than it should, including those on the west side of the region.

Or, to put it more starkly: Even Virginians and western Montgomery residents pay every day for the lack of growth in Prince George's, and it's in their interests as well as everyone else's to better balance our growth.

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