Posts about Transit
Regular riders of Capital Bikeshare have cut down on their use of rail and bus transit, a new study shows. This is particularly strong for those in neighborhoods a short bike ride from downtown DC.
In these maps, each circle represents one zip code in which researchers Elliot Martin and Susan Shaheen surveyed CaBi users. The number shows how many responses they got in that zip code. Red is the percentage of those people who used that mode of transit less (rail for the map above, bus below). Green is for those who used it more, while yellow is those who didn't change.
It's not only transit which riders are using less. CaBi users also have cut down on car trips and probably even replaced some walk trips with bikeshare.
This isn't necessarily bad for transit. The places where this effect are strongest also happen to be the places where transit is most congested. On the busy Metro lines at rush hour, the trains are full into downtown DC; it's just as well if fewer people are hopping onto an already-packed train at, say, Foggy Bottom.
And many of the people who ride Bikeshare still use transit some of the time. They might still ride it in bad weather, but at other times avoid it at its most congested, or at times of poor service, like the very long waits on weekends during track work.
One potential danger, though, is that if there is lower demand for service on weekends (thanks to a bicycle alternative), that could make it less likely local jurisdictions want to pay for more frequent transit service at off times, even though not everyone can substitute a bikeshare trip for a transit trip.
Meanwhile, in Minneapolis (which has much less rail transit), the study found that many people increased their usage of rail, perhaps because the bikeshare system helps them access transit much more easily.
Eric Jaffe writes in Citylab,
Overall, the maps suggest that bike-share, at least in Minneapolis and Washington, is making the entire multimodal transit network more efficient. For short trips in dense settings, bike-share just makes more sense than waiting for the subway
— it's "substitutive of public transit," in the words of Martin and Shaheen. For longer trips from the outskirts, bike-share access might act as a nudge out of a car — it's "complementary to public transit."
Honestly, once I started bicycling (first with Capital Bikeshare, and then more and more with my own bike) I personally cut down significantly on using transit. But I live in a downtown-adjacent area where it's a fast bike ride to many destinations; for others, that's not the case, and transit is best for their trips. I also still ride transit some of the time.
Some people in the survey also increased their use of transit. The more transportation options people have, the more they can choose the one that best matches their needs. The road network is already quite comprehensive (though often crowded). We need to offer everyone high-quality transit and bicycling as alternatives so that they can use each when it's the best choice at that time.
DC is designing a streetcar that could end just shy of the Maryland line, while Montgomery County is planning Bus Rapid Transit lines that could dead-end at the border with the District. Can the two transportation departments work together? Officials from both jurisdictions met last week to see if they could build some cooperation.
Montgomery and DC leaders recognize that their residents don't consider political boundaries as they go about their daily lives, yet have so far been planning new transit lines in their own silos. New transit lines will be more successful if leaders ensure they serve the right destinations and have integrated schedules, payment, and pedestrian connections.
Will the streetcar go to Silver Spring?
DDOT planners have specified either Takoma or Silver Spring as possible endpoints for the Georgia Avenue streetcar. Jobs and housing density, not to mention the "vast majority of comments" that DDOT has received, point to Silver Spring as the best destination.
Montgomery planner Dave Anspacher said that the county's master plan includes dedicated lanes for transit on Georgia Avenue south of the Metro. But DDOT Associate Director Sam Zimbabwe noted that there would be many challenges. Montgomery County would probably not let DC construct the streetcar into Silver Spring on its own, so any connection would require very close coordination.
Will BRT connect to DC?
Several routes in Montgomery County's Bus Rapid Transit plan run up to the DC line, but there are no plans for what to do beyond that. Officials discussed how these lines could reach into the District to either get farther downtown or end at a suitable Metro station.
New Hampshire Avenue: The line for New Hamsphire Avenue could end at Fort Totten Metro, just like the current K6 and K9 WMATA buses that serve that corridor. Zimbabwe said that leaving New Hampshire out of MoveDC "may have been a gap," but also expressed skepticism about dedicated lanes within DC because New Hampshire narrows from six to four lanes at the DC line.
WMATA's K buses on New Hampshire Avenue currently cross into DC to serve Fort Totten Metro. Map from WMATA.
Wisconsin Avenue: Last fall, the Montgomery County Council approved a "dotted line" for the 355/Wisconsin Avenue BRT line to Friendship Heights (and beyond), pending collaboration with the District. The idea, said Anspacher, would be to bring BRT south towards Georgetown to serve the parts of Wisconsin without Red Line service.
Wisconsin Avenue is in fact a "high capacity transit corridor" in the moveDC plan, DDOT officials pointed out, so this connection is a distinct possibility, though potentially far off.
16th Street: The BRT master plan includes the short part of Colesville Road/16th Street to the DC line south of the Silver Spring Metro for dedicated transit lanes. Anspacher said the county would be willing to explore uses this space to help with DC and WMATA's efforts to improve the overcrowded S bus lines.
There's more work to be done
Arlington and Fairfax counties have worked together on the Columbia Pike streetcar. Arlington and Alexandria are collaborating on the Potomac Yards-Crystal City BRT project. And of course Montgomery and Prince George's have worked together on the Purple Line. These show that cooperation is possible.
At the same time, all of those examples sit entirely within one state, so it may take more work to create a Montgomery-DC transit service. WMATA could also help serve a convening role and has the authority to act as the regional transit planning authority.
Montgomery and DC officials agreed to meet again soon on specific projects, with 16th Street and Wisconsin Avenue as the top priorities. As Montgomery County's transportation committee chair Roger Berliner said, "Every day tens of thousands of commuters clog our roads to get to you, and then clog your roads. We have a mutual interest in solving that problem."
This meeting was a great start, but there will have to be many more at many different levels to truly build the best transit projects and the most effective integrated network for riders and the region.
Montgomery County's new Planning Board chair will be Casey Anderson, a strong advocate for growing the county's urban areas and improving its transit network. The County Council voted 8-1 to appoint him this morning.
An attorney who lives in Silver Spring, Anderson has been a community activist on smart growth, transit, and bicycling issues, previously serving on the board of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. He stepped down to join the Planning Board in 2011, and can be seen walking or biking to meetings there. The council will have to find a replacement for his old seat.
Councilmembers appeared to rally around Anderson last week over four other applicants for the position. "Anderson comes closest to holding the vision I have for our County's future," wrote Councilmember Roger Berliner in a message to his constituents. "He is a strong proponent of smart and sustainable growth, served by world class transit. These are the key components of a strong future for our county."
The Planning Board chair is responsible for giving the County Council recommendations on land use and transportation issues, meaning they can play a big role in how and where the county grows. As chair, Anderson says he'd like to look at the way Montgomery County uses the amount of car traffic as a test for approving development. The tests often discourage building in the county's urban areas, where people have the most options for getting around without a car.
As a board member, Anderson has advocated for more transportation options and more nightlife as ways to keep the county relevant and attractive to new residents. He was the only vote against approving an extension of Montrose Parkway through White Flint, where the county wants to create a pedestrian- and bicycle-oriented downtown. He also served with me on the Nighttime Economy Task Force, which sought to promote nightlife in the county.
Anderson was a strong influence in favor of the county's Bus Rapid Transit plan, and persuaded some of his fellow commissioners to support repurposing existing lanes for BRT. Anderson also pushed for performance standards for BRT which aim to prevent BRT from being watered down in the future.
Upcounty, he opposed the board's unfortunate vote in support of the M-83 highway last fall. He did support keeping development in a part of Clarksburg near Ten Mile Creek which turned the Montgomery Countryside Alliance against his candidacy.
Councilmember Marc Elrich was the only vote against Anderson. Though he didn't nominate her this morning, Elrich favored former Planning Board member Meredith Wellington, who had support from some civic activists who feel that the county is growing too fast. The field of candidates also included current board member and real estate developer Norman Dreyfuss, current deputy planning director Rose Krasnow, and former County Councilmember Mike Knapp.
Montgomery County offers a wide variety of urban, suburban, and rural communities. Anderson's appointment suggests that the county's ready to embrace its urban areas while preserving the suburban and rural ones, providing a greater variety of community types and transportation choices for an increasingly diverse population.
Lengthening all Metrorail trains to eight cars long would add as much capacity to the I-66 corridor as widening the highway by two to four lanes.
If Metro lengthened all trains to eight railcars, it would increase capacity on the Orange/Silver Line through Arlington by 4,740 passengers per hour per direction, according to WMATA's PlanItMetro blog. Comparatively, one new highway lane would be able to carry 2,200 cars per hour.
Even assuming two passengers per car (likely higher than the real average), a new highway lane would only carry 4,400 passengers per hour. Still fewer than 8-car Metro trains.
Then, to account for the reverse direction, double all calculations. Bidirectional Metrorail capacity would increase by 9,480 passengers per hour, equivalent to 4.3 lanes full of single-occupant cars, or 2.15 lanes full of cars with two passengers each.
Eight-car trains would also be cheaper and carry passengers faster than equivalent new highway capacity, PlanItMetro notes.
Construction on Alexandria's Route 1 transitway is coming along, in anticipation of its August 24 opening. These pictures show the station at Route 1 and Custis Avenue.
While Alexandria's transitway is just about ready, the second phase of the same project, in Arlington, is still a grassy strip. But preliminary construction work started earlier this year, and Arlington will host an official groundbreaking on Friday, July 18, at 9 am.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
Have you ever wondered where your Metro stop ranks in terms of escalator length? Here are the 10 longest escalators in the system.
Each of the escalators shown is actually a bank of 3 escalators (except at Rosslyn, which has 4), so technically this is a list of WMATA's 31 longest escalators.
Metro has 588 total escalators. The longest in the system, in fact the longest in the Western Hemisphere, are at Wheaton, which have a span of 230'. The Wheaton escalators are so long, they're twice the length of Cleveland Park's, which are 10th longest.
Interestingly, 9 of the 10 longest escalators in the system are on the Red Line. Only Rosslyn at number 5 is on a different line.
And while Wheaton's mammoth escalators seem like an almost endless ride, they're only slightly longer than one third the length of an 8-car Metro train.
While Wheaton has the longest escalators in the Western Hemisphere, WMATA's longest are only in 7th place worldwide. The Moscow Metro station at Park Pobedy has the longest in the world, at 413 feet. Stations in St. Petersburg, Kiev, and Prague also have longer escalators than at Wheaton.
Traffic on several Arlington roads is lower today than decades ago, despite huge increases in density and activity.
Since 1996, Arlington has boomed. It's added millions of square feet of new development, some of the tallest high-rises in Virginia, and about 50,000 new residents. And in that time, traffic counts have declined.
The explanation: Virtually all the growth has happened in Arlington's Metrorail corridors, where using transit, biking, and walking are the norm. As mixed-use high-rises have replaced the previous generation's car-oriented retail, the new residents don't have to drive as much.
Traffic goes down
|Street Segment||Street Type||1996||2011/2012||% Change|
|Lee Hwy - Rosslyn||EW 6-lane arterial||37,770||31,951||-15.4%|
|Wash. Blvd. - VA Square||EW 4-lane arterial||20,469||17,500||-14.5%|
|Clarendon Blvd.||EW 2-lane 1-way arterial||13,980||13,292||-5.0%|
|Wilson Blvd. - Clarendon||EW 2-lane 1-way arterial||16,368||12,603||-23.0%|
|Arlington Blvd.||EW 6-lane arterial||55,865||65,259||16.8%|
|Glebe Road - Ballston||NS 6-lane arterial||35,230||31,000||-12.0%|
|Glebe Road - S. of Col. Pike||NS 4-lane arterial||29,000||27,000||-6.0%|
|George Mason Drive||NS 4-lane arterial||20,002||20,518||2.3%|
|Jefferson Davis Hwy - N. of Glebe||NS 6-lane arterial||52,000||44,000||-15.4%
Traffic declined most dramatically on the most urban and high-density streets. Wilson Boulevard, the main street through the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, saw the steepest reduction, 23%.
The next steepest drops were on Route 1 through Crystal City, and on Lee Highway in Rosslyn, which each fell 15.4%.
Why these streets? They've got the best transit, but that's only part of the story. Thanks to high density and mixed-use, many trips that once required a car now happen on foot. Why drive to the store and fight parking when it's only a block away, and walking there only takes 2 minutes?
Other roads that don't mirror Metro lines saw reductions as well. For example the north-south Glebe Road, which saw 6-12% less traffic.
Traffic did rise on some roads. George Mason Drive traffic increased 2% over the period, and Arlington Boulevard (Route 50) went up 16%.
But George Mason is in the western, more suburban part of Arlington, where there's been less growth and less of a shift to the car-free diet. And Route 50 is a major commuting route for traffic from the outer suburbs, where smart growth is less prevalent, and more growth still means more cars.
Transit ridership goes up
During the same time period, Arlington's transit ridership is way up.
|FY1996 Actual||FY2013 Actual||% Growth|
|Metrorail Arlington Stations||45,335,000||59,528,744||31.3%|
|Metrobus Arlington Routes||12,049,000||14,848,036||23.2%|
|VRE||567,000||1,102,076||94.4%||Arlington Transit (ART)||105,000||2,644,000||2,518%||Total Annual Ridership||58,076,000||78,122,856||34.5%
Arlington's local bus operation, ART, went from a very small system to a major countywide network. The Crystal City VRE stop saw its ridership double (VRE service began in 1992). Metrorail and Metrobus grew by 31% and 23%, respectively.
Put it all together and you get one staggering statistic: Fully 40% of all Virginia statewide transit trips either begin or end in Arlington.
It almost didn't happen this way
Arlington has embraced transit-oriented development and walkability for a long time, but in the 1970s and '80s when the county was originally debating its plans, some of Arlington's choices seemed like risky moves.
Building the Metro through the heart of Arlington's business districts rather than in highway medians added huge expense to the project. But it also made possible places like Clarendon and Ballston as we know them today. Without that big initial investment, they'd likely look more like Seven Corners or Bailey's Crossroads.
For the next generation, Arlington hopes to add to its transit-oriented successes with the Columbia Pike Streetcar, the Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway, and new Metrorail station entrances, confident that these will put more people on transit and take more cars off the streets.
What's the fastest mode of travel to get somewhere? A group at the MIT Media Lab made some maps which try to answer that question.
Click on a zone on the map (which match Census block groups) and it color-codes whether it's fastest to walk (green), bike (orange), take transit (blue), or drive (red) to the center (centroid) of each other block group in the city, based on the Google Maps API.
The map generally shows places somewhat close by as yellow (bicycling is best). Often Google Maps does indeed say that bicycling is faster than driving for many locations. The authors also added some extra time to the driving trip to account for the time it takes to park and walk to the destination.
The maps show how much transit's usefulness varies
We can observe some trends from these maps. One is that transit is much more valuable to residents in some parts of the city than others. For example, in Anacostia, transit is a pretty fast way to get to a lot of the city, at least on the Green Line:
Head a little farther from Metro, and it's not so much.
We can understand why downtown businesses are pretty solidly supportive of transit: it's the best way for a lot of their customers to reach them.
Rock Creek Park is a big obstacle, particularly for bicycles. That can give the bus an edge over bicycling if you're crossing Rock Creek:
The map can help show why in parts of upper Northwest, like Tenleytown, there's strong support for transit and a lot of demand for car-free living ...
... while people in other neighborhoods not so far away might have a hard time understanding what all the fuss about car-free living and bicycling is all about.
The map is a blunt tool
Before anyone goes planning where to live with this map, there's a lot that's imperfect about it. By using the centroids of each block group, there's a lot of arbitrary variation. If one block group's centroid happens to be right near a Metro station or bus line while a nearby one isn't, then you'll see more blue blocks for one than the other.
Parking does add to the time cost of driving, so it's appropriate for the authors to add extra minutes to car trips for it. However, that also varies greatly. If you're driving to a part of the city with ample parking, or to stores with parking lots, you probably don't need to factor in much time. If you're going downtown or to a dense neighborhood, parking might take a long time. The map doesn't seem to account for this.
The instructions already note that it doesn't factor in financial costs, such as the cost of parking (which also varies enormously based on where you are going) or transit fares. People also bike at different speeds, though it's hard for a map to easily capture that.
It's also too bad the map doesn't include Arlington or other nearby areas. It would be very interesting to see the maps for areas near Metro stations outside DC.
Even so, the maps do illustrate important truths. Each of us sees the city and region in a different way based on where we live. In some sense we're all living in slightly different cities and regions. This perspective shapes how we think about transportation. And even imperfect maps like these help point some of these differences out.
What do you notice from these maps?
Whoever made this video compilation of "doors closing" chimes from metro lines around the world is a transit geek after my own heart.
After watching the video, I have a fresh appreciation for WMATA's comparatively pleasant choice.
The most controversial primary in Montgomery County this year might be for the at-large council seat. More so than any race, this one focuses on how the county should grow and whether it can meet the increasing demand for urban, transit-served communities.
There are six candidates vying for four at-large seats on the County Council. The incumbents include Nancy Floreen and George Leventhal, both elected on a pro-growth slate in 2002 and finishing their third terms; former teacher Marc Elrich, who won on a slow-growth platform in 2006; and Hans Riemer, a former political campaign director elected in 2010. The challengers are Beth Daly, director of political ad sales for Telemundo, and Vivian Malloy, retired Army nurse and member of the county's Democratic Central Committee.
All six candidates filled out the Action Committee for Transit's questionnaire for the scorecard, which is based on both their responses and public statements. This year, how ACT rated the candidates' responses has become a story of its own.
Riemer, Leventhal, and Floreen want more housing in urban areas; Daly and Elrich say we'll have enough
As with the Purple Line, all six candidates say they support building in the county's downtowns and near transit, where more people are interested in living and where an increasing share of the county's growth is happening. But they disagreed on where exactly to build, and how much new housing was necessary.
Riemer. Image from Maryland Manual On-line.
Riemer pointed to accessory apartments as one way to increase affordable housing, while Floreen named specific impediments to building more affordable housing, such as the county's parking requirements and developer fees. Both Riemer and Vivian Malloy advocated increased funding for the county's affordable housing programs.
Meanwhile, Elrich and Daly both say the county is growing too fast, though much of the county is pretty stable. Elrich has been especially critical of plans to around future Purple Line stations at Long Branch and Chevy Chase Lake, both of which he voted against.
Daly. Image from her campaign website.
Candidates say they support the Purple Line, though Daly is hesitant
Leventhal. Image from his campaign website.
Malloy. Image from her campaign website.
Both Vivian Malloy and Beth Daly wrote in their questionnaires that they support the Purple Line. Daly has expressed some skepticism about the Purple Line both in the questionnaire and in public appearances, which earned her a minus on the scorecard.
Support for complete streets, but disagreement over how to make them
Floreen. Image from Maryland Manual On-line.
Elrich and Floreen say they support complete streets, but have also pointed to the road code bill they passed in 2008, which encourage pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly street design but allowed wide roads that encourage drivers to speed. Daly wrote that she supported complete streets "in the more densely populated regions of the county."
Strong support for Bus Rapid Transit, and opposition to new highways
Elrich. Image from Maryland Manual On-line.
Daly testified in favor of BRT at public hearings last year, but said she wanted to "look at creative solutions" for creating bus lanes on narrow, congested roads. Floreen, who has been skeptical of the BRT plan, said her support would "depend on the particular location."
Meanwhile, all six candidates say they oppose the M-83 highway, which would go from Montgomery Village to Clarksburg, and would prefer a less costly alternative that involved transit.
Voters face two different paths in this race
The conventional wisdom is that Nancy Floreen, who's raised the most money, and Marc Elrich, who received the most votes four years ago, are safe. That makes the real contest between George Leventhal and Hans Riemer, who have spent their terms encouraging new investment in the county's downtowns and discouraging it in environmentally sensitive areas, and Beth Daly, who's called herself "Marc's second vote" and has mainly talked about slowing things down across the board.
Of all of the races in Montgomery County, this one may offer the starkest differences in candidates' positions when it comes to transportation and development issues. Simply because the voices in the at-large race have been so strong, changing any one of them this year could have a big impact on the county's direction over the next four years.
Full disclosure: Dan Reed worked in George Leventhal's council office from 2009-2010.
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