Greater Greater Washington

Posts about WMATA

Transit


Ask GGW: Who can push for more and better bus service?

Reader Michael Fekula wants to see new and more frequent Sunday bus service to his neighborhood, Westchester Park, between College Park and Greenbelt. He sent us a copy of a letter that he wrote to WMATA General Manager Richard Sarles:


Photo by William F. Yurasko on Flickr.

I live in the Westchester Park community which is located on Kenilworth Avenue east of Berwyn Heights and west of Greenbelt. We are served by one bus route: the R12, which runs Monday through Saturday.

The biggest problem is that there is no Sunday service. We have a large number of senior citizens and many others who go to church on Sunday but who cannot get there unless somebody gives them a ride.

There are others who work on weekends, plus, a large number of Univ. of Maryland students who have no way to get to campus on Sunday.

Even shopping nearby is problematic as the closest shopping center, Beltway Plaza, is going to be too long of a walk for older people.

The closest bus service to our location on Sunday is the route 81 bus which goes to the far side of Beltway Plazaa good 30 minute walk from Westchester Park. And it only runs once an hour on Sundays and service ends late afternoon. Not at all convenient.

Matt Johnson wrote about this issue in neighboring Greenbelt back in June. Matt even made a map that showed the stark difference between bus service during the week and on Sundays.

Matt points out that the obstacle to Sunday bus service (or increasing bus service in other ways) is probably not WMATA itself, but the state and local governments:

TRU-G (the transit advocacy group in Greenbelt) has been pushing for Sunday service for years now. WMATA is interested in providing the service, but there's a catch. WMATA doesn't get to decide where to expand service. The funding jurisdiction does. And in the case of Prince George's (and Montgomery) County, that's the Maryland Department of Transportation.

MDOT has to pony up the money, not WMATA. Until people exert enough pressure on the state government, that's not going to happen. In Greenbelt, we've been trying for several years, but there are lots of projects competing for money from the state, and Sunday bus service in Greenbelt hasn't yet made the cut.

Therefore, Michael Fekula and any other Maryland residents who want more bus service on Sundays might also want to start talking to lawmakers in Annapolis and officials at MDOT to ask the state to provide funds for better bus service.

Transit


How'd you do in week 2 of whichWMATA?

On Monday, we posted our second photo challenge to see how well you knew Metro. I took photos of 5 stations and we asked you to try to identify them. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

We got 23 guesses on this post. One commenter, Justin, got all 5 correct. Excellent work, Justin! Another 4 commenters got 4 right.


Image 1: Silver Spring.

Over 75% of you got the first one right. This is an inbound Red Line train arriving at Silver Spring. You can see the Lenox Park residential tower in the upper left corner, which seemed to help several of you find the answer.


Image 2: Braddock Road.

The second image is a picture of Braddock Road, taken from a southbound Amtrak train. Only 5 of you got this one right, but most people made educated guesses based on the railroad tracks visible in the foreground. I thought this one would be easy, since Braddock Road and King Street are the only two stations with this roof design (3 people guessed King Street).

While WMATA does have a few unique stations, most fall into 8 basic designs. Knowing which design elements are present could help you get the right answer in the future. The devil (and the answer) is in the details.


Image 3: Gallery Place.

The third image is of the lower level of Gallery Place. Eight of you guessed correctly. Another six guessed either Metro Center or L'Enfant Plaza, which were also great guesses, since the three downtown transfer stations have a similar layout.

One commenter, Justin, gave his reasoning for picking Gallery Place over the other two:

It's underground transfer, which makes it Gallery Place, Metro Center, or L'Enfant Plaza. There's a red transfer dot, eliminating L'Enfant Plaza. There are four lines of text on the wall, and the second line is small. If it was Metro Center, the second line on the Virginia side would be longer for Silver Line, and there wouldn't be one on the Maryland side, since Silver/Blue both go to Largo.

Image 4: New Carrollton.

This picture is of the eastern entrance to New Carrollton. One distinct feature of this station is the extra-wide overhang on this side of the station. It's the result of a provision for a bypass track into the railyard here that was never installed. Six of you got this one.


Image 5: Greenbelt.

This one did prove to be the hardest: only four of you got it right. But I'm impressed. Everyone gave it a good go and made educated guesses.

This is a sign at Greenbelt in the pedestrian tunnel that links the faregates to the Lackawanna Street entrance and the MARC Camden Line platforms. At Greenbelt, the Camden Line platform for Baltimore (eastbound) is only accessible from this tunnel. The only other place where that happens is in Rockville (2 of you guessed Rockville).

At New Carrollton (3 guesses) both MARC tracks are on an island platform, so there's no need to distinguish between directions. Silver Spring (2 guesses) does have split tracks, but both are accessed from a bridge that is off WMATA property.

I think one thing that threw people off was the "westbound." But remember that MARC (and before it, the B&O) considers both the Camden and Brunswick lines to run east-west. Baltimore is railroad east of Washington and Brunswick is railroad west. If you pull up a Camden or Brunswick line schedule, you'll see they refer to trains as eastbound and westbound.

Next Monday, we'll have 5 more photos for you to identify. If you want a sneak peek, you can follow me on Instagram. Thanks for playing!

Transit


Can you guess the Metro stations in this week's pictures?

Welcome to the second installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Can you guess which 5 stations these images depict?


Image 1


Image 2


Image 3


Image 4

The final image this week is a hard one. But believe it or not, there is enough information in the picture to narrow it down to 2 stations.


Image 5

As a hint to help you identify the 5th station, the "west bound" refers not to a Metro service, but a connecting service. And keep in mind that the decision between eastbound and westbound is made inside the Metro station.

We'll hide the comments so that the early birds don't spoil the fun for the rest of you.

Transit


Did you guess the Metro station? Here are the answers to this week's quiz

On Monday, we posted our first challenge to see how well you knew Metro. I took Instagram photos of 5 stations and we asked you to try to identify them. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

We got 40 guesses on the post. No one guessed all 5 correctly, but two people, Sand Box John and Phil, each got 4 correct. Congratulations!


Image 1: Prince George's Plaza.

The first image was of Prince George's Plaza. Half of you got that right. The station is in an open cut, and the southern end of the platform has nice terraced hedges. Those are visible in the picture from aboard a Greenbelt-bound train.

About a quarter of you guessed Arlington Cemetery, which was a good guess. That station also has side platforms and is in a cut.


Image 2: Greenbelt.

Image 2 was a tough one. This is a photo of a skylight above the faregates at Greenbelt station. Next time you head for the B30, look up.

Only one person, Phil, got this one right.


Image 3: NoMa-Galluadet University.

NoMa is a newer station, which is clear in this photo from the clean, fresh concrete wall. NoMa also went through the signage update early, which is why the sign has new elements, but is missing the "RD" in the circle that is present in the newest signage. 13 of you got this one.

Several of you guessed subway stations for this one. Since the arrow is pointing up toward the platform, this one clearly had to be a station where the tracks were above the mezzanine, not below.


Image 4: Wheaton.

This is a photo of the longest escalators in the Western Hemisphere, at Wheaton station. Of course, Metro has lots of stations with long escalators, so this one was a bit challenging. Even still, 15 of you got it right.

Other popular choices included Woodley Park (7 guesses) and Dupont Circle (4 guesses).


Image 5: Gallery Place.

17 of you correctly deduced that it was Gallery Place. This one is a great example of how to use deductive reasoning to solve the clue. There were some hints of that in the comments. What do we know about the picture?

First off, this is a station that has side platforms and is underground. That immediately narrows it down to 13 stations. We can't see a cross vault, which takes Metro Center and L'Enfant Plaza off the list.

Given the length of the view and the position of the photographer, we can tell that the station has mezzanines at both ends. That narrows it down to 6 (Dupont Circle, Farragut West, Gallery Place, Judiciary Square, McPherson Square, and Smithsonian). The platform is also missing pylons, which narrows it down to 4 stations, which don't have them (Farragut West, Gallery Place, Judiciary Square, and McPherson Square).

Next Monday, we'll have 5 more photos for you to identify. Thanks for playing!

Transit


How well do you know Metro? Can you guess the station?

One of WMATA's design principles from the start was to have a uniform station design. That can sometimes make it hard to figure out which stop you're at. But there are subtle differences. Can you spot them?


Image 1

A few weeks ago, I started posting one photo a day under the tag #whichWMATA on my Instagram account. We've decided to bring it to Greater Greater Washington. But instead of posting every day, we'll post once a week.

Can you guess where these photos were taken?


Image 2


Image 3


Image 4


Image 5

We'll hide the comments so that the early birds don't spoil the fun for the rest of you.

Update: Some people interpreted the instructions to say that all of the photos are from one station. They are not. You can guess the station for each of the five photos independently.

Update 2: The guessing is over and the answers are here. Check back next week for more photos to guess!

Transit


Three ways to build in Forest Glen without creating more traffic

As new homes, offices, and shops sprout around the region's Metro stations, Forest Glen has remained a holdout due to neighborhood resistance to new construction. But that may change as WMATA seeks someone to build there.


Metro wants to redevelop this parking lot. All photos by the author.

Last month, the agency put out a call for development proposals at Forest Glen, in addition to West Hyattsville and Largo Town Center in Prince George's County and Braddock Road in Alexandria. WMATA owns 8 acres at Forest Glen, most of which is a parking lot, and developers have already expressed interest in building there.

Forest Glen should be a prime development site. While it's on the busy Red Line, it's one of Metro's least-used stations. It's adjacent to the Capital Beltway and one stop in each direction from Silver Spring's and Wheaton's booming downtowns. Holy Cross Hospital, one of Montgomery County's largest employers with over 2,900 workers, is a few blocks away. But since Forest Glen opened in 1990, not much has happened.

On one side of the Metro station is a townhouse development that's about 10 years old, while across the street are 7 new single-family homes. The land the parking lot sits on is valuable, and it's likely that WMATA will get proposals to build apartments there because the land is so valuable. But zoning only allows single-family homes there, the result of a 1996 plan from Montgomery County that recommends preserving the area's "single-family character," due to neighbor concerns about traffic.


Townhouses next to the Forest Glen parking lot.

As a result, whoever tries to build at Forest Glen will have to get a rezoning, which neighbors will certainly fight. It's true that there's a lot of traffic in Forest Glen: the Beltway is one block away, while the adjacent intersection of Georgia Avenue and Forest Glen Road is one of Montgomery County's busiest. While traffic is always likely to be bad in Forest Glen, though by taking advantage of the Metro station, there are ways to bring more people and amenities to the area without putting more cars on the road.

Make it easier to reach Metro without a car

Today, two-thirds of the drivers who park at Forest Glen come from less than two miles away, suggesting that people don't feel safe walking or biking in the area. There's a pedestrian bridge over the Beltway that connects to the Montgomery Hills shopping area, a half-mile away, but residents have also fought for a tunnel under Georgia Avenue so they won't have to cross the 6-lane state highway.

Montgomery County transportation officials have explored building a tunnel beneath Georgia, which is estimated to cost up to $17.9 million. But county planners note that a tunnel may not be worth it because there aren't a lot of people to use it.

And crossing Georgia Avenue is only a small part of the experience of walking in the larger neighborhood. Today, the sidewalks on Forest Glen Road and Georgia Avenue are narrow and right next to the road, which is both unpleasant and unsafe. WMATA has asked developers applying to build at Forest Glen to propose ways to improve pedestrian access as well, and they may want to start with wider sidewalks with a landscaping buffer to make walking much more attractive. Investing in bike lanes would also be a good idea.

Provide things to walk to

Another way to reduce car trips is by providing daily needs within a short walk or bike ride. The Montgomery Hills shopping district, with a grocery store, pharmacy, and other useful shops, is a half-mile away from the Metro. But it may also make sense to put some small-scale retail at the station itself, like a dry cleaner, coffeeshop or convenience store, which will mainly draw people from the Metro station and areas within walking or biking distance. Some people will drive, but not as many as there would be with larger stores.

Putting shops at the Metro might also encourage workers at Holy Cross to take transit instead of driving, since they'll be able to run errands on their way to and from work. Encouraging this crowd to take transit is important, since hospitals are busy all day and all week, meaning they generate a lot of demand for transit, making it practical to run more buses and trains, which is great for everyone else.

Provide less parking

Whatever gets built at the Metro will have to include parking, not only for commuters, but for residents as well. While Montgomery County's new zoning code requires fewer parking spaces, each apartment still has to have at least one parking space. Even small shops will have to have their own parking. The more parking there is, the more likely residents are to bring cars, which of course means more traffic.

Thus, the key is to give future residents and customers incentives to not drive. The new zoning code does allow developers to "unbundle" parking spaces from apartments and sell or rent them separately. Those who choose not to bring cars will then get to pay less for housing. The code also requires carsharing spaces in new apartment buildings, so residents will still have access to a car even if they don't have their own. If Montgomery County ever decides to expand Capital Bikeshare, the developer could pay for a station here.

And the developer could offer some sort of discount or incentive for Holy Cross employees to live there, allowing hospital workers to live a short walk from their jobs.

No matter the approach, there are a lot of ways to build in Forest Glen without creating additional traffic. A creative approach can do wonders for the area's profile and elevate the quality of life for residents there.

Budget


Topic of the week: Is the Metro fare hike fair?

The WMATA Board yesterday approved a fare increase, which will be effective July 1. Are the fare hikes fair?


Photo by Oran Viriyincy on Flickr.

Metrorail fares will increase 3%, on average, and most Metrobus routes will now cost $1.75, no matter if you pay with cash or SmarTrip. Today, the buses cost $1.60 with SmarTrip, $1.80 cash. Parking rates at Metro lots will go up 10¢, except at some Prince George's County lots, which will cost 60¢ more.

Are the fare increases too great? Did WMATA make the right call with the specifics of the fare hike? Our contributors weigh in below. What do you think? Post your thoughts in the comments.

Michael Perkins: WMATA missed another opportunity to make their parking pricing make sense. They raise the rates universally by only 10¢, and put an additional 50¢ on most lots in Prince George's County, even though there's already a large east/west divide in ridership, and the PG County lots are less crowded than other parking lots.

For the 2016 fare update, WMATA staff should do their homework and get ready to implement something similar to BART. BART staff are allowed to periodically review and adjust the parking rates in their parking lots based on demand.

For the cash fare on bus business, I think WMATA made the right call. The cash discount was causing a lot of people to load one trip's worth on a SmarTrip card and then use it immediately just to get the SmarTrip discount.

Dan Malouff: Just to keep up with inflation since WMATA's last fare hike in 2012, fares should rise between 2-3%. The Metrobus hike is a lot, but the Metrorail hike of 3% is not much more than inflation. But even buses are matching inflation over the long term. A DC Metrobus fare in 1975 was 40¢. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $1.75 today.

Ben Ross: I find it very disappointing that WMATA has paid for lesser fare increases by cutting funding for bus priority corridors. It is very hard to take long-range plans for expensive "bus rapid transit" seriously if the area isn't willing to make modest investments in making its buses move more rapidly now.

Malcolm Johnstone: People are being priced out of using the subway and, now, the bus. Metro is too expensivenowhere else in North America can you pay $10 round trip just for subway ride.

Malcolm Kenton: WMATA still needs to institute some form of daily, weekly and monthly pass that covers both bus and Metrorail. Nearly every other big city transit agency that operates both bus and rail offers passes that cover both. If a 7-day "short trip" rail pass is $36 and a 7-day bus pass is $17.50, perhaps a 7-day "short-trip" rail pass that also includes unlimited bus travel could be $50.00. Similarly, a 28-day rail-plus-bus pass could be $260.00.

It's interesting to note that the deal remains in place that allows those with current weekly or monthly MARC train tickets to ride local buses in both the DC and Baltimore regions, as well as the Baltimore subway and light rail, at no additional cost. At $175.00, a MARC monthly ticket between Baltimore and DC is a great bargain for those who also travel extensively within either metro area: the only other form of transit it doesn't cover is Metrorail.

Can WMATA's rationale for these hikes be tied directly to any change in federal funding, or to a change in any particular jurisdiction's share of funding? Or simply to declining ridership and/or increasing costs?

Michael Perkins: Even better than that, the MTA sells a zone 1 bus pass that's good on all WMATA services as well as service in Baltimore. The Transit Link Card is just a hair under $200 and is good for everything. It covers rail and bus. Unlimited everything, including zone one MTA commuter bus and all the MTA service in Baltimore too. I don't know that there are any restrictions. Someone should try it.

The thing is on autopilot. I don't think Metro staff or the board really look at it so it just goes up with inflation every year, even though the peak long distance rail fare has outpaced inflation for a decade.

Metro has some of the highest fares in North America. I think only the London Tube has higher fares in the world. On the other hand, the trains are bursting with people. The London Tube also has reasonable passes, unlike Metro, and a congestion charge.

Myles Smith: I was surprised how close Metrorail was to the actual per-rider cost, with taxpayers subsidizing the fares by only about 20%, was it? Metrobus was more heavily subsidized, something like 60% by taxpayers. And any discussion of it should compare these subsidies to those of public streets for private vehicles (a 100% subsidy).

Jim Titus: We should not have to revisit every policy question related to equitable burden sharing, simply to make annual adjustments to account for inflation. And for the most part, they didn't.

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