Greater Greater Washington

Posts about WMATA

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.

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.

Transit


How about local celebrity voices for Metro announcements?

Good speakers aren't always good subway operators, and vice versa. In a city where most of the subway stations look alike and a large percentage of riders are tourists, a clear announcement system is key. What if Metro used local celebrities to make train and station announcements?


Photo by AlbinoFlea on Flickr.

Some Metro drivers mumble incomprehensively, or the poor quality of the sound system muddles their voice. Other drivers speak clearly, but cut off the microphone halfway through the message. And all of them should focus on driving, not speaking.

The DC area is a region of many notable voices. Why not take advantage of that and have some famous local voices make recordings?

Riders will always need verbal announcements on the train. The new Metro cars will have lighted destination signs. But when they're crowded, they will be of limited use to me because I am short, and handrails obscure the lettering, making it difficult to read unless you are already familiar with the station names.

In Moscow, it used to be that the recordings had a male voice when riders were headed to work downtown in the morning, and a female voice when headed home that evening. That system was archaic, even for Moscow, and won't work here. But recording voices for the station announcements is still a good idea.

With so many notable voices in the region, Metro could take advantage by having famous local voices record announcements. Each celebrity could do about 4 or 5 stations, defining an area.

Riders on the Green Line near College Park could hear Kermit the Frog, a famous alumnus with a famous voice. Takoma Park native Goldie Hawn could voice announcements on the Red Line headed towards Takoma, while her Blair High School classmate Ben Stein could take over at Silver Spring. Where the train passes Channel 5's headquarters in Van Ness, newscaster Sue Palka could remind riders not to leave personal belongings behind.

The different announcers could become part of our regional lexicon, along with the "third alphabet." Soon, folks will say someone "lives out past Palka."

Not all local voices are appropriate, though. As tempting as it is to have Bill Clinton do Farragut West, keeping politicians out of the mix is a better idea, no matter how memorable Eleanor Holmes Norton's and Marion Barry's voices are.

Let's have some suggestions. Who would you have do some of the recordings?

Transit


On 16th Street, the cost of not adding bus lanes is $8 million a year

The Metrobuses on 16th Street NW carry half of all traffic during peak hours, using only 3% of the vehicles. But buses share street space with cars. If they had their own lane, WMATA could save close to $8 million a year.


Photo by Damien [Phototrend.fr] on Flickr.

It goes without saying that it costs money to run buses. But it's less obvious that the speed of a bus is directly related to the cost of providing the service. Simply put, if we double the speed of a bus, we can provide the same service for half the cost. Or for the same cost, we can provide twice as much service.

Bus lanes are one of the tools we can use to make buses move faster and be more efficient. On 16th Street, since buses carry such a large proportion of the users of the street, bus lanes are a perfect tool. Talk of a bus lane has even made it into the mayoral race, though it's not entirely clear how strongly each of the candidates would support it.

Saving time

WMATA's Priority Corridor Network study looked at several corridors, including 16th Street. It determined that, if nothing changed, by 2030 a bus would take about 40 minutes to get from Silver Spring to McPherson Square. However, if there were a bus lane, buses in 2030 would be able to cover the same distance in just over 20 minutes.

That means a bus lane would cut transit travel time in half. It would also mean that a bus rider could cover the distance between Silver Spring and downtown DC faster than a motorist, which would make transit more competitive.

But even with one fewer lane, estimates show that motorists' travel time wouldn't increase significantly. With the bus lanes, a 2030 car trip would be 4 minutes longer than without them.

Saving money

Right now, it costs $16.1 million dollars each year to run the 16th Street buses, the S1, S2, S4, and S9. Bus lanes could cut those costs in half. And that means there's an opportunity cost of not installing the lanes. That cost is about $8 million dollars a year.

Of course, because the 16th Street Line is a regional route, that money wouldn't all go back to the District's coffers. It would go back to all the jurisdictions. DC would save about $3.3 million, Prince George's would save about $1.4 million, and Montgomery and Fairfax would save about $1.1 million each.

The District should support bus lanes on 16th Street not only because it's good for transit users. They should also support the bus lanes because they represent a more efficient use of the space (remember, buses move 50% of the people on 16th Street already). But just as importantly, the District should support bus lanes because there's a real monetary cost to the region for not supporting them.

Transit


Metro railcar plays double duty as pedestrian bridge at National Airport

There's good news and bad news at the National Airport Metro station. The bad news is an elevator is out of service, leaving one of the train platforms without elevator access. The good news is WMATA came up with a delightfully clever solution: Park a Metro railcar on the extra track between the two platforms, and use it as a pedestrian bridge to access the platform with the working elevator.


Metrorail "train bridge" at National Airport. Photo by Lily Monster on flickr.

The Metro station at Reagan National Airport has an unusual layout, with three rail tracks instead of the more normal two. There are two outside tracks, plus a third middle track. Two island platforms flank the middle track, each of them providing access to both the middle track and one of the outside tracks. West Falls Church has a similar layout.

The middle track is not actually necessary for day-to-day operations. So Metro parked a railcar on it and opened its doors, allowing passengers waiting on one of the platforms to use the railcar as a bridge to reach the other.

Thus passengers who need an elevator can access one. There's no need to detour them to another station and make them wait for a shuttle.

WMATA is sometimes criticized for being overly bureaucratic, rigid, and slow to solve problems. But they deserve credit for this, a nimble and inexpensive solution that genuinely makes riding the system a little easier.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Support Us
DC Maryland Virginia Arlington Alexandria Montgomery Prince George's Fairfax Charles Prince William Loudoun Howard Anne Arundel Frederick Tysons Corner Baltimore Falls Church Fairfax City
CC BY-NC