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See the view from a Silver Line train with this video

Can you barely wait until Saturday to ride the Silver Line? Get a sneek peek of the new line with this video from WMATA.


Video from WMATA. The video has no audio, so if you don't hear anything, your sound isn't (necessarily) broken.

This shows the view from a Silver Line train as it travels from Ballston to Wiehle-Reston East.

Silver Line trains began running simulated service over the weekend. Trains carry passengers from Largo to East Falls Church under an Orange Line banner, then offload and continue on to Wiehle without any passengers.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Transit


Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 14

On Monday, we posted our fourteenth photo challenge to see how well you know Metro. Four of our readers took photos of different stations. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

We got 35 guesses on this post. 10 of you knew all five. Great work Aaron, AndrewB, Justin...., yest2kwasi, Sand Box John, Russell, Phil, Peter K, nativedc, and PieSuperPac!


Image 1: Brookland. Photo by Sand Box John.

The first image was taken at Brookland. The clue here is that the platform is curved. Only two stations in the system have a curved platform, and the context here is clearly Brookland rather than Silver Spring. 23 of you knew this one.


Image 2: Huntington. Photo by Peter K.

The second image was taken at Huntington. This is at the south end of the platform, where one regular-sized and two narrow escalators ascend to the southern mezzanine. I believe these are the only narrow escalators in the system.

But the real clue is the funicular on the left. This elevator is unique in the system because it does not ascend vertically. It ascends diagonally, just like the escalators. Only 15 of you knew this one, so it was the hardest to answer this week.


Image 3: Stadium/Armory. Photo by Peter K.

This picture shows the northern entrance to Stadium/Armory. There were three clues visible in this image. The yellow banner at the top is very distinctive, and says "STADIUM THIS WAY," pointing passengers to the correct exit for RFK Stadium.

The entrance itself is a clue, being unique in the system. Instead of ascending to a floating mezzanine, the escalators lead directly from the platform to a mezzanine in a different room. The unique feature here is that the opening for the escalators goes very high above the platform.

The third clue, just visible to the right is the junction indicator above the outbound track. These are present at each of the stations where trains split between lines.

31 people got this one right, the highest total this week.


Image 4: Farragut North. Photo by DC Transit Nerd.

The fourth picture was taken at Farragut North. While many stations have floating mezzanines, the one at Farragut North (for the exit to the southwest corner of Connecticut and L) is unique because of the buttresses that link the mezzanine to the vault wall. The other mezzanines are supported only by columns down to the platform. 18 of you guessed correctly.


Image 5: Grosvenor. Photo by Ben Schumin.

The final image shows Grovesnor station. This station is in an open cut, like White Flint, though the context here (no tall buildings visible to the north) demonstrates that it can't be White Flint.

We got a few other guesses for stations in cuttings, but they all have different roof types, which is a key to guessing the correct station. There are only 4 above-ground canopy types in the system (though that will increase to 6 when the Silver Line opens) plus a few unique designs.

26 of you guessed correctly here.

Thanks to Ben Schumin, DC Transit Nerd, Peter K, and Sand Box John for submitting photos! Thanks to all of you for playing.

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

Transit


Eight-car Metro trains equals widening I-66 by 2-4 lanes

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.


I-66. Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

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.

Clearly it's time to think longer, not wider.

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Transit


Can you guess the station? It's whichWMATA week 14

This week, it's time for a little something different on whichWMATA: Your entries. We picked the best five images from reader submissions. Can you guess the five stations these images depict?


Image 1: Photo by Sand Box John.


Image 2: Photo by Peter K.


Image 3: Photo by Peter K.


Image 4: Photo by DC Transit Nerd.


Image 5: Photo by Ben Schumin.

In the future, we'll have more reader submissions, so while you're riding Metro keep your eyes (and cameraphones) peeled for unique stations and architectural features.

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

The answers will appear on Wednesday. Good luck!

Transit


A "wye" is out, but a second Rosslyn station may make more Blue Line trains possible

Metro's planners have been studying ways to deal with the capacity crunch at Rosslyn station. A track connection from Court House to Arlington Cemetery isn't possible, but a second station for the Blue Line is, and could be built by 2025.

Each Metro track segment is limited to 26 trains per hour (TPH). At Rosslyn, where the Blue, Orange, and (soon!) Silver Lines come together, this limits the number of trains on each line. In 2012, Metro reduced the number of Blue Line trains to allow more Orange Line capacity. Later this month, the number of Blue Line trains will decline even more to make room for the Silver Line.


Two possible fixes for Rosslyn. Image from WMATA.

There's really no way to alleviate this crunch without additional track capacity. Eventually, it's likely that a second subway across downtown will be necessary to handle the ridership. Metro is currently exploring the idea of building a new loop line through the central city. A new subway would allow Orange and Silver lines to each have 13 slots, and the Blue Line could also to have increased service up to 13 TPH.

Earlier, Metro was looking at two ways to address the capacity constraints. One concept was a "wye" track connection, to allow trains coming from Court House to turn south and go toward Arlington Cemetery and vice versa. The follow-up study this year, though, determined that building foundations make this option impossible.


Potential location for a second Rosslyn station. Image from WMATA.

The other option, though, is feasible. It would require building a second station one block west of the current Rosslyn station. This new platform would connect to the existing Rosslyn station with a pedestrian tunnel. At least initially, only the Blue Line would use it. The Orange and Silver lines would stay in the current station.

If built, this would mean that the Blue Line would only operate between Franconia-Springfield and Rosslyn (though some Yellow Line trains might still start and end in Franconia as they do today). That would mean that, at least until the line is extended across the Potomac, Blue Line riders would need to transfer to an Orange or Silver line train at Rosslyn to get downtown. But all the lines at Rosslyn would be coming more frequently than they do today, which might alleviate the inconvenience of changing trains.

These diagrams I made last year show how the new station (and the infeasible wye) could work.


View peak service levels: Pre-Silver Line   With Silver Line
Possible solutions: Blue Line terminal Wye (rejected)  

Note: Since this graphic was created in 2013, Metro has announced there will be 5 TPH per hour on the Blue Line once the Silver Line opens, rather than 6 as shown here.

The wye would have allowed for more trains on the new Silver Line tracks and given riders from Alexandria and south Arlington a one-seat ride to Court House, Clarendon, etc. (if they caught the train every ten minutes going that way), but it also would have made service more complex, added chances for delays, and not fit in as well with a future Potomac River crossing. A new Rosslyn terminal would hopefully be just the first segment of a crosstown subway through Georgetown.


Possible extension to Georgetown.

Right now, Metro's planning staff is recommending the proposed station be moved forward for project development funding, which essentially means that they want it to get money for more detailed study. But the project is in the Metro 2025 plan, so planners anticipate that this could be opened within 11 yearsif the jurisdictions, particularly Virginia and its cities and counties, are willing to pay for it.

For the next few years, the capacity crush at Rosslyn is likely to get worse. But this project might be the light at the end of the tunnel for Blue, Orange, and Silver line riders.

Transit


Ask GGW: Why can't Metro keep more trains on the Blue Line?

With Silver Line opening soon, Metro is reducing the number of Blue Line trains running between Pentagon and Rosslyn. Reader Daniel W. wants to know why Metro is doing this.


Photo by Adam Fagen on Flickr.
Could GGW offer some insight into why Metro is increasing headway on the Blue Line instead of clearing room in the tunnel by running fewer Orange Line trains but running them with eight cars? WMATA can service the same number of Orange Line riders with one third fewer trains by simply running trains at system capacity.

The current situation is fairly complex. Each Metro line has a capacity of 26 trains per hour (TPH). Right now, the combined Blue/Orange line between Rosslyn and Stadium/Armory is operating at that limit. When the Silver Line starts operating later this month, both the Blue and the Orange lines will see fewer trains to make way for the Silver Line. That much is inevitable.

But the Blue Line reduction is more severe for two primary reasons. First, there's simply more demand for trains coming from north Arlington, so Metro wants to give the majority of the slots to the Orange and Silver lines. The other reason is that the line coming up from Alexandria and southern Arlington splits at Pentagon. Blue and Yellow line riders have two options for getting into downtown. But for the Orange and Silver lines, the only place they can be routed is via Rosslyn.

Many Blue Line riders are understandably upset about having longer waits for a direct train to the western part of downtown. Now, it may often be faster for riders to take the "rush plus" Yellow Line from Franconia and transfer at L'Enfant. But without a separated subway for the Blue Line, there's not much WMATA can do to increase capacity.

Comparing capacity

What does the current breakdown look like?


View peak service levels: Pre-Silver Line   With Silver Line
Note: This graphic was originally created in 2013. Since then, Metro has announced there will be 5 TPH per hour on the Blue Line once Silver opens, rather than 6 as shown here.

Right now at Rosslyn during peak hours, there are 19 inbound Orange Line trains and 7 inbound Blue Line trains each hour. That means there's an inbound train about every 2 and a half minutes.

Of the Orange Line trains, about 40% are 8 cars long and 60% are 6 cars. All of the Blue Line trains are currently 6 car trains. That means that each hour at Rosslyn, there are roughly 42 inbound Blue Line cars and 130 inbound Orange Line cars. This means a total of 172 inbound cars per hour.

Once the Silver Line opens, the distribution will change. Starting on July 28, the mix at Rosslyn will be 11 Orange Line trains each hour, 10 Silver Line trains per hour, and 5 Blue Line trains per hour.

All of the Silver Line trains will be 6 cars in length. The proportion of Orange Line cars is not expected to change, so it will remain about 40% 8-car trains. The Blue Line will operate with half of its trains as 8 car sets.

That means that at Rosslyn, there will be 35 Blue Line cars inbound each hour, a reduction of 7 cars. The Orange Line will also see a reduction, with only 74 cars per hour. The Silver Line will have 60 cars inbound each hour. Now, since the Silver and Orange share in northern Arlington, riders at stations like Clarendon will see 134 inbound cars each hour, which is a very slight increase. Overall, at Rosslyn, that will mean 169 cars inbound each hour (which is a slight decrease).

So, even though the transit agency is reducing Blue Line frequency in order to fit more trains coming from northern Arlington, the change in the length balance of those trains means that essentially passenger capacity is staying the same. It's only increasing by 4 cars per hour. And of course, it's dropping by quite a bit for the stations on the Orange Line west of East Falls Church (from 130 today to 74), though that section of the line is less crowded than the parts closer to the core.

Alternate solutions

Daniel's question is specifically whether WMATA can have the same capacity by increasing the length of Orange Line trains rather than reducing frequency on the Blue Line.

If WMATA kept the same number of Blue Line trains as there are today7 TPH each 6 cars in lengththe inbound Blue would have 42 cars per hour. The number of Orange Line trains would still have to change to accommodate the Silver Line, so let's assume the remaining 19 slots are distributed 10 to the Orange Line, with all 8-car trains, and 9 to the Silver Line, with all 6-car trains.

There would then be 80 inbound Orange Line cars per hour and 64 inbound Silver Line cars per hour, for a total of 144 cars per hour coming through northern Arlington. That would mean a total of 186 cars per hour inbound at Rosslyn, which is significantly more than today.

However, this solution would actually require Metro to use more cars in daily service, and right now, there simply aren't enough. The Silver Line requires more cars to run, since Wiehle Avenue is so far out. The opening of the new line is already stretching Metro's fleet. There will be more wiggle room sometime soon, once the first 64 7000-series cars arrive, but that milestone is probably more than a year away.

The other issue is that Metro still needs upgrade power systems on all the lines to enable more 8-car trains to operate. Right now, even if Metro had enough cars, there isn't enough traction power capacity to run all 8-car trains, though the agency is slowly working to upgrade traction power substations throughout the system.

Metro does anticipate running 100% 8-car trains in the near future. But being able to do so is dependent on being able to finance more 7000 series railcars. Right now, the local jurisdictionswho pay for capital upgradeshaven't ponied up enough money for that to happen, but there's still time.

WMATA expects ridership to continue to grow. More people ride the Orange Line in northern Arlington than ride the Blue Line between Pentagon and Rosslyn, and so the transit agency is trying to send enough trains that way. Officials see a Blue Line reduction as the only way right now, and since the Yellow Line bridge offers a relief valve, Metro can still give Blue Line riders just as many inbound trains each day, but some riders who used to have a direct trip may find themselves making a transfer.

The only way to resolve this capacity crunch is, in the short term, for local governments to fund more railcars and more power stations, and eventually build another Potomac crossing. Without a new river crossing, there can't be more trains on Blue, Orange, and Silver at the same time.

Transit


Metro considers labeling trains as Northbound, Southbound, etc. as part of new sign concept

You might soon be catching a Southbound Green Line train to L'Enfant Plaza and transfer to an Eastbound Orange Line train, if Metro goes ahead with a concept to revamp signs and navigation in the rail system.

The agency took a fresh look at its wayfinding signs because of a number of problems, including accessibility for people with disabilities, really confusing designs, and more. Officials came up with a new concept, ran it by people internally, and last night shared it with the Riders' Advisory Council.

North, south, east, west

The biggest change would be to drop the system of identifying directions by the ends of the lines. Instead of taking a Green Line train toward Branch Avenue or Greenbelt, you'd take it northbound or southbound.


Left: Current pylon design. Right: New concept pylon design.

Certainly this direction system can be confusing for many people, especially new riders, for whom these ends of lines mean little. It's particularly easy to get mixed up with the Red Line, where trains can go to Glenmont, Shady Grove, Grosvenor, and Silver Spring. But the two "S" directions aren't on the same side, nor are the two 2-word directions.

On the other hand, the Red Line makes a U shape, so telling someone to get on the Westbound Red Line at Wheaton, when the tracks really head south and a bit east, might still leave some room for confusion. Riders from Franconia to Pentagon would have one track for both Eastbound Blue Line trains and Northbound Yellow Line trains. The Blue Line train also heads west before it heads east, though the trains do ultimately go east and north.

Matt Johnson examined this possibility in a post in 2010, but also noted the above issues. Other possibilities include "inbound/outbound," as Boston's T does, picking a spot (such as Metro Center) where the directions flip; or listing the next major stations, as Munich does.

The strip maps would also get simpler and just show stations you can reach with a one-seat ride from the current platform, like Matt recommended. There would be only a few different signs; and stations with the same lines would all have the same signs, with the current station marked with a white background.


Current strip map (for Rosslyn).


New strip maps (for Pentagon City)

More dots on the map?

Another part of the presentation shows tweaks to the system map. Metro officials spent months agonizing over how to show stations where multiple lines all stop, since the old system of one small circle in between two lines doesn't work for three lines.

The agency eventually settled on a scheme of using the same small circles but with little white "whiskers" linking it to the lines on each side. It seems they aren't happy with this in the Jackson Graham Building, because the new concept tosses this out and instead puts a separate circle on each line.


New concept system map.


The current system map.


Alternate "pill" option from 2013 redesign.

To me, this looks really busy and messy. What do you think? Another problem is that transfer stations still have a single small-ish circle, so it might even look like Silver and Blue trains don't stop at L'Enfant Plaza. Certainly the transfer stations are now much less prominent, which is the opposite of what should be.

In our 2011 map contest, someone actually did suggest something like this scheme: Matt Johnson, whose entry used pairs or triples of dots. However, he used bigger dots that link together, which I at least think looks much nicer than this. He made the transfer stations much larger, though the problem still exists on his version.


Matt Johnson's map contest entry.

The ends of each line now say "West Terminus" and so forth. It's a minor thing, but "terminus" seems like an unnecessarily technical word to use. There's also got to be a more elegant graphical way to include those labels.

What do you think about using north/south/east/west and the map concept?

Transit


Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 13

On Monday, we posted our thirteenth photo challenge to see how well you know Metro. I took photos of five stations. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

There were 44 guesses on this post. Eight of you got all five correct. Great work FN, Sean Emerson, MZEBE, Peter K, Rob K, JayTee, Roger, and King Terrapin!


Image 1: Fort Totten.

The first image shows the lower level of Fort Totten, viewed from the mezzanine. The lower level of Fort Totten is unique in that it's partially above ground and partially below ground. The northbound train that's visible is emerging from the subterranean portion of the station. 32 of you knew this one.


Image 2: King Street.

The second image shows the north end of the platform at King Street. This entrance is newer than the rest of the station, and is at the end of an extension of the platform. The fences are there because trains don't stop at this section. The roof type (only present at King Street and Braddock Road) and dual elevators are both clues to the station's identity. 26 of you got this one right.


Image 3: Glenmont.

This image shows the bus loop at Glenmont station. This canopy is unique to Glenmont. The Ride On bus you can see at the left was a clue to help narrow down the possibilities. (I specifically waited to take the picture until the bus drove into the frame). 23 of you guessed correctly.


Image 4: Vienna.

The fourth image is a shot of Vienna station from one of the parking garages on the south side of the station. While this station does have the common glass and concrete peaked roof, it is clearly a median station, which narrows it to one of the four Orange Line stations along I-66.

The pedestrian bridges on both sides of the freeway, however, mean that this must be Vienna. West Falls Chruch and Dunn Loring only have a bridge to one side, and East Falls Church has an exit below the platform rather than above. 28 knew that this was Vienna.


Image 5: Rockville.

The final image was somewhat harder. This is a picture of an elevator near Rockville station. This elevator leads from Monroe Street to the pedestrian bridge that takes riders across Route 355 to the station. One clue to the location is the Brutalist Montgomery County Executive Office Building, visible at right. Only 11 of you guessed this one correctly.

Congratulations to the winners!

Submit your photos

Do you have a photo for next week's whichWMATA? If so, please email it to whichwmata@ggwash.org by tomorrow (Thursday) evening.

Include the station where you took the photo and the name you want credited as photographer. Any photos you submit must be photos you have taken personally, and by emailing us the photo, you give us permission to use and republish it.

Transit


What are the 10 longest Metro escalators?

Have you ever wondered where your Metro stop ranks in terms of escalator length? Here are the 10 longest escalators in the system.


Graphic by the author.

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.

Transit


How well do you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 13

It's time for the thirteenth installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Below are photos of 5 stations in the Metro. Can you identify each from its picture?


Image 1


Image 2


Image 3


Image 4


Image 5

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

The answers will appear on Wednesday. Good luck!

Submit your photos

Next week's whichWMATA will feature photos from readers like you! Do you have a good photo for the contest? If so, please email it to whichwmata@ggwash.org. Include the station where the photo was taken and the name you want credited as photographer. Any photos you submit must be photos you have taken personally, and by emailing us the photo, you give us permission to use and republish it.

Please submit your photos by Thursday evening.

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