The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.

Posts about WMATA

Photography


Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 89

On Tuesday, we posted our eighty-ninth challenge to see how well you knew Metro. I took photos of five Metro stations. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

This week, we got 35 guesses. Nine got all five correct. Great work, Peter K, JamesDCane, Travis Maiers, AlexC, Solomon, PLKDC, Stephen C, dpod, and We Will Crush Peter K!


Image 1: Dupont Circle

The first image was fairly easy to solve (and all of you got it right!). It shows the large bowl where the northern escalators emerge at 20th and Q Streets NW, which is the northern entrance of the Dupont Circle station. The rim of the bowl is visible, as are the plantings along either side. Those main clues helped you narrow down the choice. We've featured this entrance in week 22, week 33, week 38, week 40, and week 80.

Like all of the other pictures featured in this week's set, this image has a set of three side-by-side escalators.


Image 2: Huntington

The second image shows a view of the platform escalators and inclined elevator at Huntington's southern entrance. There are two unique features visible here. The first is the inclined elevator, which is one of only a few in the country. The other is the pair of narrow escalators on either side of the regular-width one.

The slanted glass roof is also a clue, though it's not unique since a similar one exists at West Hyattsville.

Week 12 and week 14 both showcase these features. 29 of you figured it out.


Image 3: Crystal City

The third picture shows the main exit from Crystal City station. The primary clue here is the "VRE Trains" sign, which directs customers to a doorway just out of frame to the right. The connection to VRE is made by way of the underground Crystal City pedestrian network, which intersects this Metro corridor just prior to the escalators pictured.

There are several VRE connection points to Metro, but only three are underground stations: Union Station, L'Enfant Plaza, and Crystal City. Union Station never has three side-by-side escalators, so it can't be that station. And while L'Enfant Plaza does have this arrangement, there's no VRE signage like this nor any electrical lockers in the corridor.

That leaves Crystal City, as 20 of you surmised.


Image 4: Farragut North

The fourth image was taken in the northernmost mezzanine at Farragut North station. I like the brutalist coffered ceiling, which mirrors the standard waffle vault treatment. Despite the design harmony, this type of mezzanine ceiling is only present at two stations, with the other being Stadium/Armory.

The three side-by-side escalators lead down to the northern end of the platform, taking up most of the platform's width (which is why escalators are usually just singles or doubles when going to the platform). We featured these escalators from the other side in week 22.

Stadium/Armory also has three escalators like this, however, they descend into the vault through an opening that nearly reaches the top of the vault. The pictured escalators have the lower sloped roof above them, meaning this must be Farragut North.

16 got the gold.


Image 5: Federal Triangle

The final image shows a set of three short escalators at Federal Triangle. This is part of the corridor leading from the station's mezzanine under 12th Street to the portico of the Ariel Rios Building. The station is located under 12th Street, but the street escalators are located about 150' west. Along this corridor, there's a short rise that these escalators climb. These are the shortest escalators in the Metro system and are therefore quite distinctive.

15 came to the correct conclusion.

Thanks for playing! We'll be back August 23rd with another quiz.

Information about contest rules, submission guidelines, and a leaderboard is available at http://ggwash.org/whichwmata.

Photography


Think you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 89

It's time for the eighty-ninth installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Below are photos of 5 stations in the Washington Metro system. 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.

Please have your answers submitted by noon on Thursday. Good luck!

UPDATE: The answers are here.

Information about contest rules, submission guidelines, and a leaderboard is available at http://ggwash.org/whichwmata.

Transit


Ending Metro's late-night service is a bad deal for DC and the region

Since 2007, Metro has stayed open until 3 am on Fridays and Saturdays, and midnight on Sundays. This important service helps workers at late-night businesses return home, brings tax revenue to the District and jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia, and keeps people out of cars who aren't in a condition to drive.


Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

Many peer public-transit systems operate late hours or even 24/7 service. But Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld wants to close Metro at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and 10 pm on Sundays. That is not in the best interest of the District and our region.

Late-night service has been a boon to the District and other jurisdictions in the region. The District's restaurant and bar employment grew by 24,300 jobs between January 2000 and this July (from 27,900 to 52,200), and its annual tax revenue from restaurant and alcohol sales has grown by $261 million between fiscal 2000 and fiscal 2015 (from $176 million per year to $437 million per year), according to calculations by the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District.

The proposed cuts could reduce employment in the District by 2,000 to 4,000 jobs and reduce sales tax revenue by $8 million to $12 million per year. There would be a similar effect in Silver Spring, Bethesda, North Bethesda, the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, Crystal City and Alexandria.

Continue reading our column in the Washington Post.

page/2

Transit


At the King Street Metro, parking is out and a pedestrian plaza is in

At Alexandria's King Street—Old Town Metro station, there's a whole lot of space dedicated to cars and buses and not much for people on foot. But the station's parking lot will soon become a pedestrian plaza with wider sidewalks and more parking for bikes.


Photo by NCinDC on Flickr.

Today, when you come out of the Metro at King Street, you walk into a parking lot with 30 spaces and six bus bays. Contributor Gray Kimbrough noted that that's a lot of space devoted to cars, but also that the station is tough for walking around:

The station has Old Town in its name, but it's not at all obvious how to walk out of the station in the direction of Old Town. And all of the roads around the station seem to share the problem of missing or inconveniently placed crosswalks.
Joanne Pierce added:
The parking lot is not proportional. There is not enough parking to make it worthwhile for commuters but because it's a popular drop off/pick up spot (which Metro apparently never intended to be the case) there are more moving vehicles during rush hour, creating congestion and lots of pedestrians have to avoid the cars and the buses. There are no stop signs for the cars, either.

There are two station exits but one is much more heavily used. If I recall correctly, there isn't a tourist-friendly map outside of the other exit, nor are there signs telling tourists where they should go from the other exit. This means more tourists are using the main gates and then cross the parking lot to reach King Street or cross the bus lane to get on the King Street bus trolley that shuttles riders directly to the waterfront.

I myself will add that when you're coming up King Street, it is not immediately evident how to access the station entrance. I often find going to the north entrance, which is not immediately obvious to pedestrians, is often easier.

A plan to replace the parking lot with a pedestrian plaza and to add four new bus bays to the existing six could be the first step toward the station becoming more walkable, and it gained approval last week.

The reconfigured plaza will make it easier to get to the station by walking as well as accommodate WMATA's plans to increase bus service in the area. WMATA has also said there will be more bike parking, but there aren't yet any details beyond that.


Planned layout of the new bus and pedestrian plaza in front of the King St station. Image from the city of Alexandria.

The project will cost $11.7 million, and has been planned since at least 2012.

A public hearing is planned for the fall with final approval expected by the end of the year, WMATA board documents show.


The current King St station plaza includes 30 parking spaces and six bus bays. Photo from WMATA.

More improvements are coming to the King Street station

The Virginia Railway Express (VRE) is also working on improved access to the King Street station. Design is more than halfway done on a new pedestrian tunnel linking Alexandria Union Station and the adjacent Metro station, a Northern Virginia Transportation Authority project update from July shows.


The planned pedestrian tunnel from Alexandria Union Station to the King St Metro station. Image from VRE.

The authority awarded VRE a $1.3 million grant for the tunnel in 2014, however, the agency has yet to identify funding for the balance of the roughly $11.3 million project.

The tunnel is currently scheduled to open by the end of 2017.

Transit


For Metro's plans to cut late-night service, big questions remain unanswered

If you were waiting for a big debate over eliminating late-night Metro service at Thursday's WMATA Board meeting, you'd be disappointed. General Manager Paul Wiedefeld presented the same information he'd announced publicly, the board asked no questions, and that was it.

Officials definitely heard from riders loud and clear, however. Riders have sent over 2,400 emails through our petition to Wiedefeld, Chairman Jack Evans, and the board. You can still contact them using this form or just sign up for updates as this issue progresses here.

This wasn't the meeting to really debate the (very bad) proposal. That would come later. Before any proposal would take effect, as I understand it, several things would have to happen:

  • Paul Wiedefeld would more formally propose the change as a board agenda item.
  • A board committee (presumably the Customer Service and Operations Committee) would discuss the issue further. This is where board members would hopefully ask the tough questions.
  • The committee would send it to the full board, which would also discuss it.
  • The board would have to vote to start the formal public hearing process.
  • Metro would organize public hearings around the region.
  • Separately, Metro would have to do a Title VI analysis to be sure the change doesn't unduly burden lower-income riders. That's far from a foregone conclusion—Boston's MBTA is facing federal scrutiny for not doing this analysis before cutting its late-night service.
  • The board could then vote to cut the late-night service, if it chose.
One major hurdle: DC could veto this (as early as the first board vote). Under Metro's compact, at least one vote must come from each of DC, Maryland, and Virginia for any proposal to pass. Both of DC's voting members, Jack Evans and Corbett Price, have publicly stated their opposition. Unless one of them changes his mind, the cuts can't happen.

(Meanwhile, Maryland rep Michael Goldman has said he's for it. Goldman is also the same guy who refused to put money in a fund for retirement benefits, refused to pay Maryland's share of the 5A bus to Dulles, and opposed using new 7000 series cars to make more 8-car trains.)

Here are the questions that need to be asked

The public needs and deserves much more information so we can weigh in before board members start debating this. It's too bad some of the members didn't take the opportunity of Thursday's meeting to ask, but riders can, we can (and will), and board members will have more chances later.

There are three major questions right now:

  1. Why is closing the ENTIRE system necessary, as opposed to targeted closures? What are the other options here? Could Metro close one line, or one segment, early on each weekend (or, heck, close it all weekend) for repairs? Metro workers won't be on every bit of track at once, right? So why does this have to be a blanket thing?
  2. What would be the best alternative? Let's say Metro persuades us that ending late-night service is necessary. How can Metro still provide a way for workers and entertainment patrons to get home safely and affordably, without using rail? A robust night owl bus network whose routes mimic the rail routes as much as possible? Or what about companies that are trying to offer more flexible, on-demand shared van transit especially for low-ridership scenarios?

    Wiedefeld said he's not secretly doing this to cut costs. But it's true that running Metrorail late is expensive. With all or even just some of that money, what's the best way to get people where they need to go?

  3. What about big events? Also, though, late night service is not always low-ridership. When there are sports contests, major concerts, and other big events on weekends, huge mobs enter the system at places like Navy Yard or Gallery Place at once. Rail can handle this; buses can't. Will event organizers pay to extend service? Would Metro even allow them to, if closing the whole system every weekend is supposedly necessary for maintenance?
I, at least, don't want to ever say "no way, I won't hear it" from Metro about anything. But neither is "we need to, just because, and no we don't have an alternative plan" sufficient. I hope before moving forward with any proposal, Metro officials will thoroughly and publicly study other scenarios for closing less, and alternatives that still achieve transit's purpose if closing early really is necessary.

We'll be doing more actions on this issue as it progresses. If you want to stay up to date on that so you can speak up at the right time, fill out the form below.

Transit


Find out your personal Metro on-time stats with this tool

When you look at Metro's on-time statistics, do you feel like they don't match up with your own experience? Today, you can look at the hard data with the new "MyTripTime" tool.


Screenshot of the author's three-month travel summary.

MyTripTime on-time scores are calculated by comparing actual travel times—when customers tap in and out with a registered SmarTrip card—to the amount of time that trip should take when service is running normally.

To access your personal data, you must have a registered SmarTrip card.

  1. Log in to your account.
  2. Click the relevant card (you probably only have one)
  3. There is a box on the right that says "manage your account"
  4. Click "My Trip Time Dashboard" that also has a "New!" flair and it should pop up.
If you have a SmarTrip card, you can see your travel time summary even your card isn't registered. You just need to create a new account on smartrip.wmata.com and link it to your card.

Our contributors' performances have ranged from 58% to 91%. What's yours?

Photography


Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 88

On Tuesday, we posted our eighty-eighth challenge to see how well you knew Metro. I took photos of five Metro stations. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

This week, we got 27 guesses. Eleven got all five right. Great work, Peter K, JamesDCane, Stephen C, Solomon, J-Train-21, Justin..., AlexC, RBAP, Ampersand, dpod, and We Will Crush Peter K!


Image 1: Federal Triangle

This week, each of the pictures featured a Metro elevator at street level. To solve the quiz, you needed to identify the surroundings visible in the background.

The first image shows the elevator at Federal Triangle. The Federal Triangle complex is visible in the background, and is a fairly iconic building. The curved facade could have been a help, since the entrance to Federal Triangle is in a semi-circular area west of 12th Street. Had the Old Post Office been torn down, as envisioned, a the opposite side of the street would also have a semi-circular facade.

Twenty-four got this right.


Image 2: New Carrollton

The second image shows the escalator canopy and pedestrian bridge at the west (Harkins Road) entrance to New Carrollton station. This canopy is unique in the system, so some of you may have figured it out that way. The bridge in the background leads to the IRS building. We've featured it before in week 21 and week 63.

Twelve made the correct choice.


Image 3: Pentagon City

This picture shows the elevator at Pentagon City. The tower in the background is the Ritz Carlton hotel. If you look closely, just below the elevator canopy, you can see a portion of the Nordstrom sign. There aren't many Nordstroms in the region, so that would have been a useful way to narrow this down.

Seventeen guessed correctly.


Image 4: Archives

The fourth image shows the corner of 7th and Indiana NW entrance at Archives. The red brick building is fairly iconic, and adds texture to the area. The Starbucks logo helped at least one person narrow it down, but the easiest way was simply to recognize the building. Nineteen did.


Image 5: Farragut West

Finally, the last image shows the facade of 1875 Eye Street, also known as International Square. The building towers over the 18th Street entrance to Farragut West, including the elevator entrance. It opened in 1979, just two years after the Metro station. The blocky nature of the building and it's height was a clue to look in DC. But like image number 4, recognition was the easiest solution.

Thirteen came to the correct conclusion.

Thanks for playing! We'll be back the second Tuesday in August with week 89.

Information about contest rules, submission guidelines, and a leaderboard is available at http://ggwash.org/whichwmata.

Transit


Metro proposes ending late-night service PERMANENTLY. That's a terrible idea.

Metro may never again be open after midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and would close at 10 pm every Sunday, under a plan General Manager Paul Wiedefeld will propose to the WMATA Board this Thursday. Please ask the board to reject moving this proposal forward right now.


Photo by nevermindtheend on Flickr.

What is Wiedefeld proposing?

Metro closed at midnight every night before 1999, when it extended hours on Fridays and Saturdays to 1 am and midnight Sundays. The Friday and Saturday close extended further to 3 am in 2007.

The current SafeTrack rebuilding program moved closing times back to midnight temporarily. Now, Wiedefeld is proposing making that permanent, and further closing at 10 pm every Sunday, earlier than Metro has regularly closed in decades.

Any closing time is effectively earlier than the posted time, since the last trains leave core stations (where most late-night rides originate) with enough time to finish their runs at the closing time.

What are arguments for this?

The press release says,

Under the proposed schedule, the Metrorail system would be open 127 out of 168 hours in a week. Prior to SafeTrack, the system was open 135 hours per week. The additional track time increases safety and reliability by giving workers the time and space they need to keep Metro's infrastructure in a state of good repair.
I've spoken to transit experts who agree that Metro was not making enough time for maintenance. They say late night hours squeezed the repair work. Not only are there few hours, but it takes time to set up for maintenance, go through safety protocols to prepare the site, etc. and then again on the other end.

When SafeTrack was announced, Dan Stessel told me, "the need for late night service is lower since people are using [ride hailing] services" like Uber and Lyft, unlike before 2007. He said Metro serves only about 6,000 trips a night, and that number is declining.

Stessel argued that this service only helps "the nightlife crowd," because workers need service that's available 24 hours a day. (I'd say, except for workers in the nightlife sector, and there are many of those.)


Photo by Ian Britton on Flickr.

Our contributors say, terrible idea

Matt Johnson said:

I understand the need for maintenance windows, however, I can't support additional service span reductions.

Metro already opens late on Saturdays and Sundays (at 7 am) and closes (at 12 midnight) earlier than basically all of its peer systems. In Atlanta, for example, train service starts at 5 am every day and the last trains leave the terminals no earlier than 1 am every day (not just Fridays and Saturdays).

It would be far better for WMATA to do targeted closings (or perhaps close parts) of the system. For example, if a particular area of track needed additional work time, to close that section earlier, but not close the entire system early.

Dan Reed:
This plan is unacceptable. Late-night transit is a lifeline for thousands of workers, from bartenders to security guards to caretakers—and of course everyone who goes out and supports our region's thriving nightlife. Early closing times were fine for SafeTrack but need to be rolled back as soon as possible. Wiedefeld is doing a great job, but this proposal is a bad idea.
Bradley Heard:
This is a horrible idea! Any long-term maintenance strategy should incorporate the idea of late-night service, particularly on weekends. Full-stop. Trains travel much less frequently on weekends. ... We can still have a "safety-first" culture while also maintaining a service level acceptable of a major urban region.
Pete Tomao:
These service reductions will only hinder WMATA's ability to attract more riders, and further it's fiscal problems. As the TransitCenter study pointed out last week, riders want frequent and reliable service above all else. By limiting hours we are limiting what riders want most. This also just penalizes folks without a car (like myself).
Gray Kimbrough:
Just about every system in the world (almost all of them only 2 tracks throughout) is open for longer hours than Metro—often many more hours per week. If they can't find a way to maintain regular service levels with those hours and scheduled larger disruptions where needed, there has got to be something uniquely wrong with Metro's maintenance processes.
Patrick Kennedy, ANC 2A commissioner, wrote in via email:
And before any change is made, they need to have a plan in place for late-night buses that cross jurisdictional boundaries. ... Without a satisfactory answer ... I think this is a horrible plan. Safety and maintenance activities can't be a blank check excuse for a continued degradation in service.
Finally, Travis Maiers:
In a larger sense, this proposal is just downright depressing because it represents an unbelievably pessimistic outlook. Instead of putting out a bold 3 year plan to really bring Metro up to the standards of a world class system, we're instead talking about cuts and permanent 10 pm closings! Where's the vision, the drive, the sense of making the system BETTER? Why is it we keep reducing standards instead of increasing them?

Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

The board should ask for more information before moving forward

Besides the poor logic of this move, Metro decision-making and communication is still in a similar rut from the past: The staff internally make a decision about what to do, then present it as the only possible choice.

When Metro proposed closing an entrance at Van Ness, officials said it was necessary without explaining why other options weren't as good. Maybe that's true, but the public needed to know more.

There are many questions still out there around SafeTrack, too. What will be different for riders at the end? Will Metro have fewer fires? Fewer cracked rails? How many fewer? Will there need to be fewer single-tracking maintenance windows after? These questions were surely considered internally, but not answered to riders.

Everyone agrees that Metro needs significant maintenance, which is why SafeTrack had strong public support. And we hire Metro officials to make decisions. But when those decisions affect the public, it's reasonable to ask them to show their work, to justify why this is better than other options. We don't think it is.

The board can ask these questions. It should. And members should not put any service cut on the docket at this time.

Wiedefeld said in the press release that any change to late-night closures would happen after a public engagement process in the fall—which is required under the WMATA Compact. That's fine, and maybe he'll do a really bang-up public engagement process. In the past, these have often been pro forma events which meet the legal requirements but not much more.

There's time to hear more about the idea before it's on a runaway Metro train moving toward an actual vote. Ask the WMATA Board to get information to riders before approving any formal hearing process. Ask them to insist on a menu of options from WMATA, not just one. Or just tell them you don't think this is a good idea, period.

If some change turns out to be necessary, it can always happen temporarily for an interim period. But we really don't think this is the right answer. It's a proposal that should not move forward.

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