Metro Takes Electric Demonstration Bus On The Road

July 27th, 2015 No comments

Electric bus demonstration on-site at Metro

Electric Bus New Flyer 060105 Electric Bus New Flyer 060105

 Metro staff conducted a hands-on review of all-electric bus technology this month with a manufacturer demonstration for Bus Engineering, Bus Planning, Marketing and Sustainability staff. While the Authority has made no commitment to purchasing all-electric buses, on-site demonstrations such as this enable staff to explore the emerging technology and better understand its performance and operational characteristics first hand.

Electric Bus New Flyer 060105Metrobus fleet fuel economy has improved 15% since 2005 through the expanded use of hybrid buses and improved performance across the entire bus fleet. As the Authority seeks to build upon this efficiency, conducting market research into all-electric technology provides staff with a direct experience of this near-silent and tailpipe emissions-free technology. Low-vibration electric buses such as the one demonstrated offer a smoother ride and eliminate the urban-noise and air-pollution impacts of existing bus technology. In the future, this technology has the potential to enhance the overall livability of our cities, particularly in dense urbanized areas with high frequency bus services. In the coming months other manufacturers will be visiting Metro as part of the Authority’s market research of all-electric bus technology and investigation into best locations for potential roll out.

Categories: Sustainability Tags: ,

Rhode Island Avenue – an Opportunity to Truly Connect Communities (and Bolster WMATA Finances)

July 23rd, 2015 4 comments

Low-cost planning maneuvers could increase transit-accessibility for one thousand households and save the region $1.3 million per year!

We recently covered an exciting development project in Northeast D.C., one that will create housing and jobs right next to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station. Because the site is located within the station’s half-mile walk shed, all those new residents, employees and shoppers are likely Metro customers, whose fares will help improve the system for everyone.

But is that the end of the story?

In our analysis of station walk sheds – the area within a half-mile walk of the station — we discovered that the Rhode Island Avenue walk shed is constrained by physical barriers that force pedestrians to make lengthy detours. The most notable of these is a retaining wall along the northern edge of the redevelopment site (currently the Rhode Island Center shopping mall):

RIExisting+Barrier

Current walk shed of Rhode Island Ave station, with illustration of the retaining wall.

For Edgewood residents living immediately to the north, walking to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro requires a detour around the barrier that inflates the walking distance by up to half a mile – making the total walking distance a full mile or more. While some choose to make the long hike to the station, we know that people are significantly more likely to use Metro if the station is within the half-mile walk shed.

This led us to ask: What if we make a pedestrian connection through that wall part of the large-scale redevelopment? Read more…

All Aboard! Metro Welcomes New Development Planned at Rhode Island Avenue

July 22nd, 2015 No comments

A redevelopment project planned for Rhode Island Avenue Metro station, one of the largest such projects in the District, could bring $2.3M per year in new fare revenue for Metrorail.

A venture led by MRP Realty is proposing a mega project near the Rhode Island Avenue metro station, which when constructed would add over 1,500 residential units and retail to that transit-oriented community.  That’s fantastic news for the District, which needs household growth to resolve its structural fiscal deficit, and also for Metro and the region, which benefits each time we add transit-oriented development that drives ridership and revenue.

Image Courtesy MRP Realty

Image Courtesy MRP Realty

At Metro we find this especially exciting because it is yet another example of how changes in development are in part fueling a ridership resurgence.  Our Land Use-Ridership model conservatively suggests that this project will yield an additional 3,200 rail entries per day systemwide, generating rail fare revenues of around $2.3 million per year. Whether this ridership actually materializes – or is even higher – depends on the developer building good pedestrian connections to the Metro station and the Met Branch Trail.

In addition, this project could be a good opportunity to create a pedestrian connection between the station and the neighborhoods to the north, where potential Metrorail riders are blocked from the station’s “walk shed” today.  The current conditions include a challenging combination of grade changes and physical barriers behind the shopping mall, creating pedestrian barriers outlined in red below. The key question will be whether the development will help fix the barrier along the north side of the site, which would only increase the ridership- and revenue-generating potential of this project.

Image Courtesy Google Maps

Pedestrian barriers in red. Image courtesy Google Maps

The property tax benefits of the project all accrue to the District, and the increased revenue to WMATA doesn’t come for free – the system will need to handle the additional passengers and incur additional operating costs and potential wear and tear on the system.  Right now there isn’t a defined mechanism for WMATA to recoup the value of real estate property taxes to fund capital renewal or expansion.  But certainly anything that contributes to the operating health of the transit agency through increased ridership and revenues goes a long way to promoting financial stability for the Authority, as well as lowering the operating subsidy burden it requires to run the system.

Metrorail Ridership – Back on Track

July 21st, 2015 No comments

Metrorail ridership stabilized in FY 2015, and that’s exactly what we said would happen.

We’ve seen from previous posts that total Metorail ridership had been experiencing its cyclical swoon following the housing bust and economic collapse of 2008.  Despite the volatile market, system ridership stabilized over the last few years – this past year may mark the beginning of the next phase of Metrorail ridership growth.  In Fiscal Year 2015, average weekday Metrorail ridership grew by just over 1.5%.

Ridership

The biggest swing of course is the difference in October: in October of 2013, we experienced the ridership loss due to the prolonged Federal Government shutdown; that didn’t happen in October of 2014.  Another interesting difference is that in FY 2014 there were five snow days during the winter, compared to only two snow days during the winter of FY 2015.  So, even when discounting the October effect, ridership was still up slightly year over year – a good sign for Metro and the region that helps support its services! And of course, the new Silver Line stations are helping to drive growth as well.

Meanwhile, we are continuing to experience strong growth in Metrobus routes where we have executed operational innovations.  Metro stands ready to work with jurisdictions and replicate these successes elsewhere.

This isn’t the end of the story.  The region’s pipeline of transit oriented development is going to accelerate this ridership growth, and in the next post we’ll provide just one example by detailing the expected ridership impacts of the exciting new project proposed for Rhode Island Avenue.

Categories: Engage Tags: , ,

How Smarter Urban Planning Can Help the Chesapeake Bay

July 20th, 2015 No comments

Better urban planning can help save our rivers and the Chesapeake Bay—by reducing this region’s future impervious surfaces by 20%. Here’s why.

As many Washingtonians know, the Chesapeake Bay needs help. Dead zones and algae blooms appear every summer which destroy aquatic life in the Bay and threaten  fishing, swimming, and economic health.  A major contributor to this problem is rainwater runoff from paved roads, parking lots, and roofs.  These are called “impermeable surfaces”.  In contrast, permeable (or pervious) surface is one through which liquids are able to pass.

Grassy fields, woodlands and farmlands are excellent examples of this: rainwater or snowmelt soaks into the ground, pollutants in the water are filtered naturally, and excess water travels underground to streams and eventually (in the Washington region) the Chesapeake Bay.Rainfall that falls on impervious surfaces like paved roads, parking lots and roofs “runs off” unfiltered making its way to the Chesapeake Bay—along with nitrogen and sulfur oxides from vehicle emissions, motor oil, and road salt residue.  

 

Figure 1 – Map of impermeability throughout the region with overlaid jurisdictional boundaries and Metrorail system for reference. Note the concentrations of highly-impermeable surfaces in central DC and at Dulles.

Figure 1 – Map of impermeability throughout the region with overlaid jurisdictional boundaries and Metrorail system for reference. Note the concentrations of highly-impermeable surfaces in central D.C., and at other activity centers like Dulles.

Read more…

Taylor Swift vs. Nationals – Hit Singles, but No Home Run

July 17th, 2015 6 comments

Ridership from neither of the two back-to-back sold-out Taylor Swift concerts at Nationals Park this week generated as many riders as an average Nationals baseball game.

Entries at Navy Yard by fifteen-minute period, Orange and Gray were nights of the Taylor Swift concerts.

Pop star Taylor Swift brought her 1989 tour to Washington this week, playing two sold-out concerts at Nationals Park, adjacent to the Navy Yard-Ballpark Metrorail station.  According to Swift, approximately 45,000 people attended each concert.  That’s a lot higher than a normal Nationals game, as the concert had seating on the floor as well as in the stands.  One would hope that such big crowds would bump up Metrorail ridership higher than the Nats.  You might be disappointed. Read more…

Feds, Metro, Locals take on Pedestrian and Bike Safety at Wiehle-Reston East

July 16th, 2015 No comments

On May 12, 2015, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) convened an event to bring together Federal, State, regional, and local transportation officials and local stakeholders for an on-the-ground bike-ped safety assessment at the Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail station.

BaseMap_2014_Wiehle Assessment

Wiehle-Reston East: one mile bikeshed and 1/2 mile walkshed

The assessment was one of 50+ that have been occurring around the nation as part of U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx’s “Safer People Safer Streets” campaign to improve bike-ped safety across the country.  These assessments have been led by many of the US DOT agencies and operating administrations, namely: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA), and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Each of these agencies is participating in the effort to improve bicycling and pedestrian safety, and each has particular roles and responsibilities in this effort.

The primary goal of these assessments is to:

  • facilitate relationship-building between employees of different jurisdictions who share responsibility for creating safer streets;
  • engage practitioners who typically focus on pedestrian and bicycle safety, as well as those who do not; and
  • focus on locations that have non-motorized safety challenges.

The assessment kicked-off with remarks from Deputy Secretary, Victor Mendez, who stressed the importance of agency coordination in ensuring bicycle and pedestrian safety on America’s streets, later blogging about the event on US DOT’s FastLane blog. Metro’s Director of Planning, Shyam Kannan, also gave remarks that highlighted the importance of station connectivity for increasing Metrorail ridership.  Other VIPs from Fairfax County, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and local community/advocacy groups spoke to the participants as well about the importance of the day’s events to keeping our residents safe as they travel. Read more…

A Bus Named Desire – What We Heard at StreetsCamp 2015

July 9th, 2015 11 comments

In part 2 of the series, StreetsCamp participants had a number of ideas to make buses better – all buses, not just Metrobus.

A Bus Named Desire - Comments from StreetscampA Bus Named Desire was the question of the day at Metro Planning staff’s StreetsCamp session last Saturday. We asked what participants thought would make a better bus – from any perspective. What are the things that transit agencies and local jurisdictions could do speed up buses, increase the level of comfort for potential riders to ride the bus, change service, etc.

Here’s what we heard, grouped by topic:

Service

  • Bus lanes, bus lanes, bus lanes (WMATA note – there are some great corridors for these. Please also let your city/county know you think they are important. They own and operate the streets!)
  • Bus routes that offer better connections to destinations far from Metro stations
  • Take station relocation and system redesign seriously. Build partnerships with community organizations. (WMATA note – both a regional approach, as well as line by line, are underway!)
  • Consolidate stops on every line to save time and money. Buses don’t need to stop every block.
  • More frequent off-peak service
  • Add express service from Maryland suburbs

Read more…

Transit Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond: There’s More to It Than Metrorail

July 6th, 2015 1 comment

In part one of this series, Metro Planners led a session at StreetsCamp  Saturday June 20, 2015 to talk with transit advocates about other possibilities beyond Metrorail to increase transit use, reach, and access.

I want Metro to...

Politicians and citizens always ask for more Metrorail, but why should transit continue to chase land use decisions? Metro Planners Allison Davis and Kristin Haldeman talked to transit advocates and urbanists at StreetsCamp last Saturday to provide approaches that can help the transit we have today reach more people and be more cost-effective without requiring more Metrorail (pdf). The major take-aways for advocates and urbanists were to advocate for:

(1)    Local decision makers to monetize full life‐cycle cost of land use options;

(2)    Access projects that create comfortable (i.e. desirable) paths for pedestrians and bicyclists; and

(3)    Local jurisdictions to add transit signal priority, queue jumps, and bus lanes

Why these three specifically? Read more…

Metrobus Revises the 22 and 25 Bus Lines

June 30th, 2015 No comments

As part of Metrobus’ June 21, 2015 Service Change, the Ballston-Bradlee-Pentagon Line has been eliminated and the Barcroft-South Fairlington Line has been revised.

The 25 routes have been evolving ever since the line started in January 1980. This route restructuring is only the latest change to better address the travel needs of our passengers. Routes 25A, 25C, 25D, and 25E (Ballston-Bradlee-Pentagon Line) have been eliminated. Most discontinued segments of the line have become part of the restructured Routes 22A, 22B, 22C, and 22F (Barcroft-South Fairlington Line).

22ABCF

All timetables have been adjusted to reflect new trip times. Check out the 22A, B, C, F schedules and 25B schedule. Read more…