Author Archive

Studies on Dedicated Funding for Metro – If We Had a Nickel…

September 7th, 2016 3 comments

The region has entered its 30th year of discussion about funding Metro.

Rail Rehab Costs 86 Study

Projected rail structure maintenance costs from the 1986 FCC study.

There has been a lot of talk recently and even more sound bites about the need for more consistent, reliable, and dedicated funding for Metro. But while it may seem like an innovative topic, discussions about Metro’s funding challenges and the need for a dedicated funding stream for Metro have been going on for … decades.  This has been an identified problem and heavily-studied topic since at least 1986 – the year the Oprah Winfrey Show debuted, Top Gun was the highest grossing film, and Ferris Bueller took a day off.

Truth be told, scores of very smart people have expended time and effort and resources to articulate the problems, accurately predict the consequences of inaction, and suggest solutions suitable (and necessary) for implementation.  So when you read “news” about Metro’s funding challenges, the problems it creates, and potential fixes – remember that what you are reading is hardly “new”.  And no refrain is older than the “it’s not the right time”, to which we must remind the reader that for three decades, it hasn’t been “the right time”.  How’s that working out, anyway?

Below are a few of the studies and reports generated on Metro’s funding challenges and possible solutions to closing the funding gap:

Studying – check. So now what? Read more…

Would a Cordon Charge Help Stabilize Metro’s Finances? (Part 4)

July 5th, 2016 2 comments

Adding a London-style cordon charge (or fee) to enter much of the region’s central employment area would increase transit ridership across all modes and also reduce (or eliminate) the subsidy that local governments pay every year to support Metro, meaning lower tax bills for regional residents.*

(This post is part of a multi-part series about ConnectGreaterWashington (CGW) a study that WMATA completed in 2015 and its application of land use and pricing as a transportation strategy.)

Approach for Building Scenario B to make Transit More Cost-Effective

Scenario “B” looked at land use shifts and increasing the price of driving, and how those changes would impact Metro.

Metro asked, “What if the region’s future growth was used to fulfill the expectations of regional plans such as Region Forward and Place + Opportunity? What if transit-supportive policies were implemented across the region? Would WMATA benefit? Would the region?”

Answer: YES!!

*Note that Metro is not proposing that the region adopt a cordon charge, but it was tested as part of an analysis of how smarter land use and more transit-supportive policies could impact transit ridership, our operating subsidy, and other measures that support the region’s growth.

Read more…

ICYMI: What Makes a World Class Metro – Lessons from Peers @ Metro Summit

June 22nd, 2016 No comments

Metro turned 40 this year. Regional leaders are looking to ahead to what Metro could be in the next 40 years.

artworks-000155909567-uxkbs7-t500x500On Monday, June 13th, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) and the Greater Washington Board of Trade (BOT) convened a second Metro Summit to discuss opportunities and lessons learned from peer systems across North America. One hundred elected and business officials from across the region gathered at the Mayflower Hotel to discuss funding and governance structures with the leaders of Toronto, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, and New York’s transit agencies. Additionally, Alex Barron, the Head of Metro Benchmarking, Railway and Transport Strategy Centre, Imperial College London, provided context on what attributes define a world class metro. (pdf)

Audio of the entire proceedings is also available. Information on the first Metro Summit, which was held on March 30, 2016 and discussed funding, safety, development around Metro stations, and governance is also available by audio.

 

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Acting Regionally Pays Big Dividends (Part 3)

March 10th, 2016 No comments

Adding jobs and households in transit-served areas not only increases Metro ridership, but also reduces and may even eliminate the subsidy that local governments pay to support Metro, meaning lower tax bills for regional residents.

(This post is part of a multi-part series* about ConnectGreaterWashington a study that WMATA completed in 2015 and its application of land use as a transportation strategy. The below post and links provide additional detail.)

In December of 2015, public and private leaders issued a call to action for the many jurisdictions in this region to start acting as one.  We’ve actually been thinking about this for some time, and their announcement timed well with our desire to share perspectives on the following questions.

Questions:

  • What if the region’s future actually approached the goals of collaborative regional plans such as Region Forward and Place + Opportunity?
  • Would WMATA and the region benefit?
  • Are there financial, social, quality of life and environmental benefits?

Answers: YES, YES, and YES!

Approach: Metro planners hypothesized that changing local jurisdictions’ and/or the region’s approach to future land use decisions, such as where to guide future jobs and population and expanding transit-supportive policies, could enable the region to better use the transportation system we already have rather than require us to spend tens of billions on new transportation projects.

Planners developed three different scenarios (A, B, and C) that used the transportation system we already have, but modified future growth policies that determine travel patterns. The below post talks only about Scenario A, which had a specific goal to increase ridership on all segments of the Metrorail system, while minimizing the potential for overcrowding on any segment in the system. The image below shows how we built Scenario A and its three iterations (A Prime, A1, A2).

 

Approach for Building Scenario A to make transit more efficient

Read more…

Regional Transit Opportunities Explored

February 11th, 2016 2 comments

You name it, we tested it as possible opportunities to carry future demand and here’s what we found out.

Metro is completely focused on safety, reliability, and financial stability.  It’s also our job to ensure that the regional transit system improves mobility and connects communities.  So we’ve had many posts on ConnectGreaterWashington over the last few years describing the importance of a regional approach to transit planning. Posts include FAQs, how different modes compare, the paramount importance of transit-supportive land use, an approach to assessing Metrorail, BRT, and LRT expansion projects, and the overall proposed plan for Metrorail and surface transit to name a few.

List of Transit Corridors, Projects, and Plans Analyzed as Part of CGW

List of Transit Corridors, Projects, and Plans Analyzed as Part of CGW

Finally, we have completed a set of one- to two-page summaries for all the strategies, plans and projects we tested in our evaluation of future needs and opportunities. Note, these summaries are inclusive of everything that we analyzed over the course of ConnectGreaterWashington, but only some are recommended to advance. Some strategies were recommended (e.g. eight-car trains), others were not recommended (e.g. Kansas Ave. infill station), while many were partially recommended (e.g. the I-66 corridor beyond Vienna shows promise as bus rapid transit, light rail, or enhanced bus, but not Metrorail unless and until additional housing and/or jobs are guided to the station areas and new Metrorail lines are added in the core).

Due to the size of the pdfs, the summaries are divided into three documents. First, are the new Metrorail lines in the core, eight-car trains, and interline connections (pdf updated February 24, 2016). Second, are Metrorail pedestrian tunnels, extensions, and infill stations (pdf updated February 24, 2016). Third, are all of the other modes’ strategies, plans, and projects (pdf updated February 24, 2016). All documents include bookmarks to help you find the various summaries by topic area.

Each strategy, project, or plan includes:

  • A summary of the strategy;
  • The goals that were addressed;
  • The regional activity centers connected;
  • A map that shows the project or plan;
  • Key findings for each such as ridership (including new transit riders vs riders gained from other existing modes), transfers, crowding, connectivity, and surrounding density; and
  • Recommendations for this strategy.

As we and the region continue to grapple with today’s safety, operations and maintenance needs, while also planning for future growth, we will continue to refer to the CGW work undertaken to date. Let us know how you can imagine this body of work being used in the future.

How Do Marylanders Use Metro?

February 2nd, 2016 2 comments

We analyzed Metrorail, Metrobus, and MetroAccess ridership for all Maryland residents in response to the Maryland Legislature’s data and analysis request. Newsflash – we have customers from across the state!

Origins of Maryland Rail Riders

Origins of Maryland Rail Riders

In the 2015 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed the WMATA Utilization Study (HB300),which required the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) and WMATA to analyze the utilization of Metrorail, Metrobus, and MetroAccess every five years. This year’s analysis is based on the most recent Metrorail passenger survey (2012), Metrobus passenger survey (2014), and actual ridership for MetroAccess for an average day in April 2015. Below are some findings that I found most interesting. But more importantly, here is the complete 2015 Maryland HB300 WMATA Utilization Study (native pdf), which includes all the links to the underlying survey data, interactive charts, and analysis.

  • 82 percent of Metrorail trips by Montgomery County residents are destined for Washington DC in the morning on a typical weekday;
  • 71 percent of Metrobus trips in the AM peak period made by Prince George’s County residents are for work purposes on a typical weekday;
  • 3.3 percent of all trips across all Metro services on a typical weekday are taken by Maryland residents from Frederick, Charles, Calvert, Howard, Anne Arundel, and Baltimore Counties and Baltimore City;
  • 35 percent of other Maryland residents on Metrorail access via commuter rail (MARC) and Amtrak; and
  • 17,600 residents of the District and Virginia reverse-commute into Maryland on Metrorail and bus each morning on a typical weekday (about 5 percent of total system ridership)

Any other nuggets that you found from analyzing the data? Ideas for other ways to graphically represent the findings?

How Can the Transportation Planning Board Support Metro?

January 13th, 2016 No comments
How Can TPB Support Metro: TPB Plans and Processes

Metro and the Transportation Planning Board (TPB) engaged in a wide ranging discussion with TPB board members about how the TPB and the region’s jurisdictions can support Metro now and in the future. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot more to it than just predictable funding.

At the December 16th Transportation Planning Board (TPB) meeting (audio), Metro Board Member Harriet Tregoning gave the final presentation (pdf) and facilitated a discussion on Metro’s challenges and provided specific recommendations and/or opportunities for the TPB and local jurisdictions to increase their support the Authority today, tomorrow, and into the future. The focus of the discussion was specifically on plans, processes, and actions that the TPB and local jurisdictions can modify or begin that will ensure predictable funding and/or enhanced funding options, incorporate land use as a transportation strategy, increase transit-supportive land use decisions, prioritize bike and pedestrian access, and advance bus priority on the streets that local jurisdictions operate.

Last summer, TPB members requested a more extensive conversation surrounding Metro’s challenges as well as recommendations on how TPB, through its plans and processes, and local jurisdictions, through their decisions and funding, could support Metro. Metro opted to provide three presentations and the December presentation built on information provided at the November 18th meeting (audio) on Metro Fundamentals (pdf) and Momentum (pdf) that were given  by Tom Webster, Managing Director of Metro’s Office of Management and Budget, and Shyam Kannan, Managing Director of Metro’s Office of Planning. The November presentations served to ensure a baseline understanding across TPB Board members, highlight our capital and operating challenges, and identify safety, state of good repair, and longer term needs to ensure safe, reliable transit that meets the growing region. Read more…

ConnectGreaterWashington – a Vision for a Responsible and Prosperous Future (Part 2)

December 1st, 2015 No comments

Investing in the region’s activity centers that have high-capacity, high-frequency transit and enhancing them as proposed in the Place+Opportunity report is part and parcel to preserving the economic competitiveness of the region AND creating a financially-sustainable Metrorail system.

(This post is part of a multi-part series about Logo_WMATA_CWG_001 black-01ConnectGreaterWashington and the study’s application of land use as a transportation strategy. Part one of the series discussed why Metro cares about land use and the potential benefits of assessing growth from a regional perspective. Part two below outlines the study’s goals, assumptions, and approach.)

WMATA planners posited that changes to local jurisdictions’ and/or the region’s approach to land use and other policies would enable better use of the transportation system this region already built rather than require it to spend billions on new projects. Money is not falling from trees to expand transit — the region hasn’t even agreed to fund enough rail cars to run all eight car trains! So, if the region can’t (or won’t) invest in transit to keep up with growth, then we need to carefully evaluate how the growth we are forecasting can use the infrastructure we already have. Can the region’s growth, rather than necessitate billions of dollars in new infrastructure, be thoughtfully planned to better utilize the roadway and transit systems we already have? What would that mean to the region, its finances, and to Metro’s operating subsidies that its funding partners pay annually?

We developed an Executive Summary (pdf) that summarizes our approach and findings. These posts are infinitely more detailed, but you can certainly glean the key points from the Executive Summary.

The Basics

First and foremost, this study did not seek to develop an optimal land use or in any way socially engineer where future population and jobs should go. These are “what if” scenarios to provide context, data, and information to citizens, decision makers, and elected officials as the region grapples with future job and population growth, demand for transit, and development of walkable communities. This study sought to consider where future growth could go, and worked only with the regional growth anticipated to exist in this region in forecasts from 2020 through 2040. The modeling left existing jobs and population exactly where they exist today and was mindful that anything already in the development pipeline was far enough along to be assumed as “in place”.

Second, we followed the place types defined in Place+Opportunity as they were identified, developed, and defined by local jurisdictional planning staff and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG). Why? Because we wanted this study to be as realistic as possible and remain true to the nature of the activity centers and the jurisdictions that informed their types and densities. Additionally, Place+Opportunity was completed recently (2014) and had significant support and direct input from the jurisdictions and the region.

 

Place+Opportunity Place Types

Place+Opportunity Place Types

Read more…

Beyond Borders – Acting Regionally to Create a Financially-Sustainable Transit System (Part One)

November 9th, 2015 No comments

What if taxpayers could avoid spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually on Metro’s operating subsidy? Better yet – what if Metro could pay for itself and have enough left over to fund local transportation projects? What if better using the transit system we already have could help us achieve this?  This isn’t just wishful thinking – it is possible.

Logo_WMATA_CWG_001 black-01(This is the first post in a series of posts that assess applying land use as a transportation strategy)

Recently some of the Washington region’s prominent leaders issued a call to action for this region to cease competing against itself if it is to secure its economic future.  Their courageous statement coincided with findings from WMATA’s Office of Planning that actually put a price tag on that promise.  And it’s a doozy.  In case you missed it, at the Coalition for Smarter Growth‘s Smart Growth Social recently, Shyam Kannan, Metro’s Managing Director of Planning, gave a presentation on the impact of regional cooperation on the region’s finances and specifically, what this could mean for Metro and its ridership, operating subsidy, funding partners, and taxpayers.

What he presented is the second half of ConnectGreaterWashington (CGW).  As a reminder, the first part of CGW was a long range plan that identified infrastructure expansion needs across all transit operators in the region. It assumed that we would grow as the local jurisdictions have estimated in the cooperative forecast. This second part asks a different question.  It challenges us to make do with the transportation system we have already built. Can the region’s growth, rather than necessitate billions of dollars in new infrastructure, be distributed differently to better utilize the roadway and transit systems we already have? What would that mean to the region, its finances, and to Metro’s operating subsidies that its funding partners pay annually?

So the study contemplates, compares, and contrasts two distinct paths.  Grow the way we have been growing and build our way out of congestion.  Or choose to grow around our existing infrastructure and use it to its maximum capacity.  In the coming weeks, we will be posting the detailed analysis here on PlanItMetro. It’s lengthy and wonky, so be prepared for a series of in-depth posts. 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…