Author Archive

Study Recommends New Mezzanine to Connect Red/Purple at Silver Spring

July 10th, 2014 3 comments

To handle future ridership demand, Silver Spring may need a new mezzanine to connect Metrorail to the planned Purple Line light rail station.

Last year, we began a study looking at potential station capacity issues at Silver Spring.  The assessment determined that the demand at the Silver Spring Metrorail station (entries and exits) is adequately served by the existing station infrastructure.   Since then, the study has assessed the future conditions that will be impacted both by ridership growth due to growth of jobs and households in the station area, but also the arrival of the Purple Line light rail to Silver Spring.

Purple Line station and potential Metrorail connection at Silver Spring.  Source, purplelinemd.com, PDF.

Purple Line station and potential Metrorail connection at Silver Spring. Source, purplelinemd.com, PDF.

The Purple Line station at Silver Spring is planned as an elevated platform and mezzanine, with the mezzanine connecting to the top floor of Silver Spring Transit Center, Metropolitan Branch Trail, and  Ripley Street to the south.   The elevated light rail platform will be approximately 80 feet above the street, about the height of the current MARC pedestrian bridge.  The MTA design team envisioned a possible direct connection between Metrorail and the Purple Line, as illustrated in the red shape in the center of the above image.  Without such a connection, riders transferring between Metrorail and the Purple Line at Silver Spring would have to descend those 80 feet to the ground level, enter an existing Metrorail mezzanine, and then ascend again to the Red Line platform. Read more…

What’s the Ideal Size for a Transit Walkshed?

July 8th, 2014 2 comments

Large transit walksheds are great, but how big is big enough?

In other posts, we have described what a transit walkshed is, and how changes can be made to the pedestrian network to increase the walkshed area.  Here, we explore how big is big enough.

The diagram below shows a half-mile circle around a transit station.  If the station were located in a field of grass or on a massive parking lot, the walkable area of the circle would be the circle itself, 100% of the half-mile buffer around the station would be accessible by foot.  Unfortunately, that wouldn’t bode well for transit use, since there wouldn’t be any origins or destinations within that walking distance.

Ideal Walkshed DiagramNow, let’s lay a perfect grid of streets across that half-mile buffer.  The street area is where people can walk, and the remaining area contains houses, shops, mixed-use development, etc.  The resulting walkshed for the station begins to look like a diamond inscribed inside the circle.   The smaller the blocks (the closer the streets are to one another) the more the walkshed resembles a perfect diamond that has a diagonal distance equal to the diameter of the circle.  If you take the area of the diamond and that of the circle and compare them, you find the walkshed (square) covers 63.7% of the circular station area buffer.

So if you have a perfect grid and get 63.7% coverage, how can you get any better?  For one, diagonal streets can increase the coverage: if two diagonal streets were added to the grid, intersecting in the center of the circle at the transit station, the square walkshed would turn into an eight-pointed star, increasing coverage even more, but not by much.

An good example of a walkshed greater than 63.7% is that of the Takoma station.  Featured in a previous post, we recently calculated a 91% coverage for Takoma.

It is difficult to pick an ideal size for a transit walkshed.    A larger percentage could be beneficial, but the additional roadway network needed to expand the coverage beyond 63.7% may result in less area dedicated to potential transit origins and destinations.  (Remember the station in the parking lot?)

What Metrorail stations do you feel have good walkshed coverage?  In  your opinion, where can we improve?

 

 

New Blue Line Connections Revisited

July 3rd, 2014 22 comments

A recent Metro study determined that a Rosslyn bypass is infeasible but a second Metrorail station in Rosslyn to restore frequent peak period Blue Line service is possible.

In a post last year describing the strategies in Metro 2025, we described some options for new Blue Line connections.  The first was a Rosslyn bypass that would allow some Blue Line trains to connect directly to the Orange Line at Court House.  The second was a second Rosslyn station that would connect to the current Rosslyn station via an underground walkway.  Both of these options, illustrated in the graphics below, would allow increased frequencies on the Blue Line during peak periods.

Graphic for Rosslyn Interline ConnectionGraphic for Second Rosslyn Station

Metro recently completed a study that evaluated these two options.  The bad news is that the Rosslyn bypass (interline connection) was deemed infeasible.  This is due to the location of building foundations and the turning radius required by the track.

However, the second Rosslyn station was deemed feasible, as illustrated in the map below.

second_rosslyn

Location for a proposed second Rosslyn Station, including three potential options for a pedestrian walkway.

This new Metrorail station would connect to the current Rosslyn station via one underground walkway.

Metro Office of Planning is submitting the second Rosslyn station for project development funding.

 

How Can The Coverage of Transit Walk Sheds Be Increased?

July 1st, 2014 2 comments

Pedestrian infrastructure can cost-effectively increase coverage of transit walk sheds.

The roadway networks of most station areas are mostly unchangeable.  Existing structures on private property create unmovable barriers and  usually prevent new roads from being added to the network.  However, there is still opportunity to add pedestrian facilities that would increase a station’s walk shed in a relatively cost-effective way.

Take the example of Southern Ave Metrorail station.  We previously noted how a large number of customers drive to the station from between one and three miles away.  We discussed several reasons for this tendency to drive to Southern Ave, including the proximity to parks on both sides of the station.  The map below shows the transit walk shed of Southern Ave station.

Current walkshed of Southern Ave station.  The area with the orange dotted border contains over 1,200 households that could be within a half mile of Metrorail if a direct pedestrian connection were built.

Current walkshed of Southern Ave station. The area with the orange dotted border contains over 1,200 households that could be within a half mile of Metrorail if a direct pedestrian connection were built.

 

But what if a pedestrian path could be built to connect the station to the neighborhood to the north?

If a well lit, safe pedestrian path were constructed between the station and the orange-dotted area on the map, it could expand the walkshed to include up to 1,200 additional households in DC.  This new connection would likely increase ridership at Southern Ave. and might even generate enough additional fare revenue to fund the construction of the trail.

Metro’s Office of Planning is currently evaluating the walk sheds of our rail transit stations.  What other opportunities do you see for cost-effectively increasing the walk sheds around Metrorail stations?

BRT comes to DC via Hollywood

June 4th, 2014 1 comment
Video still showing Cleveland's center-running BRT, from the filming of Captain America, Winter Soldier.

Video still showing Cleveland’s center-running BRT, from the filming of Captain America, Winter Soldier.  Click image for original video.

I recently watched “Captain America:  The Winter Soldier” with some friends recently at the theater near Gallery Pl-Chinatown.  I had heard rumors that the film was set in DC, which was a selling point since it’s always fun hearing names of local streets or venues and picking out inconsistencies between Hollywood’s portrayal and the real thing.  Our friends over at Greater Greater Washington already noted that this film replaces parts of Rosslyn and Roosevelt Island with a massive S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters complex.

But little did I know that the film would take me to Cleveland.  Read more…

Categories: Transit Travelogue Tags: , , ,

What Metro 2025 Means to Maryland

March 18th, 2014 1 comment

Metro 2025 would bring significant benefits to Maryland, supporting its economic growth and ensuring its future vitality.

Metro’s Momentum plan calls for seven Metro 2025 initiatives – from eight-car trains to bus-only lanes, which will bring dramatic improvements to the quality of life and transportation to Maryland.

 

Benefits Icons_Expansion

Ensures the Success of Maryland Transit Projects

Maryland has great plans for transit.  The Corridor Cities Transitway, the Purple Line, and the Viers Mill Rd Busway are all included in the CLRP with a reasonable expectation for funding, and the Federal Transit Administration announced recently that the Purple Line would receive $100 million in Obama’s latest FY15 budget.  Additionally, Montgomery County is developing plans for a county-wide BRT system.

These projects are worthwhile ventures, but they will always rely on the supporting regional “backbone” of Metrorail and Metrobus to deliver their intended results. At the very least, these three important projects would not connect to each other if not for Metrorail and Metrobus.  And at the very worst, if these projects are built and connect to a system that is already over capacity, they may struggle to live up to their mobility goals.

  • The Corridor Cities Transitway will function as a BRT extension of the Red Line: 1,500 people per peak hour will transfer to Metrorail at Shady Grove by 2030. (For context, about 3,000 riders per peak hour enter Shady Grove in the peak hour today.)
  • The Viers Mill Rd Busway will connect to three Metrorail stations. The current Metrobus Q-Line, a part of the Priority Corridor Network (PCN), currently provides over 8,800 trips per day, including approximately 800 transfers a day to Metrorail.
  • 10,000 Purple Line riders per day will come to and from Metrorail, where the Purple Line connects to the Red, Green, and Orange lines. Many of these passengers will further strain the over-congested lines of the rail network.
x

Funded Maryland transit projects, in the CLRP.

By ensuring that Metro services can keep pace with congestion and demand, Metro 2025 is critical to making Maryland’s transit projects a success, and critical to helping the region and the state reach its transportation goals.

 

Benefits Icons_Support Growth

Supports Maryland’s Growth Prospects

Maryland’s population in the Compact region is growing steadily and projected to continue growing. This growth is crucial to the economy of the state – 40% of Maryland’s state economic output came from the Washington region’s suburbs in 2012.  With that growth comes significant transportation needs, and Metro 2025 is critical to meeting that growth.

When congestion goes up, job growth goes down, and if Maryland wants to see growth potential turn into actual jobs, it needs to tame congestion.  Simply, Maryland needs the mobility that Metro 2025 would deliver: 8-car trains capable of moving the equivalent of 16-18 lanes of highways (in each direction) and connect Maryland to other regional job centers, superior bus service that can create much-needed east-west connections that bypass snarling congestion, and more. Read more…

What Metro 2025 Means for the District of Columbia

March 13th, 2014 No comments

Metro 2025 would bring significant benefits to the District of Columbia, allowing the city to thrive economically while preserving neighborhoods and downtown vitality.

Metro’s Momentum plan calls for seven Metro 2025 initiatives – from eight-car trains to bus-only lanes, which will bring dramatic improvements to the quality of life and transportation in the District.

 

Benefits Icons_Expansion

Supports D.C. Transit Projects

The District has committed to a 50% market share for public transportation, and is building a Streetcar and expanded Circulator network that will depend on robust Metrorail and Metrobus services. Metro concurs that the Streetcar and Circulator are worthwhile ventures, but they will always rely on the supporting regional “backbone” of Metrorail and Metrobus in order to deliver their intended results.  Consider that every single planned D.C. Streetcar line in the 22-mile system begins, ends, or connects with a Metrorail station, and the importance of sufficient capacity on Metrorail becomes quite clear.

Today, more than 100,000 people a month transfer between Metro and the Circulator.  By 2040, even the first few lines of the D.C. Streetcar (those funded in the CLRP, not even counting the full 22-mile system) are projected to generate thousands of additional transfers to Metrorail and Metrobus each day.

DC-CLRP-Projects

D.C. Streetcar projects funded in the CLRP. The planned 22-mile system would construct even more lines.

By ensuring that Metro services can keep pace with congestion and demand, Metro 2025 is critical to making D.C.’s transit projects a success, and critical to helping D.C. reach it’s transportation goals.

 

Benefits Icons_Support Growth

Supports D.C.’s Growing Population and Economy

The District of Columbia’s population is surging, and its economic and population growth is only projected to grow. With that growth comes significant transportation needs, and Metro 2025 is critical to Metro’s success in meeting that growth.

To handle this growth, D.C. needs the rail and bus system that Metro 2025 would deliver: 8-car trains capable of moving the equivalent of 16-18 lanes of highways into the District, superior bus service, and more. For example, Metrobus is helping the 16th Street NW corridor to grow – ridership has surged by over 5,000 trips per day, and today buses are 3% of the vehicles but move 50% of the people on that road. Read more…

Ridership Increases Expected for Cherry Blossom Festival

February 27th, 2014 2 comments

During the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Metrorail ridership increases on average by 7% on weekdays  and 50% on Saturdays. 

Metrorail ridership is impacted by a variety of factors, from special events to weather to government shutdowns.  One event that brings visitors to the region — and to Metrorail — in droves is the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival.   In anticipation of this year’s festival, we performed some analysis on how, when and where the blossom viewers impacted ridership on the Metrorail system.

In general, Metrorail ridership increases on average by 7% on weekdays and up to 53% on Saturdays during the festival.  On days with nice weather, ridership has increased up to 10% on weekdays and 70% on Saturdays!

As the figure below shows, during the weekdays there is no impact in the morning, a large (21%) increase of activity during the mid day and then a 7% increase thereafter.

Saturdays are another story all together.  Ridership increases up to 63% during mid day and afternoon periods on days during the festival, with a total ridership increase above 50%.  Even morning and “late” night ridership increases significantly during this period.

Cherry-Chart-Weekday-Saturday-w-Chart-2

Metrorail system entries by quarter-hour interval, Regular Weekday, Cherry Blossom Weekday, Regular Saturday and Cherry Blossom Saturday. Click chart for larger version.

 

When looking at change in ridership by station in the maps below, some obvious conclusions can be drawn. Read more…

The Impact of Government Shutdowns on Metrorail Ridership: Budget vs Snow

February 13th, 2014 6 comments

When it comes to impacting weekday Metro ridership, meteorologists are three times more powerful than the federal government.

Many factors influence Metrorail ridership, including the weather and the status of the federal government.  As this assessment shows, extreme weather has a much bigger impact on Metrorail usage than the federal government closure for budget reasons.

In the past few months, the federal workforce was instructed to stay home for two different reasons.  The first was the failed budget negotiation that resulted in the federal government shutdown in October of 2013. (We’ll call this “shutdown closure.”)  The second was the winter weather forecast that closed federal offices in the Washington region.  (Let’s call this “snow closure.”)  These two separate government closures have had different impacts on Metrorail ridership.

First, take ridership by time of day.  The graph below shows ridership by fifteen-minute interval for three days.  The tallest, green line is the average of weekday entries.  The other two are days that the federal government was closed due to the shutdown (Oct 8, 2013) and snow (Dec 10, 2013).    Now, the purple line illustrates the ridership due to the budgetary shutdown in October 2013 and the blue line shows ridership on a federal snow day in December 2013.   The purple line (budget shutdown) is not dissimilar to the green (average), but the purple line (snow shutdown) illustrates a huge ridership drop.  Why would this be?

asdf

Metrorail ridership on an average day and two days the federal government was shut down. October 8, 2013 was part of the budget shutdown. December 10 2013 the fed was closed due to snow.

 

We can think of a few reasons for this difference.

  • The budget shutdown only impacted SOME federal workers, i.e. those not deemed essential.  Snow, however, impacts just about everyone.
  • On snow days, area schools are often closed.  Parents who have the luxury to do so sometimes stay home to look after their children who would otherwise be in school.  Critically, parents who may be limited in child care options – many of whom are our customers - are especially vulnerable and often are forced to stay home because of the school closures.
  • Washington is gradually evolving from a federal “company town” into a “boom town of the new economy,” a new economy less reliant on the federal government.   Many of the businesses of the “new economy” were unaffected by the budget shutdown, but during extreme weather events take their cue from the federal government and give their employees the day off.  According to Dr. Stephen Fuller of GMU’s Center for Regional Analysis, the Washington region is and will be “increasingly less dependent on federal spending as the driver of job growth and income generation in the local economy.”

Next, let’s look at change in ridership by station.  Below are maps showing the change in ridership between a regular day and one of the government shutdown days:  first budget shutdown and then snow shutdown. Read more…

PlanItMetro at Metro Hack Night

January 23rd, 2014 No comments

I was invited to present a wide variety of data visualizations featured on the blog at a recent meeting of transportation techies.

I had the honor of being invited to present at the 2nd meeting of the Transportation Techies Meetup group, Metro Hack Night on January 2, 2014.  I used this opportunity to illustrate some of the data visualizations I’ve developed using Metro data and talk a bit about the technology behind them.

The first was the the visualization of 9 years worth of rail ridership data.  This visualization was created in D3 (“data driven documents”) using code originally developed by “mbostock” posted on the D3 examples page.  D3 is a javascript library that allows the creation of really powerful and interactive visualizations.  The downside of D3, as I noted, is that the code itself can be confusing and hard to follow.   So much of learning a new coding language is looking at what others have done and learning from it.  D3′s simplified notation makes it really hard for me to follow.  (NOTE: this visualization has recently been updated to include daily Metrorail ridership for all of 2013.)

The second was the visualization of one day of Metrorail station activity.     This video was created using Processing, a Java-based visualization tool that takes care of a lot of the coding “grunt work” and allows a programmer to focus on the data and the visualization.  I really enjoy Java so I took the opportunity this project provided to add a few flourishes such as a clock face and “sunrise” and “sunset.”  Read more…

Categories: Engage Tags: , ,