Author Archive

“Virtual” Tunnel Yields Real Benefits

November 4th, 2014 15 comments

Use of the “Farragut Crossing” virtual tunnel is strong, averaging around 18,000 trips per month during the more temperate months, dropping to 15,000 during the winter.

Users of the Metrorail system come up with a lot of different ideas for how Metro can better serve their needs.  Ideas often come from the blogging community and are sometimes considered by Metro planners, researchers and leadership.  One such idea was the virtual tunnel between Farragut North and Farragut WestNow dubbed “Farragut Crossing” via a Facebook naming contest, this fare policy update allows transfers between the two Farragut stations without being charged two separate fares.

Farragut Crossing was first opened in October of 2011 and monthly usage increased from just a few thousand trips in its first few months to a max of over 21,000 in May of 2014.  Since then, it’s settled to around 18,000 during the fair-weather months.

Read more…

Discovering the Other Silver Line

September 1st, 2014 5 comments

MBTA’s Silver Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is impressive and efficient, but could be easier to use for visitors.

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Boston’s Silver Line BRT at one of its Logan Airport stops. Photo by the author.

I recently flew to Boston for the first time in years and had the opportunity to ride their Silver Line BRT  that provides service between Boston Logan Airport and south Boston.  The service features some dedicated right-of-way, real-time arrival signage and a few actual stations.

The Silver Line has real-time arrival screens at Boston Logan, easing the wait time for customers excited to explore a city or return home.  The buses used are dual-power, meaning they run on electricity via overhead wires at some times and on diesel when there are no wires.  The switching between the two takes a few minutes but it really wasn’t very noticeable.

I was very impressed with the stations.  For example, the World Trade Center station is a significant and impressive structure, and felt more like a traditional rail station that a bus stop by far.  It features a multi-story tower topped with the “T” logo.  The station interior features side platforms, escalators and stairs, real-time arrival screens and public art.  A station like this makes a statement that high quality transit service will be operating here for a long time, despite not having rails in the ground. Read more…

Categories: Transit Travelogue Tags: , , ,

Silver Line’s Smiling Faces

August 18th, 2014 No comments

Metro planner captures some smiles of excited Silver Line customers on camera opening weekend.

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Baby’s first Metrorail trip on SV’s first day.

I offered up my Saturday on a recent weekend to participate in something really cool, the opening of the new Metrorail Silver Line. Metro has a program where employees can help out during special events or scheduled trackwork to guide customers through the fare vending machines or navigate bus bridges. I took advantage of this opportunity because I knew it would be something special.

During my six-hour shift at McLean, I saw a lot of happy people excited to be among the first to ride the new rail line. There were only a few times that I was moved enough to capture the moment on camera. The first is the picture above, a one-month baby with his Silver Line commemorative SmarTrip card, taking his first trip on Metro. Let’s hope it will be the first of many to come. Read more…

Fans Take Metro Home From Soccer Game

August 13th, 2014 12 comments

Over 7,000 customers took Metro home from the soccer game at Fedex Field on Tuesday night, July 29th, and some used the Silver Line!

While researching the ridership patterns of customers using Silver Line and comparing the usage on Monday, July 28th, to Tuesday, July 29th, we started to see an interesting pattern:  a lot more customers were traveling from Morgan Blvd to Wiehle-Reston East.  When we drilled down into the data, we found that these trips were occurring in the evening, well past the end of the PM Peak.  A few web searches later we discovered that a well attended soccer game had been held at FedEx Field on that night.

We then wanted to know, how many and where did they travel?  The chart below compares entries at Morgan Blvd on the 29th and contrasts it against the entries of the previous Tuesday, July 22nd.  It is pretty obvious that except for the soccer game, it was a pretty normal day at Morgan Blvd, good for comparison.  This data tells us that around 7,500 customers took Metro home from the game.  But where did they go?

The chart below shows the stations that our Morgan Blvd customers used to exit the system after the game.  There are a lot of unreadable data points on there, true, but a few really stand out, as annotated.  Most of the big spikes are end-of-line stations, including our newest, Wiehle-Reston East.  This graph also tells us that customers traveling to Wiehle-Reston East made it to their home station faster than those going to Franconia-Springfield.  In total, over 500 customers took the Silver Line home to one of the five new stations after the game.

This chart also raises the question, why were so many soccer fans going to Eastern Market, Metro Center, Foggy Bottom and Pentagon City?  Those are the earlier spikes shown on the graph.   Perhaps those are the neighborhoods where high densities of soccer fans live, or maybe the locations of good sports bars for post-game refreshment.

Did you attend the soccer game and take Metro afterwards?  Where did you go and what was your trip purpose?

 

Transit Walk Sheds and Ridership

August 11th, 2014 10 comments

Metro cares about transit walk sheds because more households accessible to transit by walking translates directly into more ridership.

We’ve been focusing a lot on transit walk sheds lately. We’ve shown that the size of a transit walk shed depends heavily on the roadway network and pedestrian infrastructure, and that these sizes vary dramatically by Metrorail station. We’ve also demonstrated that expanding the walkable area can make hundreds of households walkable to transit.

But why do we care so much about walk sheds? Because larger walk sheds mean more households in the walk shed, and that means ridership. For example, we’d be hard pressed to find many households in Landover’s small walk shed, so it’s no surprise that walk ridership at that station is low. On the other hand, thousands of households are within a reasonable walk to Takoma’s larger walk shed, and walk ridership there is much higher.

In other words, the more people can walk to transit, the more people do walk to transit – and data across Metrorail stations prove it:

Correlation between Households in the half-mile walk shed, and AM Peak ridership, by WMATA Metrorail station entrance

More households in the walkable area around a Metrorail station means higher ridership

Read more…

Ballston and the Silver Line: A Big Opportunity

July 30th, 2014 No comments

This is a guest from Paul Mackie, communications director at Mobility Lab.

A new short video by Mobility Lab details the economic benefits that Ballston stands to reap from this week’s opening of Metro’s Silver Line.

In the video, Ballston Business Improvement District CEO Tina Leone says, “We see the Silver Line as making Ballston the center of the universe. It makes everything even better here. We already have a very active Metro stop, with 26,000 trips per day. We see that growing to 38,000 trips per day along with the Silver Line by 2020. So that’s coming very, very fast.” Read more…

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 23 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.

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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?