Making every Metrorail station area walkable could reduce regional congestion without breaking the bank.
This is part three of a three-part series.
In the previous two posts we’ve laid out a case for making all transit stations walkable as quickly as possible.
- Increasing walkability and density at station areas has huge impacts on transit mode share and can take tens of thousands of cars of the road every single day.
- At a regional level, walkable station areas have an equivalent impact on congestion as a quarter trillion dollars in “last mile” infrastructure (see pages 37, 38, 43, 48).
Maximizing the capacity of the existing transit network while intelligently investing in station area connectivity would combat regional congestion just as effectively as trying to “build our way out of the problem”. And unlike many potential interventions, the market actually wants to do this for us.
Perhaps it is time to harness these market forces to make the areas around our transit network walkable and implement this low-cost congestion-busting paradigm. As for where to begin – well, we have a few suggestions…
Existing Walkability Near Metrorail Stations
The map below shows the range of existing walkability conditions near the Metrorail network and helps answer the question of how much of a half-mile radius of each station a person can walk to. The higher the percentage, the better the pedestrian network coverage. As shown, many of the station areas are under performing relative to their potential walkability. If walkability = connectivity and connectivity = mode share, then just imagine the impact on the region’s roads if we could focus on taking station areas with low accessibility and invest in some relatively easy, short-term solutions like sidewalks, pedestrian bridges, crosswalks, and smart, transit-oriented development to take maximum advantage of the existing Metrorail system and take tens of thousands of cars off the road each day.
How much of the area within a half-mile of our Metrorail stations can you walk to?
Americans are driving less and owning fewer cars, which means we have to make different decisions about where to spend scarce transportation resources.
In a fascinating post in the Atlantic Cities, Eric Jaffe doesn’t waste words with assumptions but rather relies on actual data to inform us that America has already reached “peak driving” and that the future of transportation in America is no longer linked to ever-increasing vehicle miles traveled (VMT).
This should come as no surprise, given that VMT has missed forecasted estimates since the early 2000′s. Just check out this handy chart from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Conditions and Performance Report (PDF) to Congress.
Regional roadway planners are already beginning to embrace this thinking, as the chart from the State Smart Transportation Initiative illustrates in its analysis of MDOT’s transportation plans. These plans not only acknowledge declining VMT, but now omit traffic projections altogether. Read more…
Improving pedestrian connectivity takes cars off the road at a formidable clip – rivaling the power of all of the region’s planned roadway additions and “last mile” transit connections. Cheaply and quickly.
This post is part two of a three-part series.
The data is finally in, and we now know that walkable station areas result in fewer motorized trips, fewer miles driven, fewer cars owned, and fewer hours spent traveling. And when we improve the pedestrian and bicycle access and connectivity to Metrorail station areas, ridership goes up, putting a major dent in congestion by taking trips off the roadways. Earlier, we discussed what it means to build walkable station areas and research shows the tremendous benefits to the region of making this a priority.
First, our data confirms that when walking access to transit is improved, transit ridership goes up – way up. In the 2040 Regional Transit System Plan (RTSP), we stress tested TPB’s transportation model to improve walkability to the transit network and saw huge increases in transit linked trips. These trips go up by about 10% region-wide and we get an increase in transit mode share for all regional trips by 0.5%. That’s over and above the roughly one percent increase in mode share we anticipate occurring as a result of building the entirety of the CLRP, an impact about half that of constructing all of that transit.
Source: Regional Transit System Plan
One solution to the region’s crippling congestion could be right under our feet – literally.
This post is part one of a three-part series.
Illustration of possible walkability improvements that could occur in/around Tysons Corner. From Regional Transit System Plan
The region is abuzz with $220B of planned new transportation investments – the Purple Line, HOT Lanes, new streetcar lines, and additional roadways. Though there is not one dollar currently pledged to add capacity to Metro, these other investments may help the region chart a course away from leading the country in congestion (pdf).
However, for a quarter trillion dollars, one would expect that collectively these projects would have significant impacts on the region’s congestion. While there are some benefits – vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita are expected to decline and transit mode share may increase by one percent – overall increases in VMT are expected to outpace road construction, leading to a 38% increase in the number of lane miles of congestion (pdf). But is there another way to get more bang for our buck?
Make station areas walkable. Every one of them. Now.
They don’t give out Academy Awards for transit advocacy short films, but maybe they should…
Today, one of our Momentum Champions, the Coalition for Smarter Growth, launched their own grassroots campaign to build support for funding Momentum. They are sending an initial email blast to 20,000 of their supporters.
The video, embedded below, that they produced accompanies a new tool that allows individuals to send emails of support directly back to their specific elected officials. Click the button at the bottom to show your support.
What is Metro Momentum?
from Coalition for Smarter Growth
We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the Coalition and we applaud them for taking a stand on this critical regional transportation issue. We hope that you have a chance to view their handiwork and are so inclined to indicate your support for Momentum and Metro 2025 funding.
Counting on the Feds alone to fund Metro ignores a long tradition of local jurisdiction funding support – and a ticking clock.
Image borrowed from eRationalmarketing.com. Click for original.
As the region grapples with mounting infrastructure needs (DC, MD and VA) regional leaders are experiencing a bit of sticker shock. That’s because this region has been enjoying the benefits of massive infrastructure capacity increases in transportation, water/sewer, and power that were built in the 1970s and were designed to keep up with growth for half a century.
Those fifty years have almost run out, as has our ability to grow into the capacity built by the previous generation of leaders. And if this region is going to continue its growth trajectory into the middle of this century, we’re going to need to invest in the supporting infrastructure capacities – including funding transit capacity increases via Metro 2025.
Some have argued that funding Metro improvements is primarily responsibility of the Federal government, or at least that the Federal government should lead this effort. That line of argument syncs up neither with the past, present or future – in reality, local jurisdictions have always played a significant role in funding Metro. Let’s lay out the facts about role of local jurisdictions in funding Metro.
- Fact: From 1969 to 1999, of the approximately $10.0 billion spent to construct the original 103-mile system, about $3.8 billion came from local jurisdictions, who always played a large role in the infrastructure investment:
- Fact: System enhancements, such as the Largo Extension and NoMA station, were largely paid for with local money. The Largo extension was paid for with 40% local money (DOC), and the NoMA station was funded with a combination of public and private local monies (PDF) that comprised more than 75% of the capital cost.
- Fact: As WMATA’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) transitioned from a system expansion focus to more infrastructure renewal, the reliance on federal funding declined. Just look at the graphic below.
Federal share of WMATA capital budget, 1991 to 2012. Source, NTD.
- Fact: While the 2008 Passenger Rail and Infrastructure Investment Act (PRIIA) authorizes $1.5 billion over ten years to support WMATA’s CIP, Congress was clear in mandating that this funding is contingent upon matching contributions from the region’s governments. In other words, without local jurisdiction funding commitments, monies from the Federal government would not materialize.
- Fact: Among the
25 largest transit operators in the nation, WMATA is one of two three that does not have a dedicated regional funding source. This despite being the second busiest subway and sixth busiest bus operator in the entire nation.
Those that monitor the Federal government know well that funding sources for major capital projects are in decline, and there are no guarantees to the legislative process. Just take a look at this graphic, from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Highway Trust Fund Ticker. Read more…
Without Metro 2025, the region might give up more jobs than the current size of 80 of the nation’s 100 largest downtowns.
One way to alleviate congestion – limit transit funding and stymie job growth!
The Washington, D.C. region earned in 2012 the unfortunate honor of being named the #1 region in the nation – for congestion. For the workers in this region this comes as no surprise, as seemingly endless “volume delays” litter our evening traffic reports, commuters spend more than a full week and a half sitting in traffic each year, and even the public transit network – primarily Metrorail – is so crowded that commuters often have to wait for multiple trains just to squeeze onto the system. And unless proposed transportation investments keep up with projected household and job growth – MWCOG projects that the region will add 1.6 million jobs by 2040 – these commutes are only going to become more painful.
We all know that the high price of congestion is in the billions of dollars per year, a figure that would be even higher but not for transit’s impact has in reducing the region’s congestion by 10 to 15 percent, saving commuters time and money stuck in traffic, and preventing the need to build hundreds of thousands of new parking spaces and 1,000 additional lane miles of roads.
But that price pales in comparison to what may be if we don’t act now to make meaningful improvements to the regions congestion-reducing transportation infrastructure, especially in programs like Metro 2025. Turns out that we now know that when regions exceed 35 to 37 hours of delay per commuter per year – about four and a half minutes per one way free flow trip – regional job growth begins to slow. That means that expectations of continued economic growth in the region are a lot less rosy when we consider that we currently run about 72 hours of delay per commuter per year – and rising. And before you dismiss this as planning theory, remember that Hewlett Packard showed Atlanta and the nation in 1998 that congestion’s negative impact on employment growth can be economic fact. Read more…
Delivering the transit system that the region needs will require an unequivocal commitment of additional resources from internal and external stakeholders. Simply put, the rehabilitation work being accomplished at the time of the writing of this document will not be nearly enough to keep up with the region’s needs, and without additional resources it will be unlikely that the region can continue to enjoy a transit network that contributes to competitiveness and makes the Washington metropolitan area one of the most desirable places to live and work.
Metro – Doing Business Differently
Metro recognizes that rebuilding the region’s transit system also means rebuilding the region’s transit authority – and will continue to be hard at work on this task in preparation for the implementation of Momentum. In the near term this means revamping nuts and bolts elements of the authority, including but not limited to: identifying ways that Metro can do its job more efficiently while increasing performance; evaluating its contracting and procurement philosophy to emphasize lifecycle contract and asset management; engineering a budgeting process that allows Departments to strive to achieve the goals of Momentum within the context of tight fiscal and financial discipline; and a human capital strategy that must have the right talent in-place and in-queue. In the long term, this means completing the journey to a much more business-like operating and execution philosophy for the organization.
Like many of the nation’s transit agencies, Metro must rebuild its once-new capital assets as they wear down and deteriorate after decades of use. Metro could feasibly use every penny in its capital budget for years to come just reducing its backlog of maintenance issues. Moreover, Metro also needs to ensure that the system is able to overcome the capacity constraints that come with a regional population expected to swell in both the central core and the suburbs in the years ahead. And on top of this, Metro will need to address calls for entirely new service in many areas of the region. Once Metro is rehabilitated, the system will require a stable level of investment to maintain a state of good repair as it continues to age and deteriorate. Metro estimates that $1 billion (in 2012 dollars) per year is necessary to support and maintain the existing system, even after rehabilitation. Metro 2025 will expand the core and system capacity, as well as ensure that the region’s capital investments are successful. This requires an additional $500 million, on average, in annual capital funding through 2025.
Certainly, increases in the overall size and scope of the system will also have an impact on operating costs, which would grow to some degree when new rail cars, buses, and service are put in place. These operating costs may grow in line with the proportional size of system expansion or at a lower rate, especially if increases in reliability and the increased attractiveness of transit to today’s non-riders has a disproportionate effect on ridership, mode choice, and revenues for modes that have high farebox recovery ratios today and/or where existing demand is already delivering more revenue than operating costs.
Business leaders were asked a series of questions about Momentum to gauge the extent that they believe the strategic plan is focused in the right direction. Five different growth options were presented and respondents were asked their level of support for each of them. The options included:
- Running all eight-car trains;
- Installing bus-only lanes as well as other bypass measures;
- Improving stations via widening platforms, more escalators/elevators, pedestrian tunnels;
- Improving communications infrastructure at stations, bus stops, online & fare payment; and
- Relieving track and station congestion at Rosslyn with new infrastructure.
There was clear support for the eight-car trains, with three out of four business leaders choosing this as a priority. Improved communications was also supported by six out of ten surveyed. The rest of the improvements had support from approximately one half of the total respondents. Read more…