How Do Different Modes Compare?

May 14th, 2014 6 comments

The region either already has or is planning for a variety of different modes. How do they compare? The Silver Line will soon open as a Metrorail line. Later this year, a streetcar will be operating on H Street, NE with others planned for Columbia Pike in Arlington and the District. Arlington and Alexandria are jointly building a bus rapid transit (BRT) line between Crystal City and Potomac Yard. Once funding is finalized, Maryland will build the Purple Line and light rail transit (LRT) will connect New Carrollton and Bethesda. This is all in addition to the region’s existing commuter rail, commuter bus, Metrorail, Metrobus, and MetroExtra services. The region is not only expanding transit services, but it also expanding the types of transit modes that will operate. At long last, instead of talking about Portland (streetcar), Jersey City (light rail), or Cleveland (bus rapid transit), we’ll be able to point directly to services and infrastructure in our backyard or take a trip and experience the pros and cons of these modes for ourselves.

So how do the different modes compare? What kind of purposes does each serve? There are many external factors and trade-offs that influence how agencies and jurisdictions select which mode to implement.  As we see from the ongoing debates in jurisdictions across the region between LRT and BRT or streetcar and enhanced bus, there is not always one perfect choice. However, an array of transit and land use measures can provide context to the conversation. As part of ConnectGreaterWashington: The 2040 Regional Transit System Plan, we developed the below table to compare commuter rail, commuter bus, heavy rail, light rail, streetcar, bus rapid transit, and enhanced bus across land use intensity (households and employment), vehicle capacity, stop spacing, trip length, and capital and operating costs.

What do you think? Does this information better inform the rail vs bus debate? What other information would provide more clarity on what modes work where?

Comparison of High-Capacity Transit Modes

Comparison of High-Capacity Transit Modes


Why isn’t Metro looking at a line to [insert address here]?

December 20th, 2013 10 comments

[Editor’s note: this will be our last post of 2013.  We look forward to seeing you again in early January.]

You name it and we tested it as part of our analysis and development of the Regional Transit System Plan (RTSP). Here’s the comprehensive list of what was analyzed.

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

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

We have received tons of great comments on the proposed 2040 network of Metrorail and high capacity surface transit corridors. Many of you have said that we missed <insert corridor here> or have asked why we don’t have a line to <insert address here>. As part of this plan, we have analyzed almost every corridor or mode that you have identified. However, we recognize that most of it was behind the scenes and is buried deep in our posted presentations to the Technical Advisory Group (TAG).

Above is a list of what was analyzed before we unveiled the proposed 2040 Metrorail Network and regionally significant high capacity corridors. Better yet, here is a document that shows the Metrorail lines and other surface transit plans, projects, and strategies that were tested over the course of the project. Everything is listed and where possible, maps and graphics are provided to illustrate what was tested. All tested items were measured against a comprehensive set of measures of effectiveness (MOE). The MOEs assessed ridership, impact on core capacity, transfers, reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT), mode share, etc.

To wet your whistle, below, check out the Beltway Line that was tested. Only the segments that crossed the American Legion Bridge (between White Flint and Dunn Loring) and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (between Branch Avenue and Eisenhower Avenue) had some promise and therefore, they continued on in the analysis, though as surface transit not Metrorail. The other segments did not provide good ridership, primarily due to the low densities within a walkable distance from the Beltway, and had little impact on Metrorail core capacity.

Alignment of a Beltway Line that was tested in the RTSP

Alignment of a Beltway Line that was tested in the RTSP

Let us know what you think!

More than Metrorail: The Region’s Most Important High-Capacity Surface Transit Corridors

December 19th, 2013 14 comments

In parallel with the proposed 2040 Metrorail network, we have identified 25 regionally significant corridors that merit high-capacity surface transit by 2040. Depending on the corridor, high-capacity surface transit can be provided more efficiently and effectively by modes other than Metrorail.

The best transit systems in the world are comprised of large networks served by multiple modes. In the National Capital Region, due to the growth and dispersal of activity centers, the high demand placed on Metrorail, and the realities of transit funding, expanding the transit network needs to occur by expanding transit on the region’s roads and highways not just by Metrorail. Metrorail is not and cannot be the best mode for every corridor because the vast majority of corridors do not have the land use, density and ridership to support it.

But don’t despair! There are plenty of other high-capacity modes such as bus rapid transit (BRT), light rail (LRT), streetcar, and enhanced bus that can provide:

  • high-frequency;
  • all day service;
  • large, comfortable vehicles; and
  • lower capital and operating costs than Metrorail.

Regionally Significant High Capacity Surface Transit Corridors as part of 2040 Regional Transit System Plan

Regionally Significant High-Capacity Surface Transit Corridors as part of 2040 Regional Transit System Plan

Read more…

Proposed 2040 Metrorail Network

December 5th, 2013 89 comments

Step right up and check out the proposed 2040 core Metrorail configuration with new Blue and Yellow Lines and a third line in Virginia!

Proposed 2040 Metrorail Core Configuration

Proposed 2040 Metrorail Core Configuration

Proposed 2040 Metrorail Network

Proposed 2040 Metrorail Network

What does this network do? The proposed rail network shown above is expected to reduce future crowding on Metrorail, provide enough capacity for future development, and expand the reach of transit in the region, especially to regional activity centers.

Why are we proposing it? This rail network is part of the 2040 Regional Transit System Plan (RTSP). Its purpose is to develop the rail and surface transit network for 2040 that meets the needs of the growing Washington DC region.

What else have we considered? About a month ago, we posted about some of the possible long-range changes to the Metrorail core that we are considering as part of the RTSP. We analyzed four different core configurations, gathered your comments, and the final configuration for the core is shown above. As many of you commented, it is a combination of two of the scenarios (Scenarios B and C).

Next Steps: The next and final step for the RTSP is to use this configuration, along with the high capacity surface corridors, to conduct a final round of analysis. The output will provide us with information on ridership, mode share, levels of crowding, transfers, etc. and ultimately a final network for 2040.

Let us know what you think!

A few extra notes:

(1) The Metrorail network shown in this post will be layered with an extensive high capacity surface transit network to expand transit and meet the needs of employment and population growth in the region.

(2) For the plan to have validity and acceptability across the region and within the federal planning process, it is based on the region’s adopted cooperative land use forecast for 2040. We used the Aspirations Land Use scenario to stress test the core of the system, but ultimately the plan needs to start with the region’s adopted land use. As follow on work to this plan, we will be testing different land uses to see what else we can learn to improve long-range plans.

(3) All of the lines shown, as well as all of the high capacity surface transit corridors, will need corridor studies, alternatives analyses, and full engineering studies. This cannot be done at a regional level, but would need to happen on a project by project, line by line level. So, while we are showing a new Blue Line on M Street, it very well could be on N or P Streets.

What About a Faster Transit Route Between Dulles and the Core?

March 31st, 2011 39 comments
A Dulles rail extension alternative to be tested under RTSP

The planned Metrorail Line to Dulles Airport will provide a high-frequency, high-capacity link between the airport and the region’s core, and will enable travel between all Metrorail stations and the airport, without requiring rail-to-bus transfers.  Concerns have been expressed about the likely Metrorail travel times between the airport and the core, and the capacity of the Metrorail system, as trains converge through Rosslyn and pass under the Potomac River.  Could there be improvements that would provide faster service, expand the capacity, and also provide for greater flexibility for routing trains when service is disrupted, because of either incidents or planned major maintenance?

To attract riders, transit travel times need to “be competitive with” other travel options, yet setting that competitive bar at the level of auto travel times doesn’t seem to be necessary (nor is it readily achievable.)  Reagan National Airport attracts many transit trips, even though driving times to the airport are generally shorter than by rail.    While travel times need to be competitive, and a faster travel time would be more appealing and attract some more ridership, Metrorail to Dulles Airport will result in considerable transit usage by airport patrons and employees, not only to and from the core, but to Tysons Corner and other locations served by the Metrorail network.

Read more…

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RTSP Rail Enhancement Strategy: Interline Connections and Station Improvements

February 16th, 2011 7 comments

The purpose of this strategy is to allow different rail lines to operate on the same track.  This type of operation can help reduce capacity constraint on some lines and provide new connections between existing Metrorail lines.

The four interline connections proposed include:

1) Connect Orange and Blue at Rosslyn
2) Connect Yellow and Blue at Pentagon
3) Connect Yellow and Green near L’Enfant Plaza
4) Connect Orange and Silver near West Falls Church

Some benefits of these interline connections include:

  1. Orange/Silver-Blue inter-lining south of Rosslyn to allow a Silver Line running between the two airports
    1. BENEFIT: Faster trip to Ballston, Tysons and airports within Virginia
  2. Blue-Yellow inter-lining north of Pentagon to allow I-66 corridor rail lines going through 14th Street Bridge
    1. BENEFIT: Utilize throughput capacity on 14th Street Bridge
  3. Yellow-Green inter-lining south of L’Enfant Plaza to allow a Yellow Line split to Anacostia/Navy Yard
    1. BENEFIT:  Allow direct access between Anacostia and southern Maryland to job sites in southern Arlington and the City of Alexandria.

Additionally, this strategy will explore the benefits of making improvements to several of the system’s core stations:

  1. Pedestrian tunnel between Farragut North and Farragut West;
  2. Pedestrian tunnel between Metro Center and Gallery Place;
  3. Increase amount of vertical capacity at Union Station;
  4. Increase transfer capacity at the three core transfer stations:  Metro Center, Gallery Place and L’Enfant Plaza
Categories: Strategies Tags: , , , ,