‘Strategic Planning’

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.

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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

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WMATA’s Planners’ Principles for Creating a Customer Focus

March 1st, 2016 No comments

In its efforts to make Metro safer and more reliable, Metro puts the customer first.    

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Addressing capacity constraints in our stations, such as Foggy Bottom shown here will provide a safer and more reliable trip for Metro customers. Image source: WMATA.

The last year, implementation of Momentum, the WMATA strategic plan, was paused to permit a laser focus on all things safety and reliability.  Safety and reliability are what our customers deserve and what they are asking for.  Here’s how we pledge to address these critical issues at Metro within the context of putting customers first.

Engage our customers. And listen. Metro’s new General Manager and CEO, Paul J. Wiedefeld has dedicated a great deal of time since he came aboard talking with and listening to his constituents.  He did this because he knows that to get their support he has to listen to their concerns and ideas for our system and services.    Metro has the tools in place to regularly engage their customers, starting with the American Planning Association-award-winning Public Participation Plan (PDF) but also including a newly formed customer community, Amplify, available for online conversation on a wide variety of topics and initiatives.  Let’s follow the lead of the new GM and engage our customers in dialogue on addressing today’s problems as well as rebuilding Metro for the future.

Read more…

Regional Transit Opportunities Explored

February 11th, 2016 1 comment

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.

First Things First

December 14th, 2015 2 comments

Secretary Foxx has issued his direction that Metro cannot consider any new rail expansion right now, and WMATA agrees!  So much so that we wrote it into our strategic plan back in 2013.  Earlier this fall, the Prince William County’s Board of Supervisors heard from WMATA about the importance of fixing Metro’s core before considering any expansion.

The Silver Line’s Phase 2 extension from Wiehle-Reston East to Dulles Airport and Loudoun County could be the last for decades to come. (photo credit: Ryan Stavely, Flickr)

As the region grows, so does the pressure for extensions of Metrorail.  The requests are frequent and common: “Extend Metro to BWI! to Centreville! to Waldorf! to Fort Belvoir!” We’ve heard and even modeled most of these requests. For a system that’s shaped and contributed tremendous economic value to the region, it only makes sense that communities outside of its immediate reach want improved access to it. WMATA Director of Planning Shyam Kannan recently took the opportunity to discuss the potential for the extension of Metrorail into Prince William County. With 80% of today’s Metrorail trips going to or through the system’s core (PDF), he noted that major core capacity improvements must be made prior to considering any additional rail extensions. While addressing core capacity has been a major part of Momentum, including initiatives like the 8-car train program, core stations, and New Blue Line Connections, the plan remains largely unfunded. With safety and state of good repair needs as Metro’s top priorities and core capacity relief put off indefinitely, any potential extensions (if they happen) are likely decades away from being built.

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

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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…

Building a Blueprint for a Better Bus Network

November 4th, 2015 2 comments

Metrobus is a critical part of the region’s transit system.  It can be better, stronger, faster, and more efficient than it is today.  Here’s how.

As described in previous posts, Metrobus is due for a regional service update to better reflect its many and sometimes conflicting regional roles.  Certainly, updates to its business model, operational scale and performance standards could go a long way towards helping the region make business- and customer-savvy decisions about the best way to deploy this service.  However, alone these changes would not significantly enhance cost efficiency, nor make the buses run faster, nor get more people to use the service, nor better connect this region which is hungry for more mobility as it prospers and expands.

Multiple Metrobus vehicles stuck in traffic on 16th Street in DC, a regular occurance.

Unfortunately, today’s bus operating environment is unsustainable, both operationally and financially. Growing traffic congestion and longer boarding times due to growth in demand have prolonged the scheduled bus travel times, resulting in less reliable service, longer passenger wait times, the use of more fleet just to keep the same headway, and ultimately higher operations costs.  As a region we can choose to just accept the service we have, or we can do the heavy lifting to create the service we need (and deserve).

Here is the beginning of a blueprint of near-term actions that can speed up buses, improve on-time performance, and better serve our customers. Read more…

Categories: Momentum Tags: , , , ,

In Case You Missed It – Presentation from Last Week’s Smart Growth Social

October 22nd, 2015 No comments

We’ve published online the WMATA presentation from last week’s Smart Growth Social.

Last week the Coalition for Smarter Growth held their annual Smart Growth Social. Over 200 people were in attendance that evening and WMATA was honored to have the opportunity to share with the audience a preview of some ground-breaking research the Office of Planning has been conducting into the impact of Smart Growth practices on the region’s finances. On behalf of everyone who works towards a more sustainable and prosperous region, thank you for listening.

 

We’ve gotten a ton of requests for copies of the presentation, which we have made available online. If you want to get more information on how smarter land use planning can and should be this region’s top transportation strategy, feel free to use the presentation or email us (planning@wmata.com) to stay informed as we release more information on ConnectGreaterWashington later this year.

Does Transit Yield its Promised Economic Benefits? A 1969 Perspective.

June 25th, 2015 1 comment

The actual economic benefits of Metro far exceed what planners estimated in 1969, and it’s worth remembering as we consider future transit investments.

In the late 1960s, when Metrorail was nearly about to begin construction, Metro published a forecast of the economic benefits of Metrorail.  The report made rosy projections of the all the travel time and costs the network, then a 97-mile proposed rail system, would bring.  (It also included photos of the pretty awesome 3-D model of a station, including maybe a one-car train?).  Now, four decades later, were the projections right?  Has Metrorail produced the benefits we thought?  The answer is yes, and then some.

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Cover of a 1969 report estimating the economic benefits of Metrorail

At the time this report came out, the region was about to make a substantial investment in public transit , probably not unlike today, where we face real choices about whether to invest in Metro 2025 initiatives such as 8-car trains, the Purple Line, or bus lanes.  To quote the report,

Metro is ready for construction. The routes have been selected. The program for local financing has been approved.

How feasible is Metro? Who will benefit?  Will the benefits justify the costs? Is Metro a good public investment for the National Capital Region and its financial partner, the federal government?

The report tallied up all the time savings to riders – former motorists, former bus riders, and truckers – as well as the travel cost savings like avoided parking, vehicle savings, operating cost savings, and more.  It concluded that Metro would save $186 million per year in 1990$, roughly equivalent to $310 million/year in today’s dollars after adjusting for inflation.  Read more…