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…
Metrorail has had a huge impact on the region, but as we’ve seen with the Silver Line, it can take decades to get from concept to execution.
One of the questions I hear most often as a planner for Metro is When will a Metro station open in xyz neighborhood, “in Georgetown”, or “at BWI”? It was the first question at the March Citizens Association of Georgetown meeting. My response — “Decades” — often elicits audible groans.
Given last summer’s opening of the Silver Line, we have a case study that can provide insight on how long it takes to plan, fund, and construct large infrastructure projects. The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project has done a phenomenal job of maintaining a project timeline. Since the region has many recent newcomers, it is helpful to revisit many of the key milestones, as shown below. It is also helpful to remind readers that the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) was the ultimate developer of the Silver Line (both Phases I and II) and that the project “only” required cooperation among the Commonwealth of Virginia, MWAA, Metro, the federal government, and Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. While just one example, the Silver Line’s long story is not vastly different from other mega-projects happening in the region and across the country.
Timeline for Planning, Environmental Process, Legal and Financing, and Constructing the Silver Line
Transit expansion is in demand but Metrorail, light rail, and other high capacity transit projects can be expensive to build, operate and maintain. With limited resources to invest, our region must ensure that these projects serve the most robust transit markets and are supported by strong transit friendly policies.
Informed by our peers and local performance measures, Metro is developing guidelines that the region can use to inform development of high capacity transit projects. As we’ve explored previously, there’s much more to transit expansion than Metrorail. In fact, due to the cost associated with Metrorail expansion along with existing land uses and built environment in much of the region, most of our future high capacity transit projects will be made up of other transit modes. But what is the best way to decide what mode best fits each corridor? The goal of the expansion guidelines is to inform those decisions.
Development in Arlington’s Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor has validated initial and ongoing investments in Metrorail. (source: Arlington County)
A literature and peer review included policy documents from BART (PDF), the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Florida DOT, Virginia DRPT, Federal Transit Administration (PDF), and research from the University of California Transportation Center (UCTC). The review found that ridership, density, the presence of walkable streets and sidewalks, local plans and policies, and cost effectiveness are the most relevant criteria to evaluate transit projects and that rigorous performance targets are needed to support each transit mode. Read more…
Categories: ConnectGreaterWashington BART, BRT, corridors, DRPT, Light Rail, Metrorail, plans, ridership, Streetcars, tod, transit-oriented development
MBTA’s Silver Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is impressive and efficient, but could be easier to use for visitors.
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…
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…
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
The Los Angeles area is aggressively leveraging billions in local tax dollars to transform the region into a more vibrant place with a variety of transportation options.
Measure R Spending Breakdown
The conventional wisdom today is that the days of big expensive transportation investments are over. Los Angeles apparently didn’t get the memo. The main transportation planning and development agency in the LA area, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro), is currently leading the development of the nation’s largest regional transportation expansion program. The program of projects, Measure R, was overwhelmingly approved by more than two-thirds of LA county voters in 2008, and raised the local sales tax one-half cent. The half-cent sales tax is expected to raise $40 billion over 30 years (including an estimated $590 million in 2012) to provide the lion’s share of funding for Measure R transportation projects around the region, helping Angelenos avoid some of the area’s legendary traffic congestion. Not satisfied with the already impressive pace of expansion, LA Metro’s Board of Directors is now exploring a second ballot measure that could come as early as 2016.
Measure R includes an impressive array of transit projects, including the Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit extension, Expo and Regional Connector light rail lines, and the Westside Subway, among others. Below is a map of the transit projects fully or partially funded by Measure R (click on the map below for the interactive version):
Measure R Transit Map (source: LA Metro)
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:
- 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
Categories: Strategies BRT, bus, capacity, Light Rail, Metrorail, planning, plans, priority, rail, ridership, RTSP, Streetcar, studies, travel patterns
Priority treatments speed up buses, which saves everyone time and money, uses street space most efficiently, and attracts development.
Bus priority projects, such as those begun through the regional TIGER grant and included in the Metrobus Priority Corridor Network Plan, will improve travel times, increase service reliability, and attract thousand of new riders once fully implemented.
But let’s step back for a moment. Why are these improvements needed?
Average AM Rush Hour Bus Speeds (Nov. 2009)
The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is hosting its third and final round of public workshops in October to discuss moveDC, DDOT’s initiative to develop a strategic, multimodal long range transportation plan for the District. The public is encouraged to attend a workshop to review the draft plan and help prioritize the transportation options. The October workshops will enable you to:
- Share your ideas and observations on future plans for transportation;
- Learn how three approaches to a future DC transportation system perform;
- Review the results of our survey research;
- Provide input into the draft transportation plan; and
- Learn more about the moveDC local bus study.
Throughout October, you are also invited to participate in a survey to comment on and critique three approaches that have the potential to transform the way people travel in the District.
Public Meeting Dates and Locations
Monday, October 21
7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
625 First St NE
Tuesday, October 22
6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., with a formal presentation 7 p.m.
Dorothy I. Height/Benning Neighborhood Library
3935 Benning Road, NE
Saturday, October 26
1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
DCUSA Retail Center, 2nd Floor, between Target and Best Buy
3100 14th St. NW
Wednesday, October 30
6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., with a formal presentation 7 p.m.
Petworth Neighborhood Library
4200 Kansas Ave., NW
Visit www.wemoveDC.org for more details and to sign up.
October 24, noon – 1:00 p.m.
October 28, 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Categories: In The News access, bike, bike parking, BRT, bus, meetings, Metrorail, pedestrian, planning, plans, presentations, public comment, rail, stations, tod