Posts Tagged ‘funding’

Since Time is Money, Metro Wants a Business Partner to Help Metrobus Go More and Stop Less

September 11th, 2015 3 comments

Metro is exploring opportunities to partner with a private company or investor to pilot off-board SmarTrip® loading to help improve customer travel times and lower our operating costs.

Metrobus speeds have steadily decreased over time as the region grew and traffic worsened. This not only negatively impacts Metro customers, but also increases our operating costs. As traffic congestion erodes bus speeds, we need to deploy more vehicles and operators on the busiest routes in order to maintain service frequencies. We know that behind the statistics stand legions of bus riders who want faster service, as well as counties and cities that want lower bills for that service.

Crowded boarding and long dwell times

Crowded boarding and long dwell times

Off-Board Fare Payment and Transit Prioritization

There is no silver bullet to speed up transit. Instead, agencies can use a combination of technology and on-street treatments to increase bus speeds and move more passengers. One of the few prioritization strategies Metro can undertake on its own is allowing off-board fare loading, moving all SmarTrip® value loading from the farebox to kiosks near bus stops. This would reduce the amount of time it takes for passengers to board buses and pay fares, in turn speeding up bus trips.  We have looked into this in the past and have recently revisited this important concept. Read more…

Preparing for the Future of Metrobus

August 17th, 2015 2 comments

Since the signing of the WMATA compact more than 40 years ago, there has been an ongoing debate about the role of Metrobus as the Washington region’s primary bus service provider. 

Prior to the formation of Metrobus in 1973, bus services in the Washington region were operated by numerous private providers across the region operating on dedicated lanes, many of which were operating at a loss.  In the 1970s, Metro consolidated bus service under the Metrobus brand and increased service and headways throughout the WMATA compact area.  While Metro’s role as the regional rail provider has always been clear, its role as a bus provider has been more nuanced.

Old DC Transit and Metrobuses from the 1960s and 70s

This is the first in a series of posts which aim to provide a brief overview of the efforts undertaken over the past 20 years by Metro, and its regional partners,  to balance the responsibilities and funding of Metrobus with the wants and needs of our jurisdictional partners all while maintaining our regionally focused mission.

Read more…

Metrorail Ridership Projections – Looking Ahead

March 11th, 2015 8 comments

Historical data and regional growth projections tell us one thing – Metrorail ridership will rebound and grow right along with the region, and the system better be ready to carry the load.

Crystal City Sta -am Rush 060912-129

Metrorail riders enter and exit Crystal City during the AM rush hour, June 2012.

Local ridership trends that seem to defy a national boom in public transit usage give some pause about the need for planned transit expansion projects.  It’s no surprise that even the most ardent of transit supporters might be caught flat-footed when trying to defend infrastructure investments against the backdrop of scarce funding.  Some have even gone so far as to question whether Metorail ridership, which just a few years ago looked poised to eclipse 800 thousand trips per average weekday, is experiencing more of a structural downshifting and may experience flat or even declining ridership for the foreseeable future.

All of this debate is understandable in a town obsessed with statistics and “horse race” leaderboards.  But when it comes to economics, demographics, mobility, and infrastructure, regional leaders need to look beyond the numbers d’jour and bet on a sure thing – Metro ridership will go up.  Here’s why:

1. Short-term snapshots of rail ridership miss the forest for the treesOr maybe even just leaves.

The graph below shows Metrorail average weekday ridership from the beginning of Metrorail. You can see that ridership grew in the first five years as the system grew from just the Red Line and four stops in 1976 to adding Orange and Blue Lines in operation by 1980. And after all of that expansion was completed, something fascinating took place – ridership declined and essentially flatlined until 1985. During that time, the region didn’t stop investing in Metro. On the contrary, during that same time period Metro built the Yellow Line and extended the Red Line from Downtown into Upper NW DC and then all the way to Shady Grove. Ridership shot up again in the late 1980s while Metro extended the Orange Line to Vienna and the Red Line to Wheaton then flat-lined and even declined through the mid 1990s, all while Metrorail added capacity on Yellow and Blue and (finally) opened up the Green Line. From 1997 through the late 2000s Metrorail saw robust ridership increases despite minimal capacity increases – largely reflective of the underlying economic and demographic resurgence of the central city and its urbane suburbs – and ridership flat-lined in tandem largely with the economic collapse of 2008 and the prolonged Great Recession.


Read more…

Funding Metro – A Critical First Step

September 22nd, 2014 1 comment

Local leaders are set to commit to Metro’s long term state of good repair needs for the first time through the region’s transportation plan, but the plan omits key investments that are critical to solving some of the region’s most critical needs.

This fall the region’s transportation leaders will approve an update the Constrained Long Range Plan (CLRP) financial plan, required by federal law every four years, to ensure the region’s ability to pay for transportation expenditures with reasonably anticipated revenues. During the 2014 update, Metro collaborated with staff from the Transportation Planning Board (TPB), the region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, and the three state DOTs to identify funding for the system’s long-term operations and maintenance (O&M) and capital needs.  The draft plan, which expresses the region’s major transportation priorities, is scheduled to be adopted by the TPB on October 15th.

Metro's future capital needs to repair and maintain the existing fleet

Projection of Metro’s future fleet State of Good Repair (SGR) capital needs

Read more…

Funding Metro 2025 – Beyond Buzzwords

July 31st, 2014 No comments

Fancy financing and accounting gymnastics won’t ride to the rescue for Metro 2025.

Public Private Partnerships.  Tax Increment Financing.  Infrastructure Banks.

These are among the many ideas discussed today as panaceas for public infrastructure funding, including major transit investment projects in the region and the nation.  Certainly they can be helpful tools, especially in an era of declining federal funds and a renewed emphasis on local fiscal austerity.  But can these tools be useful in funding or financing Metro 2025?

Spring Hill Silver Line station.  The Silver Line was financed in part by special tax districts.

Spring Hill Silver Line Metrorail station. The Silver Line was financed in part by special tax districts.

Metro leadership wanted to find out, so between November 2013 and January 2014, Metro gathered leading experts in real estate, transportation and municipal financing from academe, management consulting, policy advocacy and government to solicit the best ideas for innovative ways of addressing Metro’s challenge.  We learned that each of these financing techniques has differing strengths, weaknesses, and potential applications to capital projects.  We also learned that none of the techniques actually provides new funding. Which is, ultimately, what is necessary to make Metro 2025 a reality.

The distinction between financing and funding cannot be overstated, and is a key concept that often confuses the dialogue surrounding how to execute major capital projects such as transit investments.  Techniques such as Public-Private Partnerships, Infrastructure Banks, and Value Capture rely on existing sources of funding to channel and make more available monies to public entities to pay for varieties of projects.  These existing sources of funding are often taxes – either on households, businesses, or property owners – and backstopped by jurisdictional guarantees to tap into general funds or issue general obligation bonds should the stream of cashflows become unstable.  These financing techniques do not generate new monies nor eliminate the ultimate obligations of the public sector to provide the monies to contribute to the cashflows, either upfront or over time.  

You can read more in the attached report, and know that Metro’s leadership is committed to evaluating any and all options to fund Metro 2025.  Leaving no stone unturned, we conclude that as of this moment in time, regional leaders must step up to the plate and commit resources to Metro in order to make much-needed projects like eight-car trains, core station improvements, and the Metrobus Priority Corridor Network, leap off of the page and become part of the region’s transit network. 

Download:  Metro – Creative Financing (PDF, 1MB)


Planning for the End of the Driving Boom

March 27th, 2014 1 comment

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.

Figure 1. U.S. VMT (in trillions) as tracked by FHWA’s Travel Volume Trends (“Actual”) and as projected by U.S. DOT’s C&P reports (by year reports are dated). Via SSTI. Click image for original:


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…

What Metro 2025 Means to Maryland

March 18th, 2014 1 comment

Metro 2025 would bring significant benefits to Maryland, supporting its economic growth and ensuring its future vitality.

Metro’s Momentum plan calls for seven Metro 2025 initiatives – from eight-car trains to bus-only lanes, which will bring dramatic improvements to the quality of life and transportation to Maryland.


Benefits Icons_Expansion

Ensures the Success of Maryland Transit Projects

Maryland has great plans for transit.  The Corridor Cities Transitway, the Purple Line, and the Viers Mill Rd Busway are all included in the CLRP with a reasonable expectation for funding, and the Federal Transit Administration announced recently that the Purple Line would receive $100 million in Obama’s latest FY15 budget.  Additionally, Montgomery County is developing plans for a county-wide BRT system.

These projects are worthwhile ventures, but they will always rely on the supporting regional “backbone” of Metrorail and Metrobus to deliver their intended results. At the very least, these three important projects would not connect to each other if not for Metrorail and Metrobus.  And at the very worst, if these projects are built and connect to a system that is already over capacity, they may struggle to live up to their mobility goals.

  • The Corridor Cities Transitway will function as a BRT extension of the Red Line: 1,500 people per peak hour will transfer to Metrorail at Shady Grove by 2030. (For context, about 3,000 riders per peak hour enter Shady Grove in the peak hour today.)
  • The Viers Mill Rd Busway will connect to three Metrorail stations. The current Metrobus Q-Line, a part of the Priority Corridor Network (PCN), currently provides over 8,800 trips per day, including approximately 800 transfers a day to Metrorail.
  • 10,000 Purple Line riders per day will come to and from Metrorail, where the Purple Line connects to the Red, Green, and Orange lines. Many of these passengers will further strain the over-congested lines of the rail network.


Funded Maryland transit projects, in the CLRP.

By ensuring that Metro services can keep pace with congestion and demand, Metro 2025 is critical to making Maryland’s transit projects a success, and critical to helping the region and the state reach its transportation goals.


Benefits Icons_Support Growth

Supports Maryland’s Growth Prospects

Maryland’s population in the Compact region is growing steadily and projected to continue growing. This growth is crucial to the economy of the state – 40% of Maryland’s state economic output came from the Washington region’s suburbs in 2012.  With that growth comes significant transportation needs, and Metro 2025 is critical to meeting that growth.

When congestion goes up, job growth goes down, and if Maryland wants to see growth potential turn into actual jobs, it needs to tame congestion.  Simply, Maryland needs the mobility that Metro 2025 would deliver: 8-car trains capable of moving the equivalent of 16-18 lanes of highways (in each direction) and connect Maryland to other regional job centers, superior bus service that can create much-needed east-west connections that bypass snarling congestion, and more. Read more…

What Metro 2025 Means for the District of Columbia

March 13th, 2014 No comments

Metro 2025 would bring significant benefits to the District of Columbia, allowing the city to thrive economically while preserving neighborhoods and downtown vitality.

Metro’s Momentum plan calls for seven Metro 2025 initiatives – from eight-car trains to bus-only lanes, which will bring dramatic improvements to the quality of life and transportation in the District.


Benefits Icons_Expansion

Supports D.C. Transit Projects

The District has committed to a 50% market share for public transportation, and is building a Streetcar and expanded Circulator network that will depend on robust Metrorail and Metrobus services. Metro concurs that the Streetcar and Circulator are worthwhile ventures, but they will always rely on the supporting regional “backbone” of Metrorail and Metrobus in order to deliver their intended results.  Consider that every single planned D.C. Streetcar line in the 22-mile system begins, ends, or connects with a Metrorail station, and the importance of sufficient capacity on Metrorail becomes quite clear.

Today, more than 100,000 people a month transfer between Metro and the Circulator.  By 2040, even the first few lines of the D.C. Streetcar (those funded in the CLRP, not even counting the full 22-mile system) are projected to generate thousands of additional transfers to Metrorail and Metrobus each day.


D.C. Streetcar projects funded in the CLRP. The planned 22-mile system would construct even more lines.

By ensuring that Metro services can keep pace with congestion and demand, Metro 2025 is critical to making D.C.’s transit projects a success, and critical to helping D.C. reach it’s transportation goals.


Benefits Icons_Support Growth

Supports D.C.’s Growing Population and Economy

The District of Columbia’s population is surging, and its economic and population growth is only projected to grow. With that growth comes significant transportation needs, and Metro 2025 is critical to Metro’s success in meeting that growth.

To handle this growth, D.C. needs the rail and bus system that Metro 2025 would deliver: 8-car trains capable of moving the equivalent of 16-18 lanes of highways into the District, superior bus service, and more. For example, Metrobus is helping the 16th Street NW corridor to grow – ridership has surged by over 5,000 trips per day, and today buses are 3% of the vehicles but move 50% of the people on that road. Read more…

Metro 2025: Why Now?

March 11th, 2014 1 comment

Four reasons why we need to begin the Metro 2025 investments now.

1. Because Metro 2025 is critical for growth. For the last three decades, the Washington region has grown in lockstep with an expanding transit system.  Since Metrorail opened in the late 1970s, the system has grown steadily, and in 2014 Metro provides two to three times more service (rail and bus vehicle-miles) than it once did.

For decades, this region has grown in lockstep with Metro.

Today, no significant new Metro service is planned beyond the Silver Line, yet MWCOG estimates that the region will continue to grow at a steady clip for years to come.  The only transit expansion projects that are planned complement and depend on connections to Metro, such as the Corridor Cities Transitway or Columbia Pike Streetcar, and may even increase the strain on Metrorail’s core.

2. Because we could lose jobs.  Without investment in the region’s transit backbone, economic growth and prosperity is threatened. In fact, studies have shown a clear link between growing congestion and declines in job growth. Without Metro 2025, this region could stand to lose nearly 133,000 jobs by 2040.

3. Because Metrorail is crowded, and it will get worse without Metro 2025. Today, Metrorail is reaching its capacity in many places. On the Blue and Orange lines for instance, Metro is running trains every 2.5 minutes, which is the most the infrastructure can handle, but even so, many trains are too full to board, or experience uncomfortable levels of crowding. Lines form at many stations to get through escalators, elevators, and fare gates.

Without eight-car trains and fixing station bottlenecks, crowding and congestion on Metrorail will continue. The map below shows our projections of crowding (passengers per car) into the future, if we don’t undertake Metro 2025:

Crowding on Metrorail will worsen without the investments in Metro2025.

Crowding on Metrorail will worsen without the investments in Metro 2025. (Animated.)


4. Because Metrobus is stuck in traffic and needs relief. Metro’s buses are frequently caught in street traffic, which increases travel times, degrades reliability, and increases Metro’s operating costs just to maintain frequencies.


Illustration of Metrobus speeds from 2009. The red is 5 MPH or less. Click for full version.

In fact, numerous Metrobus corridors operate at speeds of less than 10 MPH, and several showed speeds of under 5 MPH.  On many corridors, buses operate at a brisk walking pace even though they are carrying many more passengers than the traffic around them.  On H and I Streets NW, buses carry 40% of the passengers but are only 2% of the vehicles. On 16th Street NW, buses carry 50% of the passengers, despite using just 3% of the vehicles.

To increase bus service, speeds, and reliability, we need to invest in bus-only lanes, bus priority at traffic signals, and additional buses.


What Are the “Metro 2025” Projects in Momentum?

March 6th, 2014 1 comment

Metro’s Momentum plan calls for seven medium-term capital initiatives – known collectively as Metro 2025.  And last week, Metro applauded a funding agreement from Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia for $75 million as a “down payment”  to begin work on Metro 2025.  This is welcome news, indeed, and allows Metro to prepare to begin work on much-needed capacity increases to support the region’s growth.

Those of you who are less familiar with Momentum may be wondering: “What exactly are these projects?”

In a nutshell, the Metro 2025 initiatives are:

M25 Icons_All 8s

Eight-Car Trains

Today, most Metrorail trains have only six cars, and that means crowding  – which is only projected to worsen.  This project would enable Metro to run all eight-car trains in the peak period, which are the longest possible in our stations, and add 35% additional capacity to the rail network. It would expand the rail fleet and yards, and improve the power and signal infrastructure to handle the load.

M25 Icons_PCN-01

Core Station Improvements

If we lengthen the trains, we need to expand key stations as well! Since-eight car trains add capacity for 35,000 more trips per hour, 80% of rail customers transfer or alight in the core, and most of these core stations are already over capacity, we need more core station capacity. This project would enlarge platforms, and add escalators, elevators, stairs, and pedestrian passageways to 15 stations.

M25 Icons_Bus Fleet

Bus Priority Corridors and Fleet Expansion

The Priority Corridor Network would construct bus-only lanes, give buses priority at traffic lights, and bring service similar to MetroExtra to 24 lines throughout the region. The PCN will take tens of thousands of cars off the road, add 100,000 riders, moving buses 50% faster, and cut fuel costs.

In addition, this project would expand Metro’s bus fleet by around 400 buses, allowing us to increase frequencies.

M25 Icons_New Blue Line Options

New Blue Line Connections

Metro faces a bottleneck at Rosslyn station, where three lines (Orange, Silver, Blue) converge. This major project would try to fix this bottleneck, and restore six-minute Blue Line frequencies between Pentagon and Rosslyn stations. We are analyzing the feasibility of a few options, including a second Rosslyn Station that would enable underground transfers between the two stations.

M25 Icons_NexGen Communications

Next Generation Communications

This program would expand our current communications infrastructure to provide an integrated one-stop communication hub for the regions’ transit customers. Improvements would include: radio system upgrades, real-time bus information at bus stops, and new public address system at stations.

M25 Icons_Pocket Tracks

Pocket Tracks and Crossovers

This project would add special trackwork at key locations in the rail network to give us more flexibility with Metro’s two-track system. These new tracks would allow us to turn trains around, add system flexibility to Metro’s two-track system, and store trains at important locations.

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