Posts Tagged ‘studies’

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.

Read more…

Metrobus Z-Line Will Get a Revamp on March 27

March 23rd, 2016 3 comments

Sarbanes%20Transit%20Center%20pm%20112415-5881[1]

Z Line buses at the Silver Spring Transit Center in November 2015. Photo by WMATA.

Bus riders on the Z routes on Colesville Road/Columbia Pike (MD US29) will see better service, simpler route names, and more, starting March 27.

Metro is overhauling the bus schedules on the Z-lines in the Silver Spring-Laurel area. The changes are derived from the recommendations from the Metrobus Z-Line Study, an in-depth planning process. The study, completed in January 2015, was a joint effort between Metro, the Maryland Department of Transportation, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation to improve service. These seven routes combined have some of the highest ridership in the Metrobus system, making the corridor ripe for evaluation and improvement.

The following changes for the Colesville Road / Columbia Pike (MD US29) (PDF) corridor are effective March 27.

What’s Coming:

  • The new Z Lines will consist of the Z2, Z6, Z7, Z8, and Z11, with new timetables.
  • Z9, Z13, and Z29 route designations will be eliminated.

New Saturday service will be added to Route Z6, providing customers with links to commercial developments in Westfarm area and the Plum Orchard Shopping Center. The new service will operate every 30 minutes. The Z8 on Saturday will be reduced to operate every 30 minutes, providing a coordinated 15 minute service along portions shared with the Z6. Additionally, trip times for weekday Z2, Z6 and Z8 service will change to improve on time performance and better coordinate buses along Colesville Road and Lockwood Drive.

Routes Z9 and Z29 will be discontinued and replaced by new route Z7. Route Z7 will provide service from Silver Spring Metrorail Station to South Laurel Park and Ride serving: Old Columbia Pike, Burtonsville Crossing Park and Ride, Sweitzer Lane, Van Dusen Road, and Cherry Lane.  The new Z7 will increase the frequency of service to residents of South Laurel by operating every thirty minutes.

Route Z11 will be extended from Greencastle Park and Ride to Burtonsville Crossing Park and Ride via Columbia Pike (US-29). Current Z29 customers boarding buses at the stops in the area of Blackburn Road will now be served by the Z11. Route designation Z13 will be discontinued. Passengers currently using the Z13 in the morning to get to Greencastle may opt to take routes Z6 and Z8 instead.

With the new services, passengers out of Burtonsville Crossing Park and Ride will now see increased service to Silver Spring. All current boarding and alighting restrictions along Colesville Road and Columbia Pike will remain in place.

These changes will allow Metro to better align resources to provide effective service in the corridor.

Check out the upcoming timetables to plan your trip.

Battery Storage Technology Demonstration Gets Federal Seal of Approval

March 15th, 2016 1 comment

After successfully testing a battery at West Falls Church, Metro is looking into more ways of re-capturing braking energy from trains. This could save operating costs and improve environmental sustainability, too.

FTA Visit to Battery Storage Pilot at West Falls Church

FTA Visit to WMATA Battery Storage Pilot at West Falls Church

Metro spends approximately $50 million each year on electricity to move our riders and railcars around the system. Last month, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) released a final report they commissioned Metro to conduct on technology to capture excess energy from regenerative braking through energy storage. The project was conducted by Metro and Kawasaki Heavy Rail Inc. at Metro’s West Falls Church substation as a “proof of concept” test of nickel-metal hydride battery technology as a storage media to capture otherwise wasted railcar braking energy from the direct current third rail.

Although the battery is headed back to Kawasaki, the demonstration was a success.  We learned how the technology could work with our infrastructure, and how the battery technology supports the asset management, safety and resource efficiency work of the FTA’s Office of Research, Innovation and Demonstration in the following areas:

  1. Energy savings of approximately $100,000-200,000 that can reduce transit agencies’ utility consumption and peak power demand charges.
  2. Voltage support to reduce line loss on the third-rail power distribution network. In particular, this offers significant benefits to system performance between traction power substations (fed from the local utility) providing a more efficient energy transfer to railcars.
  3. Emergency power support to move stationary railcars to safe access points in the event of a power outage from the local utility.
  4. Augmenting existing traction power substations to support revenue service during maintenance downtime, and/or enhancing power supply as part of traction power upgrades to support better service such as Metro’s 100% 8-car train expansion.

Metro is now analyzing of how battery technology could be scaled more widely throughout the system. As part of this process, Metro’s engineers are monitoring the results of similar energy storage/energy saving projects that have been undertaken by peer transit agencies such as the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and London Underground.

As the cost of battery storage media such as nickel-metal hydride and similar lithium ion technology continues to fall, the economic benefits to rail transit will continue to grow. With the publication of this final report, Metro’s engineers’ commitment to strategic federal research provides a tangible example of how the Authority can support emerging technology as part of an investment in cost-effective new technology, and efficiently manage operating expenses.

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

Read more…

Making the Case for Downtown Bus Lanes at TRB Annual Meeting

February 23rd, 2016 No comments

At the 2016 TRB Annual Meeting last month, Metro, together with DDOT and AECOM, presented the H and I Streets Bus Lanes as a case study of a bus lane in a downtown environment. TCRP Report 118 concluded that arterial bus lanes, ranging from low-cost restriping of existing lanes to new bus lanes, could offer 12-57% reliability improvements.

The presentation, built upon the 2013 study – H and I Streets Bus Improvements, highlighted the need for actions for all users and provided a range of improvement options for the H and I Streets corridor through downtown DC. We discussed details of the bus lane alternatives and benefits back in November 2013, and in the study’s final report (PDF). Here is a snapshot of the alternatives considered in the study:

Bus summary

Summary of Alternatives, click for a larger version.

The TRB session participants were interested in the status of the study recommendations, and raised a big question on how to solve bus delays in a large downtown area including river crossings.  The good news is that DDOT is including the bus lane alternatives in a new study — more details soon — that aims to improve the urban design and enhance the streetscape along Pennsylvania Avenue between 17th St. NW and Washington Circle.  The DDOT study intends to assess the operational feasibility of the contra-flow bus lane on H Street – the best performing bus lane alternative in the 2013 study. This study will be initiated in 2016.

Stay tuned.

Update, 2/25/2016:  The paper has been accepted for publication in the Transportation Research Record, Journal of the Transportation Research Board.

Categories: Engage Tags: , , , ,

Paratransit and the Coming Age Wave

December 15th, 2015 2 comments

Christian T. Kent, the Assistant General Manager for Access Services, offers his thoughts on accessibility and Metro’s future.

ChristianKentMr. Kent provides oversight for the accessibility of Metrobus and Metrorail and is directly responsible for the operation of MetroAccess paratransit service. Metro operates the largest fully accessible transit system and the fifth largest paratransit system in North America. 

Accessibility is very important at Metro. Because Metro is accessible, hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities in our region can depend on Metro to get where they are going. Our low-floor talking buses and rail stations with elevators mean that someone who is blind or uses a wheelchair can use Metrobus or Metrorail. Metro can be the family car for someone who can’t drive. And for those who can’t use bus or rail, there is our paratransit service, MetroAccess. Our 675 lift-equipped MetroAccess vans deliver over 2 million rides every year to 40,000 customers. So Metro really is very important to people with disabilities, and Metro will be even more important to them in the future. Why is that?

America is getting older. More and more people are turning 65 each year, and seniors have a much higher rate of disability and drive less often than younger people. The average MetroAccess rider is 62 years old. In the District, the average age is 67. This “age wave” means more Metro customers with disabilities in the coming years. We need to make sure that the accessibility features in our bus and rail service work consistently well so that customers with disabilities choose and use bus and rail. Providing the most accessible bus and rail service means less reliance on MetroAccess. This is important to Metro because a trip on paratransit is much more expensive than one on bus or rail, and it is important to customers who want to take advantage of the most independent means of travel available. 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

Read more…

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: , , , ,

Transit Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond: There’s More to It Than Metrorail

July 6th, 2015 1 comment

In part one of this series, Metro Planners led a session at StreetsCamp  Saturday June 20, 2015 to talk with transit advocates about other possibilities beyond Metrorail to increase transit use, reach, and access.

I want Metro to...

Politicians and citizens always ask for more Metrorail, but why should transit continue to chase land use decisions? Metro Planners Allison Davis and Kristin Haldeman talked to transit advocates and urbanists at StreetsCamp last Saturday to provide approaches that can help the transit we have today reach more people and be more cost-effective without requiring more Metrorail (pdf). The major take-aways for advocates and urbanists were to advocate for:

(1)    Local decision makers to monetize full life‐cycle cost of land use options;

(2)    Access projects that create comfortable (i.e. desirable) paths for pedestrians and bicyclists; and

(3)    Local jurisdictions to add transit signal priority, queue jumps, and bus lanes

Why these three specifically? Read more…