RTSP Rail Enhancement Strategy: Interline Connections and Station Improvements

February 16th, 2011

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

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  1. February 19th, 2011 at 15:08 | #1

    I have suggested pursuing Orange/Silver-Blue interlining at Rosslyn to Mayor Euille, who’s the Alexandria rep to the WMATA Board, so I’m glad to see that the planners are also engaged in studying it. My suggestion was to create a Pink Line between some place on the Silver Line (the Airport or west of it) and Franconia-Springfield (Pink, partly to amuse Richmond, partly because it would be a reflection of the Red Line in the Potomac). Benefits include more intensive use of the new infrastructure along the Dulles corridor (infrastructure that will have cost in excess of $5B to create), a single seat inter-airport connection, single seat access to Dulles from the Route 1 axis, single seat access to National from the Orange/Silver axis and tying together the two Northern Virginia areas in the area Urban Core as well as connecting Springfield and Tysons. On current headways and signaling, there’s room for another half-dozen trains per hour between King Street and the Pentagon. Ten-minute headways are at the edge of convenience, but acceptable. It’s likely that there wouldn’t be ridership to justify shorter headways anyway.

    Has anyone a guess at the construction costs involved?

  2. Dmitriy
    February 21st, 2011 at 15:00 | #2

    My standard rule of thumb is “the more redundancy built into a system, the better,” so it would be better to have any and all of these than to not have them. Though there is actually some disagreement about this as well (see http://www.humantransit.org/2011/02/comment-of-the-week-londons-northern-headache.html – although the specific issue with the London Tube there is not one that could arise with the current Metrorail system).
    In any case, given scarce resources, the question I would ask is: which one or set of these would best address a current or forecast pressing need. In my mind, the answer is obvious, since the most outstanding capacity issue facing the current system is the Rosslyn bottleneck and the accompanying crossing under the Potomac. The well-documented “Orange Crush” testifies to this, and the situation is likely to be exacerbated once the Silver Line comes online. I know Metro is aware of this; hence the proposed plans to route some Blue Line trains originating at Franconia-Springfield over the 14th Street Bridge in order to take advantage of excess capacity on that river crossing.

    Another issue that has been raised with regard to the Silver Line is the considerable time and distance it will take to travel from Washington proper, much less Maryland. It will be 18 stations from Metro Center to Dulles (19 if the infill Wolf Trap station gets built). By comparison, the farthest trip possible to National Airport in the current system is 21 stations from Shady Grove (it’s 17 from Glenmont, 16 from Greenbelt, 15 from New Carrollton or Largo). This station-based comparison may actually understate things, given the distances between Silver Line stations.

    The combination of an Orange/Silver-Blue inter-lining south of Rosslyn and a Blue-Yellow inter-lining north of Pentagon offers a possible solution to these issues: running some Silver Line trains from Court House down through Arlington Cemetery and over onto the L-route tracks across the 14th Street Bridge to the F & L Junction and L’Enfant Plaza. Since this routing would assume the path of the Yellow Line starting with the bridge, we could call it the Gold Line (Silver and Yellow makes Gold…?).

    The benefits are (at least) twofold. First, access to central Washington DC would be quicker: 15 stations from Dulles to L’Enfant Plaza (down from 21 previously) and 17 to Gallery Place-Chinatown and the connection with the Red Line (down from 18 from Dulles to Metro Center previously). While the western branch of the Red Line would still face a pretty lengthy trek (the proposed pedestrian tunnel between Farragut North and Farragut West could ameliorate this slightly), the eastern branch would see a slight shortening. One would also gain the ability to transfer at the less-crowded Fort Totten station rather than the busy Metro Center for those heading to points along the Silver Line from Court House westward (e.g. if you’re going from Silver Spring to Ballston, you could switch to the Gold Line at Fort Totten). Also importantly, those on the southern branch of the Green Line would see a significant shortening (18 stations from Anacostia to Dulles via the Gold Line, as opposed to 24 stations using the Silver Line).

    Second, the Orange Crush could be broken up a bit by separating those inbound commuters headed for the K Street Corridor (Foggy Bottom, Farragut West, McPherson Square) from those headed to points near L’Enfant Plaza, Archives-Navy Memorial, and Gallery Place-Chinatown. A pedestrian tunnel between Gallery Place and Metro Center would make effective Gold Line access to the Metro Center area possible as well, although the two stations are already separated by only a few blocks aboveground. The footprint of L’Enfant Plaza in particular is large enough to where some commuters who now exit at Smithsonian or Federal Center SW could utilize a one-seat ride to L’Enfant and exit there instead. At peak headways, it might even make sense timewise (and less crowded train-wise) for those headed to Capitol South to use the Gold Line and transfer back to Blue/Orange/Silver at L’Enfant Plaza (e.g. 8 stations from East Falls Church to Capitol South with a transfer, compared to 14 stations on Orange or Silver). The same holds true for evening commutes: Vienna-bound Orange Line trains pulling into Rosslyn are often at crush capacity presently, so giving riders an option to bypass this bottleneck via the Gold Line could significantly improve conditions there.

    A related benefit would be to lessen overcrowding at Rosslyn caused by those switching from inbound Orange to outbound Blue (e.g. commuters from the Orange Line corridor to the Pentagon) and vice versa (Pentagon employee evening commutes, as well as future commutes by those living near Blue/Yellow stations to jobs in the Tysons/Dulles corridor). Those making these switches at present do so at Rosslyn, compounding the crowding at that station. With the Gold Line in place, the transfer to/from the Blue Line would instead take place at Arlington Cemetery, the most underutilized station in the entire system. I think the benefit of transferring platform traffic from a station brushing up against capacity to one that has lots of excess capacity would more than make up for the added cost of keeping Arlington Cemetery station open throughout revenue hours.

  3. BradK
    March 14th, 2011 at 14:55 | #3

    I am not sure of the feasability/nor the demand, but why not complete the “loop” from Blue/Orange to red that already has one connector (between mcphearson sq and farragut west (the A&C Connector)) that was used to move trains once upon a time? This could provide some direct movement from blue/orange to the western parts of Md pretty easily.

  4. Jeff Dailey
    March 22nd, 2011 at 11:19 | #4

    My greatest hope is that redundancy within the metro system will continue to be pursued. My greatest fear is that it won’t. I realize that the Silver Line is already ungodly expensive, but why hasn’t metro pursued a third rail from Dulles to Rosslyn as an express line from the airport? Not many people will take the metro into the city if it’s slower than driving.

  5. Graham S.
    March 23rd, 2011 at 19:51 | #5

    If you ran a line from Dulles to National via Rosslyn, you could color it sky blue and call it the Sky Line … not sure how many people need to make the trip between the two airports, but it might enable international-to-domestic and vice-versa connections.

  6. McLean Old Timer
    April 1st, 2011 at 16:07 | #6

    While I support adding this redundancy, there is another improvement that I would make between ROSSLYN and PENTAGON on the Blue Line. Please study construction of “snow sheds” along the above-ground portion of this route.

    Many US railroads use snow sheds to protect tracks from snow-related blockages. Possibly the best known snow sheds were built by the (former) Southern Pacific along its route between northern California and Nevada, across the Sierra Nevada mountains. Snow sheds don’t involve tunnelling or complete cover, but would instead prevent snow from being blown onto the tracks from the west or from above, while keeping partially open ventilation on the east side of the tracks.

    This change would be pretty simple to build and construct, so ought not be terribly expensive to build. Doing so would connect the 2 existing underground MetroRail segments and greatly improve the connectivity available during snow conditions. Since the major benefit would be keeping the Pentagon connected via MetroRail with downtown Washington, there would be a very clear Federal/Defense benefit (meaning that special-purpose funds from Congress might be obtained in some future year — clearly not this year).

  7. Trying Metro
    November 1st, 2011 at 13:01 | #7

    I think Metro should allow crossing between entrances without charge. Like from Upper Huntington (bus discharge) to Lower Huntington (bus loading) and vice versa. In each case, Metro is providing a benefit to riders (bus) and benefiting by riders using buses, while not incurring any cost for this “free” and convenient walkway. And why not at L’enfant? It’s being done at Farragut. Why not at ALL Metro stations?

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