Archive for February, 2013

New Topics on MindMixer – We Want to Hear from You!

February 26th, 2013 7 comments

WMATA_ An Online Conversation for the Future by MindMixer

Thank you for all for your valued contributions on MindMixer over the past several months. All of your comments and ideas have been reviewed to see what improvements we can begin to undertake and plan for and many have been incorporated into Momentum: The Next Generation of Metro, our strategic plan. We also appreciate your continued patience while we developed new topics.Blue Momentum Cover

We’re happy to announce that new topics are open! We want to hear from you on the staff draft of Momentum and initiatives for Metro 2025 so that we can maximize our existing system. Additionally, for the cartographers out there, there is a question about proposed changes to the Metrorail map in advance of the Silver Line opening later this year. So please log back on and let us know what you think. If you haven’t joined the conversation, please do! We want to hear from you and we’re listening.

Metro Studying Opportunities for Coordination of Regional LRT and Streetcar Systems

February 21st, 2013 1 comment

Streetcar and LRT Map

This map shows the corridors being studied by the region for potential light rail, streetcar, or bus rapid transit lines. Click the image for a larger version.

The Washington, DC metropolitan region may be the home of a light rail line and several streetcar lines in the near future according to regional plans.  The state of Maryland is in the preliminary engineering phase of the Purple Line, a 16-mile light rail line that is proposed to run between Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George’s County.  The District of Columbia has almost completed construction of the H Street-Benning Road streetcar line, with scheduled revenue operation expected to begin later this year, and has also planned an expanded streetcar network.  Meanwhile, Arlington and Fairfax Counties have submitted an application for federal Small Starts funding to begin project development for the Columbia Pike Streetcar line, running almost five miles from Pentagon City in Arlington to Bailey’s Crossroads in Fairfax County.  Arlington County is also advancing planning for its Crystal City Streetcar project, which would run from Pentagon City, through Crystal City, to the southern Arlington County line in Potomac Yard.   (The Crystal City Streetcar project can be considered a follow-up to the Crystal City Transitway project currently under construction.)

Recognizing that Metro isn’t the sponsor or funding agent for these LRT and streetcar systems, and that key decisions made early in the process on the Columbia Pike and H Street streetcar lines have the potential to affect other systems for years to come, Metro has been coordinating with the sponsors since 2010 through the LRT and Streetcar Interoperability Study.  A briefing on this study was presented to the Metro Board in early 2011. Read more…

A World Without Metro, Part 1: I-395 Traffic

February 19th, 2013 Comments off

Metro’s new strategic planning process, Momentum, articulates a vision for the the next generation of Metro.  One way to illustrate Metro’s vital role in the region’s transportation network is to show the impact of not having Metro.  This series will give perspective on the many real benefits that Metro conveys to the region today.

Metrorail’s Yellow Line crosses the Potomac from Virginia into DC parallel to I-395’s 14th Street Bridge.  Both the rail and highway bridges move large numbers of people into the regional core during the morning rush hour.   Between the two inbound spans, the 14th Street Bridge has six  lanes.  The Yellow Line provides the equivalent of three additional lanes.  This math is pretty simple:  one lane of freeway traffic can move about 2,420 people per hour (2,200 vehicles per hour times an average auto occupancy of 1.1 people per car) and the Yellow Line moves around 7,400 passengers from Pentagon to L’Enfant Plaza during the peak AM hour.   Another way to see it is that the Yellow Line removes 6,700 (7,400 pax / 1.1 pax per car) cars from the road.

What would happen to I-395 if some or all of the in-bound Metrorail Yellow Line customers switched to driving in the morning?  

If only 5% of Yellow Line customers drove up the freeway to the 14th Street Bridge during the AM peak hour, I-395 would fill with stop-and-go traffic for ten miles.

Map illustrating regularly recurring three-mile queue and the 10-mile queue that would regularly form if only 5% of the inbound AM commuters on the Yellow Line across the Potomac River switched to driving.

Map illustrating regularly recurring three-mile queue and the 10-mile queue that would regularly form if only 5% of the inbound AM commuters on the Yellow Line across the Potomac River switched to driving.

How is this possible?

Read more…

Categories: Impact Tags: , , ,

Metro Anchors the Region’s Growth

February 14th, 2013 Comments off

Regional Activity Centers in the core jurisdictions served by high-quality Metro service. Click the image for a full regional map.

Of the 120 COG regional activity centers in the Metro Compact Jurisdictions, 81 are now or will soon be served by high quality Metro transit, either Metrorail or the Metrobus Priority Corridor Network (PCN). That means that two-thirds of these activity centers are primed to support transit-oriented developments. The map above illustrates the activity centers in the core jurisdictions and their level of transit service. Click the image  for a full regional map.

Some jurisdictions have placed a greater emphasis on high-quality transit service when deciding upon areas to designate as regional activity centers.  The chart below shows the total number of activity centers per jurisdiction and the percentage served by Metrorail and/or the PCN.  The core jurisdictions (the District, Arlington and Alexandria) each have over 80% of their activity centers served by high-quality Metro transit.  The beltway jurisdictions (Montgomery, Prince George’s and Fairfax counties) have between 48% and 70% of their activity centers served.   Loudoun County, soon to be added to the compact with two activity centers receiving Metrorail service when the Metrorail to Dulles Phase II comes online, has the lowest percentage of activity centers served by Metro.

The relationship between regional activity and high-quality transit is no accident.  Economic activity gravitates towards areas of greater accessibility, including Metrorail station areas and commercial corridors — once streetcar routes — currently served by Metrobus. However, transit service can also be extended to areas of economic activity which developed due to good highway accessibility, such as Tysons Corner.

As the local jurisdictions continue to focus population and employment growth into these areas, Metro and other regional transit operators are working to connect them to the regional core and to one another through high-quality transit.  It is clear from the current levels of highway congestion that Metropolitan Washington needs more high-quality Metro service (bus and rail) in order to support the growth anticipated over the next 25 years.

One goal of Momentum, Metro’s strategic planning process, is increasing regional mobility and connecting communities.

About the COG Activity Centers

The activity centers list, recently updated by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), describes where the local jurisdictions plan to focus household and job growth in order to support regional goals of transit-friendly development patterns and sustainability. This updated list includes 120 activity centers within the Metro Compact Jurisdictions (including Loudoun County) and additional 19 within the COG planning area not served by Metro, including Charles, Frederick and Prince William Counties, and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.

Categories: Impact Tags: , , , , ,

Congestion Report Highlights Value of Transit

February 12th, 2013 Comments off

Orange Line Metro train from I-66. (Photo by wfyurasko, click for original)

Transit lets many of us bypass the nation’s worst traffic, and plays an important role in managing our region’s congestion. (Photo by wfyurasko, click for original)

You may have seen in the news recently that the Washington region’s traffic is the worst in the country – again. However, missing from the headlines is the crucial role public transit plays in keeping congestion at bay today – and how transit should be a big part of the solution to the region’s traffic problem going forward.

The D.C. region definitely has bad traffic, but transit helps give us good options to avoid it.  In fact, traffic on the roads doesn’t matter to many of you who take Metrorail, walk, or a ride a bike. Census figures tell us that around 20% of our region’s commuters ride transit to get to work, and that number is rising. People in the Washington region are increasingly choosing to live in mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods near transit, giving them the option to avoid congestion altogether. Congestion may be bad, but many of us choose alternatives – and Metro is a big part of that.

Without transit, congestion would be even worse.  The Texas Transportation Institute’s report itself actually points to public transportation as a key way the Washington region has been able to grow despite our congestion.  According to the report, transit in our region is helping drivers avoid over $700 million per year in wasted time and fuel – nearly five minutes per day for each and every commuter, whether they ride transit or not.  In fact, the report is broadly consistent with Metro’s own estimates of transit’s role in congestion in the Washington region. Metro estimates that transit in our region saves drivers $1 billion per year in wasted time, and that transit riders are able to save nearly $500 million in auto maintenance, fuel, parking, and other costs.

Congestion matters to Metro, too – because our buses are stuck in the same traffic as regular cars. Bus-only lanes in key locations, such as H and I Streets NW downtown where buses are 2% of the vehicles but carry 40% of the people, would help make Metrobus a great way to bypass traffic. Metro has designated 24 bus corridors in the region where improvements to help get buses out of traffic could attract 100,000 new bus riders per day.

More transit in the future is a good way to help congestion.  We may never get rid of congestion entirely, but we can build our infrastructure in ways that give us good alternatives to being stuck in traffic.  High-quality public transit may not come cheap, but this report is a good reminder of some of the costs of not investing in public transportation.  The transit project needs identified by Momentum – eight-car trains, bus-only lanes, pedestrian walkways, and resolving rail bottlenecks – will help keep our region moving for years to come, despite the traffic clogging our roads.

Categories: In The News Tags: ,

One Day of Washington Region Transit

February 11th, 2013 1 comment

Recently we showed you a visualization of Metrorail, Metrobus and Circulator transit created by a STLTransit.  The developer had created the previous visualization from the GTFS file available from the WMATA developers resources page.

Metro regularly exports all of the data from our Trip Planner into a separate GTFS file which we share with COG/TPB for updating regional transit schedules in their travel demand model.  We are working to make this file publicly available.  In the mean time, we were able to share it with STLTransit who kindly created the updated fully regional visualization of Washington area transit, embedded above.

As with last time, this visualization is best viewed full-screen and in HD mode.

Some interesting things to note:

  • Frederick County TransIT service use of timed transfers (or pulse points) at transit centers is very noticeable.
  • MARC and VRE commuter rail are illustrated as white tadpoles, not to be confused with the colored tadpoles representing Metrorail service.
  • The expansiveness of the commuter rail network becomes very apparent, as those white tadpoles shoot towards the edges of the map to the northeast, northwest and south.

STLTransit apparently cranks out one or two visualizations of a city or regional transit system every few days.  Check out their YouTube channel and subscribe.

Categories: Engage Tags: , , ,

Transit Network Design Course Highlights

February 7th, 2013 6 comments

On January 17th and 18th, two staffers from Metro’s Office of Planning attended a two day transit network design course, offered by long time transit planning consultant, transit blogger and now author, Jarrett Walker.  In transit planning circles, Walker’s recent efforts, culminating with “Human Transit,” have been very well regarded.  For many planners, his book has been a breath of fresh air in helping to demystify how complex transit offerings can be made more simple, customer focused, effective, and useful for everyday city life.  Many planners have an appreciation of the attention he has given to linguistics, and how word choice (i.e., the use of “transfer” vs. “connection” or “transit route” vs. “transit line”) can subtly reinforce or undermine certain collective beliefs about the usefulness of transit, or anything else for that matter.

The participants in the DC course were fairly diverse, although all of those in attendance had a vested interest in transit in some way.  Among these were urban planners, consultants, advocates, and transit planners, among others.  Care was taken to ensure that each working group had a included at least one transit professional mixed with other disciplines and backgrounds in order to facilitate a balanced discussion. Read more…

Categories: In The News Tags: , ,

What are the Drivers for Demand of Transit Services?

February 5th, 2013 1 comment

Correlation between weekday Metrorail (monthly total) ridership and the number of jobs in the District of Columbia, FY05 – FY12. Note the “natural log” (ln) of each is illustrated.  The low-ridership outlier is due to Snowmageddon, February 2010.

Demand for public transportation services is not a direct demand, meaning that transit is a means to another end:  a traveler on transit rarely takes transit for the sake of travel but because they have a need for work, shopping, entertainment, etc.  Additionally, many factors determine whether a traveler’s demand for a good or service translates into a public transportation trip or a trip by a private automobile.  Therefore, transit demand is driven by two different sets of factors, the first being the changing demand for goods or services that result in the demand for transportation and the second being the factors that influence which transportation mode is chosen.

For example, having a job creates the need to travel to work.  Yet other factors — such as the levels of transit service between home and work locations, the price of gas, the transit fare, the relative travel time between car and transit, and car-ownership rates – may have some influence over whether the demand for travel translates into the demand for a travel trip. Read more…