Posts Tagged ‘Metro 2025’

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.

How Can the Transportation Planning Board Support Metro?

January 13th, 2016 No comments
How Can TPB Support Metro: TPB Plans and Processes

Metro and the Transportation Planning Board (TPB) engaged in a wide ranging discussion with TPB board members about how the TPB and the region’s jurisdictions can support Metro now and in the future. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot more to it than just predictable funding.

At the December 16th Transportation Planning Board (TPB) meeting (audio), Metro Board Member Harriet Tregoning gave the final presentation (pdf) and facilitated a discussion on Metro’s challenges and provided specific recommendations and/or opportunities for the TPB and local jurisdictions to increase their support the Authority today, tomorrow, and into the future. The focus of the discussion was specifically on plans, processes, and actions that the TPB and local jurisdictions can modify or begin that will ensure predictable funding and/or enhanced funding options, incorporate land use as a transportation strategy, increase transit-supportive land use decisions, prioritize bike and pedestrian access, and advance bus priority on the streets that local jurisdictions operate.

Last summer, TPB members requested a more extensive conversation surrounding Metro’s challenges as well as recommendations on how TPB, through its plans and processes, and local jurisdictions, through their decisions and funding, could support Metro. Metro opted to provide three presentations and the December presentation built on information provided at the November 18th meeting (audio) on Metro Fundamentals (pdf) and Momentum (pdf) that were given  by Tom Webster, Managing Director of Metro’s Office of Management and Budget, and Shyam Kannan, Managing Director of Metro’s Office of Planning. The November presentations served to ensure a baseline understanding across TPB Board members, highlight our capital and operating challenges, and identify safety, state of good repair, and longer term needs to ensure safe, reliable transit that meets the growing region. Read more…

First Things First

December 14th, 2015 2 comments

Secretary Foxx has issued his direction that Metro cannot consider any new rail expansion right now, and WMATA agrees!  So much so that we wrote it into our strategic plan back in 2013.  Earlier this fall, the Prince William County’s Board of Supervisors heard from WMATA about the importance of fixing Metro’s core before considering any expansion.

The Silver Line’s Phase 2 extension from Wiehle-Reston East to Dulles Airport and Loudoun County could be the last for decades to come. (photo credit: Ryan Stavely, Flickr)

As the region grows, so does the pressure for extensions of Metrorail.  The requests are frequent and common: “Extend Metro to BWI! to Centreville! to Waldorf! to Fort Belvoir!” We’ve heard and even modeled most of these requests. For a system that’s shaped and contributed tremendous economic value to the region, it only makes sense that communities outside of its immediate reach want improved access to it. WMATA Director of Planning Shyam Kannan recently took the opportunity to discuss the potential for the extension of Metrorail into Prince William County. With 80% of today’s Metrorail trips going to or through the system’s core (PDF), he noted that major core capacity improvements must be made prior to considering any additional rail extensions. While addressing core capacity has been a major part of Momentum, including initiatives like the 8-car train program, core stations, and New Blue Line Connections, the plan remains largely unfunded. With safety and state of good repair needs as Metro’s top priorities and core capacity relief put off indefinitely, any potential extensions (if they happen) are likely decades away from being built.

Read more…

Keeping an Eye on the Future – the Potential for “Smart Transit”

October 12th, 2015 No comments

Despite its current operational challenges, it’s important to keep an eye on the future. Our increasingly connected world means that tomorrow’s transit system could not only be more reliable, cleaner, and faster – but smarter.

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Metro Smart Cities round table participants.

Recently WMATA announced that there is a path forward to cellular service throughout the rail network. That’s a huge step forward for all of Metro’s customers, who we know value staying connected and productive while on the go. But checking email, catching up on social media, or even banging out that legal brief while en route from work to happy hour is only the beginning of what a technology-enabled interconnected transit network can do.  Metro’s Office of Planning is keenly interested in understanding what the future of the “Internet of Things” might mean for WMATA, and we reached out to industry experts to find out.

On September 14, 2015, the Office of Planning hosted transportation experts who were in town for Smart Cities Week to weigh in on how technology and data could transform the way we think about transit.  Our panelists – all of whom agreed to participate on their own dime and on the condition that we were not entertaining any sales pitches! – included representatives from Cisco, Microsoft, Mastercard, TransitScreen, and Urban Insights.  The event hosted over 60 leaders from WMATA to hear what evolved into an open dialogue about the promise of a data-enhanced transit system and rider experience.

Here are some of the major take-aways from the event: Read more…

Vast Majority of New Office in Region Near Metro

April 22nd, 2015 2 comments

Approximately 86% of the region’s new office construction is occurring within one-quarter mile of Metrorail stations, 93% within the half-mile walk sheds.

A Washington Post article from October 2013 made a staggering assertion:  That 84% of new office construction in the region is occurring within one quarter mile of a Metrorail station, according to Jones Lang LaSalle and other data sources.  As we continue to dig into walk sheds and the land-use/transportation connection, we thought we would revisit this assertion and update it for 2015.

Since the Post article was written, we have begun to plan for near-term capacity constraints that might result from increased ridership caused by new households and jobs near Metro.  And part of this planning is gaining insight as to where and when new housing units and office space may come online through real estate industry data sources.   Through this research, we are able to update the statistic above:

86% of new office construction in the Washington region is occurring within one-quarter mile of a Metrorail station. 

UnderConstructionMap-01

New office currently under construction in the Washington region. All but four projects are within a half-mile of Metrorail.  Data from Jones, Lang, LaSalle.

Read more…

Going Up – Why the Construction Pipeline Means Higher Metrorail Ridership (Part Two)

April 7th, 2015 6 comments

In Part Two of this series, we forecast the impact of the region’s near-term development pipeline on Metrorail ridership, using the Land Use-Ridership model. The good news? Metrorail ridership is set to show big gains. The bad news? Your ride just got less roomy.

Just as we were putting the finishing touches on this post, we saw a flurry of news articles detailing the regional market forces that portend increased rail ridership. Millennials choosing not to drive, even as they grow up.  Office parks in far-flung places experiencing devaluations while Metrorail-adjacent areas capturing the lion’s share of new leases.  Marriott announcing that it will seek a transit-accessible location when it moves.  And even defense contractors coming to bat to argue for the economic benefits of the Purple Line. All of this free publicity set us up nicely for what we wanted to share with you – the first results of the Office of Planning’s Land Use-Ridership model as applied to near-term development projects.

The Near-Term Pipeline. Researchers at Jones Lang LaSalle have been compiling a list of actual development projects – under construction, or planned – near Metrorail stations, so that we can forecast the near-term capital needs for the system. A huge amount of development (over 105 million square feet!) is on the books for within a half-mile of a Metrorail station.

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Map of near-term development projects near Metrorail, by building type (click for full image)

So, How Much Ridership? What impact will all of this have on Metrorail? We ran these projects through the Land Use-Ridership model, and what we found was both intuitive – and startling. 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.

ridership_chart_v2-01

Read more…

Two-thirds of Metrorail Trips Cross a Boundary

February 3rd, 2015 19 comments

A large majority of trips on Metrorail cross jurisdictional boundaries, illustrating that Metro is indeed a regional service.

We’ve mentioned before how the station improvements in Metro 2025 will benefit riders from all jurisdictions.  In fact, Dupont Circle is the only station identified in Metro 2025 with a majority of users living in DC.   We thought we’d take another look at ridership that crosses jurisdictional boundaries.  The table below illustrates the percent of trips, by jurisdiction of origin, that cross into another jurisdiction on Metrorail, sliced by Weekday AM Peak, Weekday PM Peak and Weekend.  Data is from October 2014 and includes the new Silver Line stations.

A few things pop out: 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)