Category Archives: Washington

What Washington Metro Should Build

I’ve been thinking intermittently about how to relieve the capacity crunch on the Washington Metro. The worst peak crowding is on the Orange Line heading eastbound from Arlington to Downtown Washington, and this led to proposals to build a parallel tunnel for the Blue Line. Already a year ago, I had an alternative proposal, borrowing liberally from the ideas of alert reader Devin Bunten, who proposed a separate Yellow Line tunnel instead. Matt Yglesias’s last post about it, using my ideas, made this a bigger topic of discussion, and I’d like to explain my reasoning here.

Featured Image is the PLAN

Existing stations have gray fill, new ones have white fill. The Yellow Line gets its own route to Union Station, either parallel to the Orange Line and then north via the Capitol (which is easier to build) or parallel to the Green Line (which passes closer to the CBD), and then takes over the route to Glenmont. The rump Red Line then gets a tunnel under H Street, hosting the busiest bus in the city, and then takes over the current Blue Line to Largo, with an infill station in Mayfair for a transfer to the Orange Line and another at Minnesota Avenue for bus connections.

The Blue Line no longer presents a reverse-branch. It is reduced to a shuttle between the Pentagon and Rosslyn. Matt mistakenly claims that reducing the Blue Line to a shuttle is cost-free; in fact, it would need dedicated tracks at Rosslyn (if only a single track, based on projected frequency), an expensive retrofit that has also been discussed as part of the separate Blue Line tunnel project. At the Pentagon, initially shared tracks would be okay, since the Yellow Line is still a branch combined with the Green Line today; but the separate Yellow Line tracks would then force dedicated turnback tracks for the Blue Line at the Pentagon as well. Frequency should be high all day, and at times of low frequency (worse than about a train every 6 minutes), the lines in Virginia should be scheduled to permit fast transfers between both the Yellow and Orange Lines and the Blue Line.

The reverse branch today limits train frequency at the peak, because delays on one line propagate to the others. Peak capacity on Metro today is 26 trains per hour. I don’t know of anywhere with reverse-branching and much higher capacity: the London Underground lines that reverse-branch, such as the Northern line, have similar peak traffic, whereas ones that only conventionally branch (Central) or don’t branch at all (Victoria) are capable of 35-36 peak trains per hour. This means that my (and Devin’s, and Matt’s) proposed system allows more capacity even in the tunnel from Rosslyn to Foggy Bottom, which gets no additional connections the way 14th Street Bridge gets to feed a new Yellow Line trunk.

The big drawback of the plan is that the job center of Washington is Farragut, well to the west of the Yellow and Green Lines. WMATA makes origin-and-destination datapublicly available, broken down by period. In the morning peak, the top destination station for each of the shared Blue and Yellow Line stations in Virginia is either the Pentagon or Farragut; L’Enfant Plaza is also high, and some stations have strong links to Gallery Place-Chinatown. Metro Center is actually faster to reach by Yellow + Red Line than by taking the Blue Line the long way, but Farragut is not, especially when one factors in transfer time at Gallery Place. The saving grace is that eliminating reverse-branching, turning Metro into four core lines of which no two share tracks, allows running trains more frequently and reliably, so travel time including wait time may not increase much, if at all.

This is why I am proposing the second alternative for the route between L’Enfant Plaza and Union Station. Devin proposed roughly following the legacy rail line. In the 1970s, it would have been better for the region to electrify commuter rail and add infill stops and just run trains on the route, and today a parallel route is appealing; Matt even proposed using the actual rail tunnel, but, even handwaving FRA regulations, that would introduce schedule dependency with intercity trains, making both kinds of trains less reliable. This route, the southeastern option among the two depicted in dashed lines, is easier to build, in that there are multiple possible streets to dig under, including C and E Streets, and giant parking lots and parks where the tracks would turn north toward the Capitol and Union Station. It also offers members of Congress and their staffers a train right to the officeUnfortunately, it forces Farragut-bound riders to transfer to the Orange Line at L’Enfant Plaza, slowing them down even further.

The second alternative means the Yellow Line stays roughly where it is. Four-tracking the shared Yellow and Green Line trunk under 7th Street is possible, but likely expensive. Tunneling under 8th Street is cheaper, but still requires passing under the Smithsonian Art Museum and tunneling under private property (namely, a church) to turn toward H Street. Tunneling under 6th Street instead is much easier, but this is farther from 7th Street than 8th Street is, and is also on the wrong side for walking to Metro Center and points west; the turn to H Street also requires tunneling under a bigger building. By default, the best route within this alternative is most likely 8th Street, then.

A variant on this second alternative would keep the Red Line as is, and connect the Yellow Line to the subway under H Street and to Largo. This is easier to construct than what I depict on my map: the Yellow Line would just go under H Street, with a Union Station stop under the track and new access points from the tracks to a concourse at H Street. This would avoid constructing the turns from the Red Line to H Street next to active track. Unfortunately, the resulting service map would look like a mess, with a U-shaped Red Line and an L-shaped Yellow Line. People travel north-south and east-west, not north-north or south-east.

Under either alternative, H Street would provide subway service to most of the remaining rapid transit-deprived parts of the District west of the Anacostia River. Some remaining areas near the Penn and Camden Lines could benefit from infill on commuter rail, and do not need Metro service. The big gaps in coverage in the District would be east of the river, and Georgetown.

Georgetown is the main impetus for the Blue Line separation idea; unfortunately, there’s no real service need to the east, along K Street, so the separate Blue Line tunnel would be redundant. In the 1970s it would have been prudent to build a Georgetown station between Foggy Bottom and Rosslyn, but this wasn’t done, and fixing it now is too much money for too little extra ridership; Bostonian readers may notice that a similar situation arises at the Seaport and BCEC, which should be on the Red Line if it were built from scratch today, but are unserved since the Red Line did not go there in the 1900s and 10s, and attempting to fix it by giving them their own subway line is a waste of money.

East of the river, the Minnesota Avenue corridor would make a nice circumferential rapid bus. But there are no strong radial routes to be built through it; the strongest bus corridor, Pennsylvania Avenue, serves a small node at the intersection with Minnesota and thereafter peters out into low-frequency branches.

This means that if the Yellow Line separation I’m proposing is built, all parts of the District that could reasonably be served by Metro will be. If this happens, Metro will have trunk lines with frequent service, two not branching at all and two having two branches on one side each; with passengers from Alexandria riding the Yellow Line, the Orange crush will end. The main issue for Metro will then be encouraging TOD to promote more ridership, and upgrading systems incrementally to allow each trunk line to carry more trains, going from 26 peak trains per hour to 30 and thence 36. Washington could have a solid rapid transit skeleton, which it doesn’t today, and then work on shaping its systems and urban layout to maximize its use.

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U.S. transit agencies bolster security in wake of Paris attacks

Following last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris that left 129 dead and hundreds of others wounded, U.S. transit agencies have stepped up security measures.

Among agencies that announced tighter security yesterday is the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which has upped the number of patrols, K9 sweeps and random bag checks and screenings for explosives across its system.

WMATA announced its beefed-up security actions following news yesterday of a video from the terrorist group the Islamic State warning of similar attacks on Washington, D.C. The group claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris.

The additional patrols began Friday evening and will continue for an unspecified period of time, WMATA officials said in a press release. At the same time, the agency’s police department has more than 20 K9 teams performing security sweeps in and around rail stations and other critical infrastructure.

Additionally, WMATA’s police force and local and federal law enforcement partners have implemented several other countermeasures that “are not visible to the traveling public,” agency officials said.

At a news conference yesterday, WMATA’s Police Chief Ron Pavlik said that the agency also would increase monitoring of its closed-circuit security footage.

“In light of the events in Paris you can never be too careful,” Pavlik said, according to The Washington Post. “Although there’s no credible threat here [in] the United States, we can’t turn a blind eye to the events that occurred in Paris.”

For its part, Amtrak is deploying extra K9 units, uniformed personnel and long guns, according to the paper.

Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo late last week directed state agencies, including the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), to be on a heightened state of alert.

Additional personnel at these agencies have been deployed at high-density areas and large public gatherings, Cuomo’s staffers said in a press release.

PANYNJ police have also increased security at bridges, tunnels, rail, the World Trade Center and elsewhere.

How did one get to the Pentagon in 1944?

PenneyVanderbilt

Image

Recently, an author writing a book asked us how his “character” would have gone by train from Chicago to the Pentagon in 1944.The Pennsylvania Railroad (and all other railroads entering Washington DC) used Union Station. The formerly huge rail yard near the Pentagon, “Pot Yard”, was freight-only.

We took a look at DC Transit map and nothing shows as going across to the Pentagon. 1958 and 1944 are identical. This was the main trolley provider in DC. I confirmed this with .

Took a look at another map.

and found an interurban line that crosses the river at Arlington Junction and connects with DC Transit. So their MIGHT have been a rail route. But these interurbans were “on their knees” after the Depression and could not gear up to adequately serve the Pentagon. More discussion on topic:

I’m guessing the Army (did they control the Pentagon before there was a…

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Federal highway agency OKs construction alternative for CSX tunnel project in D.C.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHW) has approved a preferred construction alternative for CSX Corp.’s Virginia Avenue Tunnel project in Washington, D.C., enabling the Class I to complete design work and initiate the construction permitting process.

The decision marks the completion of an extensive environmental review conducted jointly with the District of Columbia Department of Transportation that incorporated three years of input from residents, businesses and government agencies in the southeast D.C. neighborhood around the tunnel, CSX officials said in a press release. The FHW approved temporary closure of Interstate 695 ramps located at 6th and 8th streets, and the occupancy of a portion of the 11th Street bridge right of way along the interstate.

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A Fascinating US Senator: Patrick Leahy

Most US Senators have a lot going for them. Not just officially, but in their personal interests. One of them is Patrick Leahy. Officially, he is the third in the pecking order if something bad ever happened to the President (Vice President, Speaker of the House, then Senator Leahy).

Over the course of a nearly 40-year career in the Senate, Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has toured the world, dined with presidents and brokered legislative deals – all while snapping photographs every step of the way.

Born blind in one eye, Leahy has used his front row seat to history to capture some of the most unique photographs of politicians and world leaders. Leahy gave “The Fine Print” a tour of some of his photos on display at Georgetown University Law Center at an exhibit curated by the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center.

During President Ronald Reagan’s second presidential inauguration, Leahy captured what turned out to be one of Reagan’s favorite photographs.

“President Reagan saw it. And he and Mrs. Reagan liked it the best of all the pictures they’d seen,” Leahy said. “They said we ought to invite this photographer in and thank him. They said what a coincidence it says photoed by Patrick Leahy. And somebody said Ah Mr. President, that’s Senator Leahy.”

“He invites me down, he hands me the photograph back,” Leahy said. “He wrote on it, ‘Pat can’t believe my favorite photograph was taken by a Democrat, but I really appreciate it. Ron.’”

In addition to photography, Leahy has used his creative side on the big screen, making cameos in four Batman movies. Leahy, who donates all of the proceeds he receives from the movies to the Vermont library where he checked out his first book, said his obsession with Batman began when he was reading as a young boy.

Leahy captured a rare photograph of then-Sen. Barack Obama as he spoke in a private room to his Democratic colleagues shortly after he was sworn into office.

“I was born blind in one eye and I learned to read when I was 4 years old,” Leahy said. “I got fascinated with Batman. I tend to remember everything I’ve ever read. And I can quote Batman comic books of 40 to 50 years ago.”

Patrick Leahy was elected to the United States Senate in 1974 and remains the only Democrat elected to this office from Vermont.  At 34, he was the youngest U.S. Senator ever to be elected from the Green Mountain State.

Leahy was born in Montpelier and grew up across from the Statehouse.  A graduate of Saint Michael’s College in Colchester (1961), he received his Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center (1964).  He served for eight years as State’s Attorney in Chittenden County where he gained a national reputation for his law enforcement activities and was selected as one of three outstanding prosecutors in the United States in 1974.

Leahy is the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He is the senior-most member of the Appropriations Committee and of the Agriculture Committee. Leahy is the Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State Department, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. He ranks first in seniority in the Senate and is the President Pro Tempore.

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Silver Line Beats Projections: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

Less than two months after opening, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) new Silver Line has reached 60 percent of its projected ridership for the end of the first full year of service, agency officials announced.
As of last week, an average of 15,000 riders were entering the system at the five new Silver Line stations on weekdays for a combined 30,000 trips to or from the new stations, according to a WMATA press release. In the planning process, Silver Line ridership was projected to reach 25,000 boardings at the five new stations after a year of service.

Silver Line service began July 26 between Wiehle-Reston East Station in Fairfax County, Va., and Largo Town Center in Prince George’s County, Md. The new rail line represented the largest expansion of Metrorail since 1991.

Agency officials estimate the line is adding about 6,000 new riders — making about 12,000 trips — to the Metrorail system each weekday. The balance, approximately 9,000 riders, are primarily former Orange Line riders who have switched to the Silver Line, WMATA officials said.

Wiehle-Reston East remains the Silver Line’s most popular, having already surpassed first-year ridership projections with 8,400 boardings, or 16,800 weekday entries and exits. Wiehle-Reston East’s commute makes up about half the line’s ridership.

Tysons Corner Station is one of the few stations on the Metrorail system where ridership has been higher on Saturday than regular weekdays.

“In addition to being a great way to travel in Virginia and D.C., we are pleased to see the Silver Line is also connecting the region more broadly,” said WMATA General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Richard Sarles. “On weekday mornings, nearly 10 percent of riders entering at the five new Silver Line stations are bound for stations in Maryland, and 17 percent of the riders exiting at the five new Virginia stations start their trips in Maryland.”

SilverLineMap

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