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Washington DC without the Metro
December 12, 2011 11:23 AM   Subscribe

As a part of it's 35th anniversary, WMATA produced a study that investigated a hypothetical where Washington DC's Metro system disappeared and was replaced by car infrastructure.

You can read the original study in PDF format here
posted by grandsham (56 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Very cool.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:30 AM on December 12, 2011


Nice to see that the money I give to WMATA, apart from going to consultants who repeatedly tell everyone "btw, shit's on fire, yo", also goes to statisticians telling everyone to keep enjoying the shit sandwich that is WMATA.

Yum, yum.
posted by slater at 11:30 AM on December 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Before Washington built the Metrorail system, the city was actually mulling plans to extend a highway right through the center of town...

According to a few friends of mine who are into urban planning, the Cross-Bronx Expressway is what turned the South Bronx into the gaping maw of poverty and infrastructural collapse it is today.
posted by griphus at 11:38 AM on December 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


According to a few friends of mine who are into urban planning, the Cross-Bronx Expressway is what turned the South Bronx into the gaping maw of poverty and infrastructural collapse it is today.

YEP. It's true in most major cities. By preventing an expressway through Manhattan Jane Jacobs spared the island the same fate. But in San Francisco, the construction of BART did the same thing to the Mission for many years.
posted by liketitanic at 11:46 AM on December 12, 2011


Yeah, in the list of terrible urban planning ideas that had currency in the 20th Century (which is extensive), "building an elevated freeway through the urban core" might be the single most destructive one of them all.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 11:46 AM on December 12, 2011


Without MARC (one of two commuter rail systems in the DC area), I would not have even considered working in DC. A good number of my neighbours wouldn't have moved to Baltimore without it, either.
posted by QIbHom at 11:50 AM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


liketitanic: "YEP. It's true in most major cities."

Does the I-5 through Seattle count? What effect does that have on the city? Just curious.
posted by vanar sena at 12:11 PM on December 12, 2011


I was always fascinated by the fact that Rochester, New York actually kind of did the inner loop follows the right of way of the subway which stopped running in 1956. The subway itself followed part of the old Erie Canal.

Interestingly it looks like there's now some movement towards dismantling part of the inner loop for the same reasons griphus mentioned.
posted by usonian at 12:14 PM on December 12, 2011


(Where did the rest of my sentence go? )

...Rochester actually kind of did this with the inner loop...
posted by usonian at 12:16 PM on December 12, 2011


From the article: If all those people drove instead, the city would need the equivalent of 166 blocks of five-story parking garages.

Or, in other words, make the stupidly-short buildings in DC a little bit taller.

I support public transportation and replacement of cars as commuting vehicles, but the argument that WMATA is better than cars because the District doesn't have enough parking spaces is stupid.
posted by The World Famous at 12:18 PM on December 12, 2011


I lived in DC before the Metro was finished, and people took buses. If the Metro hadn't existed, the outlying suburbs would have expanded, I think.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:27 PM on December 12, 2011


I have to say, having grown up in Fairfax County and having lived there and in Arlington County for a total of 20 years before moving away eleven years ago, the traffic even then was so bad that "They stop making long car trips because the traffic is so bad...most of them stopped crossing the region to get to those things...People weren’t crossing county lines – or even rivers – to get anywhere" is an accurate reflection of my experience there. El_lupino and I also basically had a rule that we didn't go anywhere between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. unless absolutely necessary, because if you left any time during that period, you wouldn't get where you were going before rush hour was over anyway. And my many friends who live there still say it's only gotten worse.
posted by jocelmeow at 12:28 PM on December 12, 2011


Yeah, in the list of terrible urban planning ideas that had currency in the 20th Century (which is extensive), "building an elevated freeway through the urban core" might be the single most destructive one of them all.

For more than 20 years, Robert Moses (and area businesses) fought hard to build a six-lane interstate through the French Quarter.

And when that failed, they built it through Treme instead.
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:30 PM on December 12, 2011


D.C. Beltway traffic is STILL a fucking nightmare. They should extend subway lines out to it and run a new, hybrid bus fleet above it; banning cars on the four inner lanes.

The whole thing could be paid for with a gas-tax increase, assuming D.C., Virginia, and Maryland could get their act together and cooperate on a regional tax.
posted by clarknova at 12:50 PM on December 12, 2011


I live 39 miles south of the Beltway and rush hour extends all the way out on I-95. It's freaking ridiculous.
posted by COD at 12:56 PM on December 12, 2011


While the Cross-Bronx Expressway was certainly a catalyst for the South Bronx's decline, there were many other factors at play too--as a counter-example, look at the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, built around the same time, and with similar disregard for neighborhood structure. Williamsburg and Greenpoint are certainly doing a lot better than the South Bronx nowadays.

I'm not a Moses apologist by any means--but it's more complicated than "a highway ruined the Bronx."
posted by millipede at 1:00 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the one hand, I understand that things like lack of home rule and/or a shitty DC government (thanks Marion Barry!), and dealing with at least one state government that doesn't care about non-automobile commuters and is openly hostile to residents of certain counties (thanks Virginia voters!), means that WMATA has to deal with a bunch of bullshit. That really sucks and as someone who fits into both of the latter categories, I appreciate the fact that there's actually a running public transportation system that I can use and will even work correctly at least half the time. At personal interaction levels, at least, I usually find employees to be patient and helpful. For instance, WMATA employees found and returned my keys within 3 hours of me losing them on the bus. So I try not to let a few bad apples get to me.

On the other hand, there just seems to be no excuse for pretty much all of the chicanery that goes on there, even if we take out the Red Line crash. Pardon in advance a single source for these links, but they're a good source of issues with the Metro. At an organization level, relations with the public range generally run from apathy to clamming up when requested for info to lying outright about problems. ATU Local 689, which makes up ~90% of union representation for WMATA employees, has management whose hostility to commuters (and even union members, sometimes) is legendary; as is their sometimes-criminal, byzantine, and highly inefficient system of rules. They don't have the excuse of having contracts as bad as, say, the postal or manufacturers' unions, although they sometimes will lie about their hands being tied. Unsurprisingly, even for a relatively union-friendly city, the Local is about as well-liked as WMATA themselves.

In the end, I know a lot of the problems with the Metro aren't necessarily the fault of WMATA themselves, but it doesn't help that in most cases where it is their fault, they don't even make the effort to accept the blame and reach out to experts or the community for advice. It's going to get worse before it gets better, especially if the elections swing far right next year, and I just don't see anyone willing to try and sort things out.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:01 PM on December 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


YEP. It's true in most major cities. By preventing an expressway through Manhattan Jane Jacobs spared the island the same fate. But in San Francisco, the construction of BART did the same thing to the Mission for many years.

I seem to recall that Jacobs mentions in The Death and Life of Great American Cities a story much like the one posted here. A planner in the late 50s in Texas was trying to work out how their city might function when reconfigured for cars. However, as the study went on, they realized that so much space would need to be given over for car infrastructure such as roads and carparks, that there would be very little of the city left.

With regards to roads cutting cities in half, the example of Hull in England is a frustrating example of this, where even modern planners haven't understood the problem. A dual carriageway has cut off much of the shorefront from the rest of the city, including a whole dock, many blocks of formerly commercial use, and parts of the river. There are plans to put some of the road in a tunnel and spend money on "regenerating" the shore front. However, the key parts of the road won't be tunneled due to cost, so will remain above ground. This means that they're going to half–ass the job due to budget constraints, yet end up wasting money on an unsuccessful regeneration. If they just spent the necessary money of removing the road, the rest would sort itself out in due course.
posted by Jehan at 1:05 PM on December 12, 2011


My family and I went to DC for thanksgiving week and were really impressed with the Metro system. Easy to understand, well-lit, and convenient.
posted by toastchee at 1:06 PM on December 12, 2011


How about just not telling the tourists about it? Would work great.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:11 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyone who thinks DC traffic sucks has never lived in Atlanta. Same goes for the Metro. I've lived in both places, riding and driving in the worst of times (and am in DC now), and think DC's system is much, much better.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:15 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Up until this summer I lived inside the DC beltway, just down Rt. 7 from Tyson's Corner (a major shopping mall). My wife and I used to avoid driving anywhere at all, at any time of day or night on weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The amount of traffic backing up due to shoppers would easily add more than an hour to any trip that took us outside our neighborhood, whether we were going shopping or not.

We watched them build the new elevated Metro line out there for the last couple years, but knew we would move before we ever reaped any benefit from it. I hope that some day the people who live in that area can leave to go do something without having to plan in an extra 2 hours sitting in their car.

(Also, it wasn't until this post that I realized it's currently the don't-leave-home time of year, but I've been able to run errands quickly and without pain! woohoo!)
posted by jermsplan at 1:25 PM on December 12, 2011


Okay, so I'm a huge Metro fan, but this isn't the most fair comparison. You can fill an entire book with maps of hypothetical highway, rail, or hybrid networks that have been proposed for the DC area. (No, seriously. It must have become a hobby for urban planners or something). Laying all of those bad highway porposals on top of each other is a bit of a cheap shot.

The highway plans kept changing and evolving through the decades, amid serious community opposition. The highways that DC has today are not the result of any one master plan, and the hodgepodge plans that brought us the current network of roads were never even built as originally designed.

Curiously, by contrast, the Metro system was built almost exactly according to the final plan laid out in 1968 for the system, until its completion in 2001. Foresight and master planning are one of the reasons why the system works as well as it does (and, yes, damnit, all things considered, Metro works remarkably well even though we love to complain about it).

Many of the original master plans for the DC area called for a small rail system and a network of highways with accommpanying busways and transit lanes. Opponents argued that the busways would never be used for buses, and appear to have been right -- the I-395 express lanes were originally built for bus use only, and have never actually been used for that purpose (I support public buses and ride them almost daily, but you can very obviously tell buses were intentionally neglected by local governments for a large part of the 20th Century).

Even many road projects that were designed to be built in conjunction with the Metro system met an untimely end. We're still fixing the mess created from the cancellation of the partially-built Barney Circle Freeway that currently funnels cars from I-395 onto a short stub of un-numbered highway (I-695, but there are no signs with this numbering), and then onto local streets for about 6 blocks before connecting to DC-295, with about half a mile of 695 being little more than an useless stub. Currently, we're building a new 11th St Bridge to connect 395 (er. 695) to 295 without throwing traffic onto local streets, although when all is said and done, it might have been less destructive to have just built the damn thing as it was originally designed. (Not as part of the godawful "Inner Beltway" proposal, but rather as a connector between 395 and 295)

395 itself is also a bit odd. The original plan called for it to be a routing of I-95 straight through DC. They built about a third of it before it was cancelled, and had its funding diverted to the construction of the Metro. That currently-existing third sucks, because it dumps heavy traffic right into the center of DC, where the roads are unable to cope with the volume. Proposals to bury a tunnel under New York Ave to funnel the 395 traffic out of DC, and onto 295 have all been strongly opposed, even though I can't see terribly many downsides.
posted by schmod at 1:27 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


griphus: "According to a few friends of mine who are into urban planning, the Cross-Bronx Expressway is what turned the South Bronx into the gaping maw of poverty and infrastructural collapse it is today."

My understanding was that this was more or less intentional. Robert Moses was not a particularly good person.
posted by schmod at 1:27 PM on December 12, 2011


(Oh, and also, wasn't the now-cancelled DC segment of I-66 shown in that map supposed to be below ground?)
posted by schmod at 1:31 PM on December 12, 2011


...really impressed with the Metro system. Easy to understand...

I'm kicking myself for not having taken a picture of the front panel of a DC fare vending machine when I was there a few weeks back (here's one from Khoi Vinh). I don't think I've ever seen a more tortured user interface -- it's like looking at a 3' x 3' Dr. Bronner's label.
posted by sriracha at 2:23 PM on December 12, 2011


Schmod, I'm a huge Metro fan, having grown up halfway between Baltimore and DC, but the thing that always burns me up about the original design plan is that they've built lines and stops in Virginia for cities that didn't even exist when the plan was drawn, but Laurel, which is on the plan, gets squat. We've got MARC, which I'm riding right this very moment, but it runs few trains, rush hour only, with no weekend service at all. Not that I'm bitter or anything...fucking Virginia mutter mutter.
posted by sonascope at 2:27 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Baltimore avoided having highways run though the heart of the city (other than 83 and half of 40) due to the heroic efforts of community organizers. Sen Barbara Mikulski got her political start by helping stop 83 from plowing right through Fells Point. Yaay community organizers. Now if only the City would build more than one Metro line...
posted by jetsetsc at 2:45 PM on December 12, 2011


jocelmeow - I moved back to D.C. (I drove every day on the Beltway for a good 3-4 years, along with taking the metro across the city). and I strictly follow the same exact rule. It's decreased my road-rage and stress immeasurably.

schmod - "the Metro system was built almost exactly" and that one exception is the Logan Circle station that got zig-zagged to avoid then black-rioted neighborhoods. I don't think the story is apocryphal.

I think WMATA management has more faults than can be blamed on regional transit funding and agreements (to be honest I think they fall back on "its them, not us" arguments, instead of taking responsibility for lackluster work: escalator repair, I am looking at you).

A last point: the only time I've felt like I've been in a country not collapsing in on itself is when I see the massive new metro construction near Tyson's*. Machines, and huge pillars, and heavy rail, oh my!

* As an added bonus metro construction to dulles has destroyed all of the hiding places / speed traps that those shitty VA cops use to grab people rushing to catch their flights.
posted by stratastar at 2:49 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


stratastar: "schmod - "the Metro system was built almost exactly" and that one exception is the Logan Circle station that got zig-zagged to avoid then black-rioted neighborhoods. I don't think the story is apocryphal."

Cite? Logan Circle isn't even near a Metro line. Must have been one hell of a zig zag.
posted by schmod at 2:53 PM on December 12, 2011


Huh, wikipedia seems to have a good account instead of pushing investment, the rioted areas and long fallow areas near (14th and U) gained a metro station instead.
posted by stratastar at 3:02 PM on December 12, 2011


This book may have more, but the relevent pages aren't accessible.
posted by stratastar at 3:08 PM on December 12, 2011


Logan Circle isn't even near a Metro line. Must have been one hell of a zig zag.

The obvious guess is that the Green Line would have run from Mount Vernon Square to U Street via Logan Circle instead of via Shaw, but I'm just making things up.
posted by madcaptenor at 4:32 PM on December 12, 2011


Here is a very nice post that shows the original plan for the many DC beltways
posted by humanfont at 6:23 PM on December 12, 2011


vanar sena: "Does the I-5 through Seattle count? What effect does that have on the city? Just curious."

I live about a block away from I-5 in Seattle, and my wife commutes using it on a daily basis.

I-5 through Seattle has created an urban mess, as all downtown freeways have, but it hasn't caused problems quite as bad as those I've seen in other cities, nor problems as bad as those caused by the Alaskan Way Viaduct down on the Seattle waterfront.

The reason for this is that Seattle is a city of hills, and in the places where I-5 crosses the greatest urban density, it hugs the contours of the hill. These hill slopes are pretty steep and already served as natural dividers between neighborhoods. Indeed where I-5 bisects Denny Way, the slope had actually been engineered in order to put buildings in [the famous Denny Regrade] only to have I-5 obliterate that space later in the city's history. Point being, the highway doesn't inhabit naturally contiguous urban space among much of its length and that mitigates some of the extra damaging effects of Urban Freeways that I've seen in other cities..

.. However ..

My own neighborhood is a notable exception to this. The local community council has been engaged with the DoT, especially regarding noise mitigation. We got a noise wall put up a couple years ago, and the neighborhood had a barbecue to celebrate its completion : ] That worked, so the DoT attempted to reduce noise underneath the freeway where it turns into a bridge and soars over three blocks. They installed some acoustic baffles to dampen the sound under the span, but subsequent testing found they had absolutely no effect. Arg! Now the neighborhood is trying to figure out some sort of active public space that can go underneath the ramp that can tolerate the noise pollution, possibly a skate park. It's a real battle.

Atop situations like that, Seattle has all the other problems that Urban Freeways create. A downtown core without a lot of dense residential areas, since the freeway promoted home ownership outside of the core. Areas like South Lake Union and the Denny Triangle caught the traffic outflow from the freeway and this has severely delayed their re-development after shedding their industrial past. Public transit infrastructure is weak, and only now being built out to serve outlying areas with light rail. This will take decades to complete. The good news is that the city and county [the state .. less so] have recognized the mistakes and a 17.9 billion dollar infrastructure plan won by large margins as a ballot measure in 2008. Construction is ongoing. The waterfront freeway is also being torn out and though it is being replaced with a very expensive tunnel, at least the city gets its waterfront back. So there is hope.. but then we've got to deal with the state looking to expand and bulk up their own SR 520 that intersects with I-5 on the side opposite our neighborhood.

Constant tug of war in these parts.
posted by striatic at 9:19 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


madcaptenor: "The obvious guess is that the Green Line would have run from Mount Vernon Square to U Street via Logan Circle instead of via Shaw, but I'm just making things up."

I guess? Shaw was also burned in the riots, although I do suppose that 14th Street was pretty seedy until very recently (ironically, if you were building the Green Line today, you'd want to aim to hit the 14th St corridor, and I'm actually not even sure why the planners felt it so important to put a station in Columbia Heights back when the scheme was laid out).

The planning didn't get really political until the final sections of the Green Line were planned and built in the 1980s and 1990s.

However, the mid-city Green Line that we have today was constructed as a cut-and-cover tunnel directly beneath 7th Street all the way from L'Enfant Plaza, up to U St. This method of construction was very cheap, and didn't require very much land or property acquisition. You can actually still see the small handful of parcels that Metro had to purchase in order to facilitate the line's gentle curve from 7th onto U, where it wiggles over to 14th St. Every few years, WMATA tries to sell those plots to a developer, although they've had rotten luck attracting a buyer who's willing to do some extra engineering to design a building directly above the subway that won't be able to have a basement or parking garage in it.

The cheap below-street cut-and-cover method also explains why the Gallery Place Metro is laid out in the shape of a 'T' instead of the more-efficient cross-shape layout found at Metro Center and L'Enfant Plaza. Both platforms were placed where they'd fit beneath the streets.

They've got a handful of these plots all over DC. Some can be built on easily, while others would require extensive engineering to support the weight of a building. (Making such sites ideal for the placement of a park, as was done up in Columbia Heights). There was also the weird time that Metro accidentally ended up owning a house, which it rented out for over 30 years, because there were no procedures in place for the agency to sell such a property.
posted by schmod at 9:50 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I suppose for the same reasons why they wanted to put a station in U Street; urban renewal and neighborhood reinvestment. I'm sure growth-machine adherents would say that both worked out splendidly.
posted by stratastar at 10:00 PM on December 12, 2011


sonascope: "Schmod, I'm a huge Metro fan, having grown up halfway between Baltimore and DC, but the thing that always burns me up about the original design plan is that they've built lines and stops in Virginia for cities that didn't even exist when the plan was drawn, but Laurel, which is on the plan, gets squat. We've got MARC, which I'm riding right this very moment, but it runs few trains, rush hour only, with no weekend service at all. Not that I'm bitter or anything...fucking Virginia mutter mutter."

You raise a valid point, although one would begin to question the validity of running a subway for such a long distance outside of the city. Lots of stops, expensive track, and a hard limit of ~75mph running speed. I have a feeling that there will eventually be a line to BWI, although the exact nature of that line remains to be determined.

I certainly agree that the MARC and VRE commuter services suck in comparison to other American commuter systems like SEPTA or NJTransit, and that the corridor between Baltimore and DC should have far more transit than it actually does. However, the real best solution would be to build a system similar to the Paris RER, which acts as a super-express within the city, and provides very frequent commuter service to the near suburbs. I could see there being a market for a train that ran every 15 minutes from BWI -> Laurel -> Silver Spring -> Union Station -> L'Enfant Plaza -> Alexandria -> Woodbridge -> Fredericksburg. Most of the track to do this is already there, although there are other logistical issues preventing it from happening.

The best answer to this question today is that Maryland already has a lot of existing rail infrastructure that could be used for a commuter service (ie. MARC), while Northern Virginia had almost nothing in the way of usable rail corridors, unless you wanted to reopen the W&OD. However, it doesn't explain why Maryland's got a second-rate commuter rail system, while Fairfax County residents get a $5 train that runs every 10 minutes into the city (they have no idea how lucky they have it)

Maryland's also got a pretty poor record for utilizing its existing Metro Stations. Prince George's County somehow makes Virginia look like a state with forward-thinking urban planning practices. The Blue Line extension to Largo turned out to be a whole lot of nothing after Dan Snyder refused to let Metro put the station near his stadium, while the Morgan Boulevard station remains almost completely unused (it's in the middle of the f--ing woods).
posted by schmod at 10:04 PM on December 12, 2011


Hey, we got the fucking ICC done! That'll tie up any boondoggle big project transit money for another 20 years now!

P.G. County has done an awful job with its transit stations. It's kind of mind boggling.
posted by stratastar at 10:51 PM on December 12, 2011


Could someone please explain the ICC? I've looked at the Purpose and Need statement and I still don't get it.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:03 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


(I head that Konterra's developers had something to do with it.)
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:09 AM on December 13, 2011


See also: the Metro Fantasy Map.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:12 AM on December 13, 2011


Schmod-- wasn't Columbia Heights is a relatively new development, in comparison to the rest of the original Green Line plans? I grew up in Mount Pleasant, and watched as the neighborhood completely changed along the way to the 1999 opening. It provides one of the few anchor points in that area of the quadrant and it's right by a number of key bus routes coming down from Maryland. I don't think that spot was in the original plans, because when it was announced, real estate prices and investments in lawn care skyrocketed. (I actually can't believe it's been over ten years-- still not used to the concept of gastropubs and expensive coffee in what looks like Rosslyn.) In much the same way, Cleveland Park was a later addition, which is why Woodley got stuck with the Most Insanely Long Name/Zoo title, even though Cleveland Park is a better stop for Metro traffic.

As a current Philly resident, the idea that SEPTA would be a better solution to anything is somewhat terrifying, but then I've only taken the MARC for day trips. SEPTA is not a great service if you need to switch lines or have reliable access to a train-- while it does cover vast stretches, it is ridiculously expensive for shorter hops and comes once an hour, at most, out of the peak hours, when a train theoretically comes twice an hour (with the wonderful exception of the single high speed line, which doesn't go into center city at all.) While it may work better for very far out suburbs, it is not at all a good tool for the closer suburbs. Agreed on the Paris RER model.

This has been a really cool article/discussion, thanks grandsham!
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:13 AM on December 13, 2011


Cleveland Park was a later addition, which is why Woodley got stuck with the Most Insanely Long Name/Zoo title, even though Cleveland Park is a better stop for Metro traffic.

Well, to be technical Cleveland Park is the better station for going to the zoo, and Adams Morgan/Woodley Park is better for leaving the zoo. At least if you're lazy and prefer downhill walking, like me.
posted by inigo2 at 6:54 AM on December 13, 2011


@Jetlagaddict Actually, that's a great point, and probably why the area got selected.

In related news, the names are getting shorter, and we're getting a new map. Finally. The station names have got to be the most politicized and divisive thing about the whole system. It's nuts.

I really hope that we, as a region, can get past our intense distrust of WMATA, and also get their labor cost and governance issues under control. Right now, DC, Maryland, and VA are all planning streetcar and light rail projects, and it would be a massive shame to see their efforts go uncoordinated (especially the Purple line, which will actually become a pretty vital part of the Metro system). The Metro is a great system, and a great example of coordinated regional planning done right.

Oh, and a few talking points that aren't really related to anything here: posted by schmod at 7:24 AM on December 13, 2011


MARC has one good line. The Penn Line, which runs from DC by BWI to Baltimore (and sometimes beyond) is pretty reliable. It isn't frequent enough and needs to run on weekends.

The Camden and Brunswick lines, however, are dreadful. I don't see how anyone could depend on them without car backup (I ride the Penn Line every day, don't own a car, no problem).

The ICC has taken money that should have been spent on bus/rail and given it to cars. It is like Virginia leaked into Montgomery County. As noted above, this means nothing for us bus and rail people for the next 20 years.

WMATA has a shitty political structure to deal with, what with the pro-car, anti-tax (but Metro-rich) folks over in VA, a powerless DC government that has a day job as a soap opera and a lot of folks elected to office in Maryland who hate the idea of a penny of Maryland tax money going to support people in the Baltimore-DC corridor. They seem to use that as an excuse rather than an exhilarating challenge.
posted by QIbHom at 7:41 AM on December 13, 2011


The thing that gets me about the way these systems are designed is that the designers can't seem to grasp that people will change their habits if they make transit more available and affordable. Where I live is a decent bit closer to DC than to Baltimore, but I do everything in Baltimore and virtually nothing in DC. I picked the job I have largely because there's a MARC station at the end of my street in Laurel and a MARC station two blocks from my clocktower, and I've turned down very lucrative offers in DC/VA because I'm just not going to commute 1.5-2 hours each way. Life's too short.

When it comes to finding something to do with friends, I go to Baltimore, because to go to DC, I either have to negotiate ten miles of trafficy city streets by car and then look for the two available parking spaces in the city, or pay a fortune to park at Greenbelt Metro with some sort of crazy card system that makes me keep a card specifically for that purpose, pay a fortune for the Metro, and walk many, many blocks to where I'm going. I love Metro for the architecture of the stations and the scent of damp concrete, but because there's this big missing link in the system, where I have to drive 15-20 minutes just to get to the Metro, I'd rather just drive 25 minutes and be where I want to go. If I could Metro down, or take MARC at something other than the three trips out, three trips back at rush hour each day, I'd likely spend money in DC and spend time there, too.

I'm exactly the kind of malleable commuter who would take a new line and use it, but they just serve the same old lines. I don't get it.
posted by sonascope at 7:47 AM on December 13, 2011


QIbHom - I ride the Camden line twice a day and it's very reliable, except for a stretch during the big snows in 2010. I have no qualms about depending on the line, except for when I need to stay in the city later than six or get in earlier than 7:45. Today, we hung for ten minutes because of freight congestion, but then booked like the TGV until we were on time again, which is the usual routine. Love my Camden line...just wish it actually ran a full schedule.
posted by sonascope at 7:49 AM on December 13, 2011


Plus, as a quasi railfan on the Camden Line, I'm pleased that I get to board the train at Laurel's elegant old station, ride on the line that was the first passenger rail line in the US, and cross the Thomas Viaduct twice a day. I step off beside the brick monolith of the B&O Warehouse, grin at my building, and walk past the old Camden Station on my way to start the day. I'm reliably at the door every morning at 8:18, except today, when I reached it at 8:21.
posted by sonascope at 8:38 AM on December 13, 2011


So apparently WMATA spent $200k for this study. Really? In a year where there are absolutely huge budget problems, including several major ones that they claim they have a hard time finding money for, they could drop several hundred grand on a "what-if" scenario? Yes, as the article says, it could help, but at this point I feel like (a) it's too much money for what most transit people already know, and (b) those that this article is trying to convince seem to be the people least likely to change their minds.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:01 AM on December 14, 2011


sonascope, cool. I've ridden the Camden line when the Penn Line is having a nervous breakdown. Mostly, I meant the schedule wasn't frequent enough and heat seems to give it conniptions.

The Brunswick Line is managed directly by Satan, though.

I, too, would love new lines. I don't own a car and plan where I live, shop, work and socialize based heavily on public transit. That I can do this is a wonder to me (I couldn't when I lived in Detroit). That politicians and no-taxers mess this up for me is a continuous source of grrrr.
posted by QIbHom at 7:28 AM on December 14, 2011


pay a fortune to park at Greenbelt Metro with some sort of crazy card system that makes me keep a card specifically for that purpose, pay a fortune for the Metro

Not that it helps with the expense issue, but the SmarTrip card on the DC system is compatible with Baltimore's new CharmCard, which makes my weekend trips to Baltimore vastly easier to manage -- well, from the perspective of no longer needing to be sure I'm carrying exact change, anyway. Negotiating Baltimore by public transit still requires quite a bit of patience and good fortune.

I use NJTransit to get to New York from central NJ from time to time, and it's incredibly frustrating to me that that system is reliable and has great train availability, but DC and Baltimore can't work out a commuter rail line that runs late at night and on weekends.
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:43 AM on December 14, 2011


"However, it doesn't explain why Maryland's got a second-rate commuter rail system, while Fairfax County residents get a $5 train that runs every 10 minutes into the city (they have no idea how lucky they have it)"

One ready explanation is this: this required foresight and planning, but those cities grew AROUND and because of the metro. Transit oriented development could only take shape because of those lines. Take a flight out of Dulles or National that flies along the orange line and you can see how each little mini-pole in NoVa sprouts from the metro stops.

A major factor that goes into this is that at the time of construction there weren't the same entrenched interests to fight planners and plans tooth and nail over each detail (see also the apocryphal? Georgetown not wanting the metro story). I remember that Richard Layman had a nice post about this, but I can't find it in his archives. Contra that, in Maryland, for every person or politician who wanted a stop, there would be a city or area to fight it. It's much easier to build new, than repurpose for exactly those political reasons. And nevermind the cost of the right of ways.
posted by stratastar at 3:18 PM on December 14, 2011


stratastar: " (see also the apocryphal? Georgetown not wanting the metro story)"

A Georgetown Metro would be incredibly difficult to construct, given Georgetown's hilly geography and close proximity to the Potomac river.

If you built a station underneath M Street (the most logical location), it would have had to be astonishingly deep for the tunnel to be able to dive beneath the river. If you wanted the station to be parallel to M Street, it would be even more difficult, as several hairpin turns would be required.

Proposals to build a separate Blue line to increase capacity along the Orange Line have generally placed the line directly beneath M St, running almost all the way across the city. These proposals have generally included a "Georgetown" station, although I suspect that the aforementioned difficulties would place the "Georgetown" station outside of the neighborhood's boundaries.

The hypothetical brown line would be easier to build through Georgetown, as it would not cross the river. It's one of the more interesting proposals, because it links to the current system in so many locations, and would serve many of DC's well-established neighborhoods that currently do not have Metro access. Generally, new lines have been built to open up new areas to development, rather than to serve existing ones. As others above have mentioned, development followed Metro rather than the other way around.

Also, the planing process concluded that Georgetown didn't "need" a Metro station. Although urbanization and revitalization were goals of building the Metro system, it was primarily designed to carry commuters. Simply put, there weren't many commuters traveling to or from Georgetown (just through it), and there was nothing to indicate that this would ever change, thanks to the neighborhood's low-density and historic character.

People might have been opposed to a Georgetown Metro, although that probably had no effect on the decision not to build there. I don't think any of the original proposed routings for Metro included a Georgetown station.

On the other hand, a streetcar line to Georgetown, with a connection to Rosslyn and the "trunk" of the proposed DC Streetcar system on K St would be incredibly useful, and appropriate to the neighborhood's needs.

zombieflanders: "So apparently WMATA spent $200k for this study. Really? In a year where there are absolutely huge budget problems, including several major ones that they claim they have a hard time finding money for, they could drop several hundred grand on a "what-if" scenario? "

Portions of the Metro system are nearing capacity, and Metro's new management are assembling a long-overdue long-range plan to bring the system through the next 50 years. $200k does seem like a lot for this study, but it provides important pieces of data that will justify and help the agency move forward with the planning process. The PDF linked is only the "Executive Summary" of the full report; Metro did not pay $200k for a 9-page puff piece. Metro's planning department has a good summary of the intent and nature of the report.
posted by schmod at 9:42 AM on December 15, 2011


I-695, but there are no signs with this numbering

there is now
posted by exogenous at 12:35 PM on December 19, 2011


i came back to revisit the info here and it looks like the link to the pdf in the OP has changed. Here is the new link. it looks like all they did was change the date appended to the file name.
posted by moss free at 10:44 AM on January 10, 2012


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