Top DC area transportation stories of 2015
[At some point, the numbering becomes arbitrary.]
Oil Prices: What's Behind the Drop? Simple Economics"), now forecasters argue that low prices are here to stay, given drop in demand, increase in supply.
This impacts the cost-effectiveness of electric vehicles, increases vehicle miles traveled ("VMT Increases 19th Straight Month, Federal Report Shows") and reduces the demand for transit. VMT has been decreasing on a per capita for some time.
2. WMATA (DC area Metrorail subway service) tunnel fire at L'Enfant Station in January results in one death, continues to demonstrate safety and other operational failures. Ridership continues to drop, while nationally, transit ridership is increasing.
In the fall, the US Department of Transportation assumed safety oversight for WMATA. Later, Secretary Foxx of the US Department of Transportation, said that WMATA has no business working on expansion until it gets its operations right
The Infuriating History of How Metro Got So Bad").
3. Continued degradation of the quality of WMATA's transit service/financial problems/ difficulty in hiring a general manager. Paul Wiedefeld, who held various top jobs in Maryland, was finally chosen. During the search process, top USDOT personnel took jobs elsewhere. Elissa Knove is Deputy CEO of Metrolink in Southern California and Peter Rogoff is the new GM for Sound Transit in Seattle/Puget Sound (New Sound Transit CEO excited by big light-rail expansion," Seattle Times).
5. The May Amtrak crash in North Philadelphia kills 8 and injures more than 200, leading to more calls for Positive Train Control, and problems on the Northeast Corridor line, at least for awhile. The investigation for causes continues.
Still, more than $500 million in new development is underway or planned on the H Street corridor, which can be attributed to the forthcoming streetcar.
By comparison, the Cincinnati Streetcar construction and launch project has entered its testing phase, although it is not scheduled to launch until September 2016 ("City: 'Live-power' streetcar tests in Downtown Tuesday," Cincinnati Enquirer). Construction started in 2012. This is ironic because the Cincinnati project is managed by John Deatrick, former chief engineer for DC Department of Transportation.
7. Tolling expansion. In Virginia, the commitment is made to extend the I-95 lanes two miles further south to facilitate merging, although some believe it should be extended even further ("Stafford Supervisor rents billboard to get commuters views on traffic," Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star).
Plans to extend HOT access on I-395 ("Virginia to extend I-95/395 HOT lanes north to D.C. line," Washington Post).
Proposals put forward to toll I-66 ("State Approves I-66 Inside the Beltway Plan: Tolls Begin in 2017," Fairfax County) also used by Republican candidates in the 2015 election cycle to lambaste Democratic opponents. New tolls and proposals for tolls in more places in Hampton Roads (Tolls articles archive, Norfolk Virginian-Pilot).
In Maryland, Governor Hogan cuts toll rates ("Governor Hogan Rolls Back Tolls Statewide," press release) the Inter County Connector begins to see increase usage, and the I-95 ETL toll lanes north of Baltimore experience more usage after opening in December 2014.
8. Silver Spring Transit Center (at right) finally opens in late September, without any ribbon cutting, because of the many year delays in opening ("Multiple missed opportunities in the creation of the Silver Spring Transit Center"). It's another example of transit infrastructure construction problems calling into question government performance.
9. Death and violence associated with Metrobus service in DC (stabbing death at 8th and H Streets NE, shooting death of community journalist Charnice Milton at Pennsylvania and Minnesota Avenues SE while waiting for a bus, shots fired leads to a period of re-routing night-time bus services away from Elvans Road SE).
10. Dulles Airport continues to lag National and BWI Airports. Virginia Governor McAuliffe wants to put more money into marketing and other improvements ("Virginia Gov. McAuliffe proposes a $50M boost for Dulles Airport," Washington Post). WMATA decides not to drop the 5A bus to Dulles, since the Silver Line won't serve the airport for a few more years.
11. Railroad passenger service expansion moves forward. Plans to expand Union Station and to improve rail service between DC and Richmond continue to move forward. DC launches a "State Rail Plan" planning process ("State Rail Planning Initiative in DC"). Virginia Railway Express grows. Why doesn't the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation DC to Richmond Southeast High Speed Rail planning process hold a meeting in DC? C100 lawsuit against the Virginia Tunnel CSX expansion project fails.
12. Biking. DC proposes legalizing the Idaho Stop for bicycling. Former Episcopal Bishop gets serious jail time for killing a bicyclist while drunk ("Former Episcopal bishop Heather Cook sentenced to seven years for killing cyclist," Baltimore Sun). In DC, fines are supposed to go up for certain traffic infractions ("Violate DC traffic laws? It's gonna cost you — a lot," Washington Post).
After 12 years, Andy Clarke steps down as president of League of American Bicyclists (Q&A: The League's outgoing president on state of biking," BikePortland), goes to work for Toole Design, the transportation planning consulting firm based in Silver Spring, Maryland. Greg Billing succeeds Shane Farthing as director of Washington Area Bicyclist Association.
13. Richmond hosts UCI Road Racing world championships in September to such success that Discover Richmond Magazine and Richmond Magazine name bicycling as "Richmond's person of the year in 2015." The Virginia Capital Trail, a 55-mile path between Williamsburg and Richmond, is almost fully completed, over a ten year period, along with other bike infrastructure improvements spurred by the Road Championships.
14. More transit oriented development in Fairfax County in the catchment area of the Silver Line, accompanied with belated acknowledgement of the need to improve pedestrian access around Silver Line transit stations ("U-Va. professor takes steps to measure Tysons’ path to a pedestrian paradise," Washington Post, and ridership below projections ("Silver Line ridership in Tysons well below Metro estimates," WAMU-FM).
15. Car sharing. Car2Go expands to Arlington County, Virginia. Zipcar loses the franchise for car sharing exclusivity on WMATA station grounds to Enterprise Rent-a-car. In DC and other locations, Car2Go adds a $1 surcharge per trip, capped at $90/year.
More bikes and stations for bike sharing as Motivate, the successor firm to Alta Bike Share, invests in capacity, improvements, and innovation. More bike lanes. DC starts using brighter green paint in bike lanes. The Potomac Yard trail in Alexandria and Arlington opens.
Montgomery County starts a new bike master planning process, focusing on "comfort." Prince George's plans the Central Avenue Corridor trail ("Comments on Central Avenue Connector Trail concept") and looks to join in on bike sharing ("Prince George's considers connecting with Capital Bikeshare," Washington Post). Baltimore, after some failed attempts, looks to launch bike share service as well. Richmond too.
But why does DC continue to install bike non-compliant sewer grates? Why was the opportunity to build a cycle track on Military Road missed? ("Lost opportunity to build cycletrack on Military Road").
A Split vehicle on Dupont Circle.
17. New mobile-enabled transportation services continue to be launched in DC including jitney type services by Bridg and Split, carpooling via Uber, etc. I don't think they are the "game changers" claimed by the firms, but they do expand choices and facilitate mobility.
Local firm TransitScreen deploys transit information media presentations around the country.
18. More bike capacity on trains: weekend Penn Line MARC train service and simplified bike service now available on Amtrak along the C&O Canal National Park and Great Allegheny Passage trails between DC and Pittsburgh ("Amtrak Offers More Bike Service on the Capitol Limited").
Start-Up City, published by Island Press.
20. People continue to die in traffic accidents. In DC, more pedestrians die than motor vehicle operators and passengers ("Crossing a street in DC can be a dangerous undertaking," Washington Post).
But that makes sense to me, given that the nature of DC's road network means that extremely high speeds--a factor common to a preponderance of accidents nationally--are much less of an issue compared to driving conditions in the suburbs and exurbs.