Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Metrorail closes for an entire day for safety repairs

After Monday's fire, which impacted the Orange/Silver/Blue line service for much of the day, WMATA GM Paul Wiedefeld announced that the heavy rail subway system would close for the entire day on Wednesday, so that all the cable housings in the system can be inspected and repaired if necessary ("Washington braces for full day of Metrorail shutdown to deal with safety concerns," Washington Post).

The Metrorail system carries more than 700,000 riders/day and there aren't good transit alternatives when the system is down.  The federal government announced workers can take unscheduled leave or telework so that they don't have to come into the office.  But many people have to get to work regardless.

One railcar has the carrying capacity of about 2.5 buses so more than 2,000 buses would be required to provide roughly equivalent service, although buses in street traffic can't travel as fast as trains do on dedicated right of way.

The first graphic is from a WMATA planning document and provides comparative information on different types of high capacity transit.  The second diagram compares capacity of different types of transit vehicles in terms of "equivalent bus units."  A 1.0 rating equals about 60-80 riders.

Note that some people have suggested that such a shutdown should have occurred over the weekend, so that the ability to commute by transit would have been maintained and because that would have provided enough time to organize transit alternatives, when there would also be much less transit demand compared to a weekday workday.

Parallel bus service along the Metrorail system.  In the past I have suggested that a Metrorail Night Owl bus service be created, to provide service across the Metrorail network when it is otherwise closed ("Night moves: the need for more night time (and weekend) transit service, especially when the subway is closed").

That could be a model for emergency transit service when Metrorail is closed.

-- WMATA bus maps

Metrobus DC map.

Bus service on major arterials within DC.  Within the city, the bus network runs on the major arterials and many of these bus lines carry between 14,000 and 21,000 people per day.  These lines can substitute for some of today's lost transit service.

Limited high capacity bus service between DC and Maryland or DC and Virginia.  But generally, few high capacity bus routes traverse the borders between DC and Maryland or DC and Virginia.

For example, the 30s bus line in DC ends at Friendship Heights on the DC/Maryland border, rather than continue on Rockville Pike.  The 70s bus line on Georgia Avenue does end at the Silver Spring Metro Station in Maryland, and different Metrobus services provide service further up Georgia Avenue to Wheaton, and via Viers Mill Road to Rockville.

Suburban regular bus service.  Generally, each jurisdiction runs its own intra-jurisdiction bus service, generally for lower demand routes, while Metrobus provides cross-border service and higher capacity service.  Some services cross borders, for example, some Fairfax Connector service goes to Crystal City in Arlington.

Commuter bus service.  Further out suburbs in Maryland and Virginia have long distance commuter bus service to and from DC and certain other high demand employment services.  These routes are limited, and don't substitute for rail service, but can divert hundreds of car trips.

-- Commuter Bus - Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission
-- Commuter Bus | Maryland Transit Administration
-- Martz Fredericksburg commuter bus service

Unfortunately, there is no master map or webpage showing this type of service in a comprehensive manner, regardless of provider, as an element of the region's transit network.  An example of the kind of map that can be created is the Meinfernbus inter-city bus network in Germany, which also provides limited service to cities in adjoining countries.

Bike share. Capital Bikeshare announced they would offer free memberships today, and have set up some corrals in the core to check in bikes, if stations are otherwise full.

But to be clear, bike share provides personal or individual transit. It doesn't substitute for mass transit. By definition a bike carries one person at a time, a bus 60 or more people, a 6-car subway train over 700 people, an 8-car subway train more than 1,000 people, etc.

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At 10:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

situations like this are what makes bicycling a great way to get around or as a backup- especially if you live closer to work than most others choose to do

At 8:45 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

in the comments on the previous entry, charlie mentioned a Post piece on WMATA research about the impact of Metrorail on the knitting together of a "regional" economy vs. a splintering of the economy.

The thing is that as DC adds population and continues, hopefully, to attract office tenants and hopefully can retain the bulk of its federal employment, in a way it can afford "to splinter off" the regional economy in terms of being able to have and support locally obtainable goods and services, housing, jobs, entertainment, etc., so that you don't have to travel out of the city that much if you don't want to.

Then bicycling, transit, car sharing, microtransit enable you to get around without having to rely on a car, without worrying too much about getting around generally.

And yes, with a bike, depending on where you live, you can get to many many places within about 30 minutes (5-6 mile radius).

If we could get to the point of a 20% bike mode share, it would be incredible. It's possible, but requires a lot of programming and social marketing, which typically bike planners aren't too attuned.

At 9:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just in case you didn't see this egregiously silly screed from a few days ago, courtesy of the WaPo editorial board, the link is below. Lots of interesting points in the comment section.
Since our CM Evans is now board chair at WMATA and seems adamant about throwing lots of money at Metro's "problems" to "solve" them, I was most struck by a few fairly intelligent comments contradicting that as a blanket solution.
As a regular, sporadic user (but not a commuter), it has been evident (to me at least) that Metro has been noticeably physically declining, especially in the original core stations, over the last decade which is only natural. Nothing lasts forever.
FYI: Rode the other day on what seemed to be a new car--squarish, boxy and ribbed silver metal outside and bright, sterile, molded seating inside--very unlike any other Metro car I've ever seen. Kind of reminded me of what a new NYC subway car might look like.

At 10:57 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

WRT commuter buses, Peter Dovak just did a conceptual map showing the basic services. He didn't include the Fredericksburg service.

But comments in thread alert us to two other services:

- a private service from New Carrollton to Annapolis

- and a service between Culpeper-Warrenton and DC

At 10:57 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...


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