Using the Silver Line as the priming event, what would a transit network improvement program look like for NoVA?
Today's Post article, "Va. community once primed for streetcar struggling to find new energy," about the revitalization malaise that has set in the Bailey's Crossroads area of Fairfax County since Arlington County cancelled plans to build a streetcar line in the Columbia Pike corridor, and yesterday's Post article, "When commuting in the DC region, distance doesn't tell the whole story" which makes the point that in terms of traveling east to west the DC metropolitan transit network has many gaps reminds me that I haven't yet written a series of posts around the "Fantasy High Frequency Transit Map," created by Paul J. Meissner, incorporating ideas from both of us.
Also see the 2011 post, "Short term vs. long term thinking: transit, the Washington Examiner, Fairfax/Loudoun Counties vs. DC," which discusses how the Silver Line wasn't so much about providing access to the Dulles Airport as much as it was rearticulating the land use planning paradigm in the Silver Line transit shed (station service catchment area) for the 21st century and the desire to live in more urbanized places.
And the 2015 post, "Silver Line reshaping the commercial office market in Fairfax County."
Washington/National Capital Region Map of Future (Potential) Rapid Transit Services. Designed by Paul J. Meissner, for the "Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space" blog.
Organizing principles for transit network expansion and improvement as incorporated into Paul Meissner's map. The basic idea was to shape the map with some general somewhat objective organizing principles. It wasn't just about drawing lines on a map, but trying to serve high use destinations, which is necessary to justify the investment.
For me it was first that the WMATA map only shows the subway lines, and it needs to show the railroad lines too, as is common in other cities with more frequent passenger rail service.
Second, the Metro Forward program doesn't do all that much for DC, so we need a better plan for transit expansion. Third, it was about trying to separate the blue and silver lines, and to some extent the yellow and green lines, to reduce "interlining" which ends up reducing capacity and decreasing reliability (see the discussion of this point here, "More on Redundancy, engineered resilience, and subway systems: Metrorail failures will increase without adding capacity in the core").
Fourth, at the same time using the separation of the lines to add capacity and service and intensification of land use by using the changes to bring about more high capacity service to more areas. And to intensify service by providing infill lines and stations.
For example, as discussed below, this concept would add 22 Metrorail stations to Northern Virginia.
But it also adds 26 stations in DC (note to Paul, on the Silver Line we're missing a station between West End and Thomas Circle, maybe 17th Street?), and 21 new Metrorail stations in Maryland.
Some of this is by extending some of the lines outward, and some is by adding lines within the current system footprint.
For Paul it was about using recommendations from adopted plans, as well as some key vision points, the likelihood of happening (which is why we had a tug of war between us about the Purple Line) as well as speed issues--he wasn't into "extending the Purple Line from Bethesda to Tysons" because it would be very slow if it isn't given dedicated right of way.
Paul also made keeping "a one seat ride to Downtown" a key principle in the design of the original Metrorail transit network, which is why he wouldn't accede to my changing the blue line so that it no longer would go directly into DC providing multiple station stops within the Central Business District. (Think of how the Blue Line truncates in this map, and a separate Brown Line emanates north from Georgetown--in the latest iteration, I wanted to combine these lines into a new Blue Line.).
Note that these ideas presuppose significant changes in organization, planning and funding arrangements concerning the transit system as discussed in hundreds of past blog entries.
First, it would start by creating a new overarching "transport association" bigger than WMATA ("The answer is: Create a single multi-state/regional multi-modal transit planning, management, and operations authority").
Second, it would require different funding arrangements, again, beyond WMATA ("What to do about WMATA?, the DC area transit system: the Federal City Council says create a Control Board" and "Metrolinx Toronto: 25 potential tools to fund transit-transportation infrastructure")
Note that now "I am very afraid" that if WMATA gets dedicated funding as major stakeholders are arguing for, it will circumscribe the ability for other transportation improvements to be able to get funding.
1. Create the DMV Transport Association
2. Create regularized transportation funding mechanisms for the metropolitan area and region that transcend individual operators like WMATA.
Purple Line series as a model for what could be done in Northern Virginia. I have a series of posts on how complementary transit network improvements could be made simultaneous with the building and launch of the Purple Line light rail in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties:
-- Part 1 | the principles
-- Part 2 | the program (macro changes)
-- Part 3 | influences
-- Part 4 | Making over New Carrollton as a transit-centric urban center and Prince George's County's "New Downtown"
-- Part 5 | Creating a Signature Streets sustainable mobility road network in the core of Silver Spring (to come)
Silver Line as a priming event for improving the transit network in Northern Virginia. As with the missed opportunity (so far) to utilize the Purple Line as a way to push improvements across the transit network, the Silver Line should have been and still could be utilized similarly in Northern Virginia.
Of course, it should have been leveraged at the outset by DC as a way to build the separated Silver Line within DC, something I have been writing about since 2006 ("The Silver Line WMATA story that WJLA-TV missed"), which would have added an additional northern subway crossing across the Potomac River.
I don't have the same level of fine grained knowledge about NoVA that I do wrt Montgomery and PG Counties, so writing a super detailed piece comparable in scope to the Purple Line series is beyond me.
It is unfortunate that the improvements to the transit network from the Silver Line, a streetcar on Columbia Pike, and the expansion and improvements of the Virginia Railway Express weren't laid out as three parts of a complete package, with the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
Refer to the discussion in Part 2 | the program (macro changes for more details on many of the points below referenced as part of the PL writing.
Note that the Phase 2 of the Silver Line is scheduled to open in 2020, so the time line as proposed wrt the Purple Line doesn't work in terms of Northern Virginia
for Northern Virginia
1. Separating the Silver Line from the Orange Line by extending the line south to Rte. 50 and then east along the street to Rosslyn. That would provide six new stations: West Street; Falls Church; Seven Corners; Arlington Forest; Ashton Heights; and Fort Myer. Continuing the Silver Line from its endpoint at Ashburn to Leesburg should be considered also, which isn't depicted on the above map.
2. Extending the Orange Line west, adding four stations: Fairfax City/GMU; Fair Oaks; Fair Lakes; and Centreville.
3. Extending the Yellow Line south on Rte. 1 to Fort Belvoir, adding four stations: Beacon Hill; Hybla Valley; Mount Vernon; and Fort Belvoir. (This should have been done as part of BRAC planning, something I first suggested in 2005.)
4. The map also acknowledges the planned infill Potomac Yard station on the Blue and Yellow Lines, and proposes an infill station, called East Potomac Park, serving the west side of the National Mall near Jefferson Memorial, within DC.
5. A new Pink Line rapid transit line (subway) is proposed serving Northern Virginia in the Columbia Pike corridor, with service to DC, adding eight stations in Northern Virginia: Lincolnia; Seminary Road; Skyline Center/NOVA Community College; Baileys Crossroads; Barcroft; Pike Town Center; Penrose Square; and Air Force Memorial. The heavy rail Pink Line addresses the malaise in the Columbia Pike corridor identified in the Post article.
This c. 1990 WMATA proposed extensions map shows a line out Columbia Pike. Note the stations for Annandale and Baileys Crossroads. It proposed a terminus in Manassas.
The Pink Line is Paul's concept, and includes some of my input concerning service beyond Silver Spring in Montgomery County. Note that original system planning for the Metrorail envisioned a line like this out Columbia Pike, but unlike our line which continues past the Silver Spring Metrorail station, the WMATA proposal terminated there.
That's why there is the clump of high density apartment buildings in Fairfax County out that way, not unlike how the area around what became PG Plaza Metrorail Station bulked up starting in the late 1960s, in response to future plans for what became the Green Line ("Back to the Future," Washington Business Journal). From the article:
When University Town Center opens in June, it will offer the typical fare Washingtonians can't resist. A movie theater will beam the latest flicks onto 14 state-of-the art screens. Condos and apartments will overlook a central plaza dotted with art, fountains and natural greenery. Sushi and wine, burgers and brews will tempt taste buds.
It will be exactly how developer Herschel Blumberg envisioned it. In 1961.
6. Integration of various Bus Rapid Transit improvements into a unified network (shown on the map as green lines). (In part, Item 10 on the PL list.)
7. Set the opening of the Purple Line as the deadline for the integration of the MARC Penn Line and VRE Fredericksburg Line into one combined railroad passenger service line ("A new backbone for the regional transit system: merging the MARC Penn and VRE Fredericksburg Lines"). (Item 13 in the PL list) Note that separately, MARC is planning to extend the Penn Line to Delaware (and/or alternatively, extend SEPTA service from Newark, Delaware to Perryville, Maryland).
8. Introduce bi-directional railroad service between DC and Fredericksburg in association with the combination of the MARC Penn and VRE Fredericksburg Lines into one integrated service.
9. Integrate the Crystal City railroad station into the ground transportation system of National Airport ("A brief comment on ground transportation at National Airport vis a vis VRE rail service") to better leverage railroad access to the airport, comparable to ground transportation and marketing services for the rail connection from the BWI MARC/Amtrak station to BWI Airport.
10. Integrate VRE/MARC fares into the SmarTrip/ CharmCard fare media system (Item 3 in PL list).
11. Extend the Purple Line light rail from Bethesda to Tysons, using dedicated right of way, including on the American Legion Bridge.
The original Purple Line concept connects the various heavy rail lines in Northern Virginia and Maryland, providing better east-west connections on the north and south sides of the transit network. Sierra Club Metro DC graphic.
12. Consider a redesign and rebranding of the the metropolitan area's bus systems into an integrated family of transit agencies linked by a common graphic design treatment, comparable to that of GoTransit in the Raleigh-Durham area (Item 12 in the PL list).
13. Set the opening of the Purple Line as the deadline for the implementation of a full-fledged integrated Night Owl bus network for the DC metropolitan area (Item 14 in the PL list).
14. Provide integrated train arrival information screens at Metrorail, Light Rail, and VRE/MARC stations (Item 7 in the PL list).
15. Provide integrated bus arrival and departure information screens at Metrorail, Light Rail, and VRE/MARC stations and bus-only transit stations (Item 8 in the PL list).
16. Incorporate quantum improvements in bicycle facilities across the mobility network in association with the launch of the Purple Line (Item 16 in the PL list). This item has a number of components, including definition of a regional bikeway network, creating a regional bikeways map, creating a system of secure public bike parking stations across the region, etc.
17. Rearticulate transportation demand management programming and services in conjunction with the PL launch, including a unified network of "customer information centers" (Item 17 in the PL list). Arlington was the first jurisdiction in the area to launch "Commuter Stores," promoting alternatives to driving alone, in particular transit. Other jurisdictions including Fairfax County have similar programs. A complete network should created, rebranded, and relaunched along with the rebranding of the area's bus systems as mentioned in Item 11 above.
18. WMATA should upgrade its Metrorail station bus shelters (Item 18 in the PL list).
19. Create sustainable mobility districts and corridors as appropriate, complementing the transit network improvements, especially in the Tysons area, which is planned, but far behind in implementation. This is discussed in Item 19 on the PL list, and will be the subject of a dedicated post, using Silver Spring as an example.
Another example is WABA's proposal for the development of a cycle track network and concomitant improvements in the Arlington Boulevard corridor.
-- Long Bridge Project
Note that in the planning for this bridge, I don't believe it has been suggested but I think that there should be a dedicated bus transitway also, providing redundancy and increased capacity for bus transit service between DC and Northern Virginia.
And it will take a lot longer than 6 years, sadly, to build that bridge extension. But because all of Virginia's plans for railroad expansion are dependent on it, it will happen.
21. I would add a heritage streetcar service for the National Mall including service to Arlington Cemetery and Rosslyn, as discussed here, "A National Mall-focused heritage (replica) streetcar service to serve visitors is way bigger idea than a parking garage under the Mall" and "New DC Circulator route serving National Mall reminds us that we are neglecting connections from west to east and fail to adequately connect Georgetown to the National Mall."
23. (I still need to write about it) adoption of the City of Alexandria wayfinding signage system as a regional best practice, and porting the system to other jurisdictions.
24. Incorporate the proposed VRE system improvements plan into this program.
-- VRE System Plan 2040
-- Transform 66 in Northern Virginia - Outside the Beltway: FAQs
-- Transform 66 in Northern Virginia - Inside the Beltway
26. Improve funding for local transit in Prince William County. See "With sustained reduction in gasoline prices, will suburban transit systems lose ridership and revenue?"
27. Integrate the long distance commuter bus network into a unified system. This is somewhat the case wrt Maryland in terms of the route network but not in the branding of buses as service is provided under multiple banners/liveries, although the system isn't good with bi-directional service (such as from DC to Annapolis).
Northern Virginia has separate long distance commuter bus services for each jurisdiction: Loudoun County; Prince William County; and Fredericksburg. The first two are public agencies (Loudoun Transit, OmniRide), the latter service is provided by a for profit contractor. Each uses a different livery.
Perhaps like with how GO Transit in Ontario has both commuter bus and rail services and one common branding system, in line with my RACER concept for merging MARC and VRE ("One big idea: Getting MARC and Metrorail to integrate fares, stations, and marketing systems, using London Overground as an example"), the commuter bus network in Maryland and Virginia could be similarly rebranded as the RACER commuter bus network, and like with GoTransit in Raleigh-Durham, the rebranding could be launched in part with a common graphic design treatment across the now differentiated fleets of buses. (RACER stands for Railroad Authority of the Chesapeake Region.)
Bi-directional services should be added to certain routes.
GO Bus also has some double deck buses (see "Making bus service sexy and more equitable") which is something that should be considered also.
In any case, rebranding and repositioning commuter bus service as part of the Washington metropolitan and regional transit network is worth considering as part of an integrated transit network improvement program.