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, October 09, 2019

A "Transformational Projects Action Plan" for a statewide passenger railroad program in Maryland


Executive Summary: Using the positioning device of "Climate Change" and the fact that Maryland, Virginia, and DC are members of the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states which aims to take a joint approach to reducing the impact on climate change from transportation-related activities, Maryland (and Virginia) should develop a statewide approach to the promotion and extension of railroad passenger service, beyond the current approach which is focused on moving Marylanders to and from DC for work.

-- "Nine States and D.C. to Design Regional Approach to Cap Greenhouse Gas Pollution from Transportation"


MARCUsing what I call the "Transformational Projects Action Planning" approach, which suggests that master planning approaches include an element outlining anchor projects to drive the plan forward it's worth outlining a program for Maryland's railroad passenger program.

It's especially relevant in light of a couple recent articles, GGW's "Maryland wants to slash its funding for transit, and it would hit Baltimore hard," in response to the State of Maryland's proposal in the Consolidated Transportation Program, the six-year capital program for the state's transportation program, which proposes to cut funding for transit significantly, and the piece, "On Transit, Pondering What Might Be and Lamenting What Might Have Been," in Maryland Matters about a recent forum on transit/transportation sponsored by the Greater Baltimore Co.mmittee and the Greater Washington Partnership.
  • In 2006, I started writing pieces about how Maryland and Virginia should merge their railroad passenger programs and develop a more expansive service profile, based on a bunch of ideas first outlined by Dan Malouff/BeyondDC in the late 1990s.
-- "A regional railroad passenger transportation vision for DC, MD, VA, WV and parts of PA"

Proposed map of a Washington-Baltimore regional rail system

Railroad system Washington-Baltimore region

-- "Why don't Maryland and West Virginia think about expanding MARC into a true regional system?," 2012
-- "More on Union Station DC and the need for innovative master planning," 2011
-- "DC State Rail planning," 2015
  • Later I called the proposed service RACER, for Railroad Authority for the Chesapeake Region [insert cool graphic here].
-- "Regional transportation planning and fixed rail service," 2009
Overground, London UK
  • To provide more regularized commuter services comparable to S-BAHN service in Germany, RER in Paris, or the London Overground, I laid out a program to better integrate DC area Metrorail with regular railroad service using the London Overground model
-- "One big idea: Getting MARC and Metrorail to integrate fares, stations, and marketing systems, using London Overground as an example," 2015
  • To move this idea along, I suggested merging the MARC Penn Lines and the VRE Fredericksburg Line into one line, and worrying about the rest of the program later
-- "A new backbone for the regional transit system: merging the MARC Penn and VRE Fredericksburg Lines," 2017

It would also have the advantage of providing the opportunity for real railroad service to and from National Airport.

-- "A brief comment on ground transportation at National Airport vis a vis VRE rail service," 2016
  • Also to provide a means for implementation, I suggested the creation of a German style "transport association" linking transportation planning organizations and mobility providers including transit agencies across DC, Maryland, and Virginia.
-- "The answer is: Create a single multi-state/regional multi-modal transit planning, management, and operations authority association," 2017
(The Purple Line will connect to all three existing MARC lines)
-- Item #3 calls for integrating MARC fares into the SmarTrip/CharmCard fare system
-- Item #4 proposes all day bi-directional service on the Brunswick Line
-- Item #5 proposes a more Metro-like fare system on the Brunswick Line between Montgomery County and DC
-- Item #6 proposes that the proposed White Flint infill MARC station be built forthwith
-- Item #7 proposes an infill MARC station in Northeast DC
-- Item #14 reiterates the concept of merging the MARC Penn and VRE Fredericksburg lines to spur the creation of a regional passenger railroad system

A passenger rail vision for all of Maryland, not just getting to and from DC.  It's not like Maryland doesn't do rail planning.  In 2007, Maryland produced a wide ranging program for rail expansion, including more service, bi-directional service on the Brunswick Line, and weekend service on the Penn Line.

-- MARC Growth and Investment Plan (2007), Maryland MTA
-- MARC Growth and Investment Plan Update: 2013 to 2050 (2013), Maryland MTA
-- MARC Growth and Investment Plan: Overview and Status Update (2018), Maryland MTA

But this was just before the onset of the Great Financial Crisis and instead of expanding, the system pulled back.  Since the plan, only weekend Penn Line service has come to fruition.

Today, the 2007 document isn't even on the Maryland DOT website. Although to be fair, MDOT is updating the plan in the meantime.

But the big problem with the plan from a vision or "Transformational Projects Action Planning" approach is that Maryland's railroad planning is DC-centric, focused primarily on getting commuters to DC for work and then back home.

It's not focused on developing a broad program of railroad passenger service for the entire state, with the aim of creating a full-fledged network with frequent service--I call this network breadth and network depth--and if not 24/7 service, at least 18/7 service, so that most of the state can benefit from passenger railroad service.

That's how metropolitan rail service works in Germany, where the suburban "commuter" rail system (S-bahn for suburban railroad) is tightly integrated into the overall transit planning program for each major city, providing a backbone for the system, but also providing passenger service more generally, rather than being a true commuter service, focused primarily on providing transportation during the 9-5 workday.

New rail routes "Beyond DC."  MARC service today is based on historical passenger railroad service patterns.  By the 1970s, three Maryland-based commuter services still existed, serving Baltimore and Washington: the Penn Line from Perryville to DC; the Camden Line from Baltimore to DC; and the Brunwick Line from Martinsburg, WV to DC.  The latter two were provided by the B&O Railroad (CSX); the Penn Line by Penn Central and later Conrail.

MTA Maryland/MARC commuter railroad Map
MTA Maryland/MARC commuter railroad map

Starting in 1974, in response to threatened cuts in service, Maryland began providing subsidies to these routes, first to the B&O lines and then to Conrail.  When Congress mandated that Conrail, which inherited the Penn Line commuter service, cease providing passenger services, Maryland paid Amtrak to run the line.

In 1984, the state's railroad operations were organized into and branded as MARC and over time operational arrangements for the three lines have changed.  In Maryland and Virginia, Amtrak also provides some complementary service.

(In Virginia, this is provided under the rubric of the Amtrak Virginia program spearheaded by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.  In fact Gov. Northam of Virginia has declared October "Passenger Rail Month" to bring more attention to the Amtrak Virginia program.)

The first BeyondDC graphic, "Washington-Baltimore Regional Rail" shows the basic concept of a statewide rail passenger program, although some parts of the state aren't covered.

1.  To set the stage, merge the MARC Penn Line and the Virginia Railway Express Fredericksburg Line, to provide through running and Maryland connections to key Northern Virginia destinations, especially Crystal City, which will be home to Amazon's HQ2, and National Airport, along with a direct connection to L'Enfant Plaza in DC.

This is dependent on an expansion of Long Bridge, the rail bridge connecting DC and Virginia, to four tracks (Plan for Long Bridge expansion moves forward," Washington Post) and is in keeping with Virginia's goals concerning rail expansion.

VRE, Virginia Railway Express commuter railroad map
VRE, Virginia Railway Express commuter railroad map

2.  Beyond the current lines, it shows the following changes to the service footprint in Maryland:
  • An extension of the existing Penn Line service from its endpoint in Perryville to Wilmington Delaware where it would connect to the SEPTA service out of Philadelphia
  • Service between Annapolis, the State Capital and Washington
  • Service between Baltimore and Annapolis
  • Service between Baltimore and Westminster in Carroll County
  • Service between Baltimore and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
  • Service between Martinsburg, West Virginia and Hagerstown, Maryland.
3.  The second BeyondDC graphic shows the potential for three more extensions:
Easton, Maryland train station, Baltimore, Chesapeake and Atlantic Railway

4.  I would add two additional lines not shown on either graphic:
  • Service between DC and Southern Maryland, especially Charles County, but including stations in DC between Union Station and the DC-Maryland state line
  • Although an MTA study, the Southern Maryland Commuter Rail Service Feasibility Study proposes service to Charles and St. Mary's County by branching off from the Penn Line, whereas my idea was to do this via DC south from Union Station
Maryland MTA proposal for rail passenger service to Charles and St. Mary's Counties
  • Consideration of the addition of a line to the I-270 corridor, from Frederick to Bethesda and then to DC and Northern Virginia (it would be electrified and a goodly portion would run in a tunnel created through cut and cover construction under I-270).
Interstate_270My second MARC line in Montgomery County might not be necessary, but it would be better placed to capture traffic and passengers more directly in the I-270 corridor, which I argue should be consider edfrom a corridor management approach there, rather than reflexively pushing HOT lanes.

It should be studied and is mentioned as an item in "Revisiting the Purple Line (series) and a more complete program of complementary improvements to the transit network," 2019.


5.  Adding infill stations across the existing system, such as:
  • the three stations for Baltimore proposed in the original Growth and Investment Plan but later dropped: Bayview and Madison Square in East Baltimore; and Upton in West Baltimore
  • in DC in the New York Avenue corridor on both the Camden and Penn Lines
  • in DC at Fort Totten as a redundancy platform vis-a-vis Union Station (although the Silver Spring MARC station also serves this function, etc.
6.  Finally, considering opportunities for the Eastern Shore and the Camden Line more thoroughly.

My previous writings never anticipated a significant change in the profile of the Camden line service because the stations aren't particularly well-placed to generate significant ridership increases, but an objective study would evaluate the line for changes also.

Conclusion/Positioning.  The reality is that the current governor, Republican Larry Hogan, does not support transit.  But he has continued to support efforts by the State of Maryland in association with other Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states for joint initiatives aimed at staunching climate change through the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

Perhaps by positioning this approach in that vein, as well as serving many more parts of Maryland outside of the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas, and in terms of creating a legacy that would be unmatched by any other U.S. state, at least at this time (no state really has a statewide railroad transportation program quite like this) maybe Governor Hogan can be convinced to support the expansion of MARC into a true statewide passenger rail service that goes far beyond its existing footprint as a DC-focused commuter rail service.

Other states should do two stage rail planning too.  All states with some form of rail passenger service have created state rail plans in order to comply with the federal Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008. Some plans are better than others. I can't say I've read many of the plans.

But none of the plans lay out a bigger vision for a complete state-based passenger rail network, unlike the existence of a complete road and freeway network.  It's unlikely any of the plans I haven't read are organized at the two scales I propose here:

(1) a big vision, Transformational Projects Action Plan and

(2) what is called a "Constrained Plan" based on the availability of capital both current and reasonably projected.  (Also see "New Transportation Planning Paradigm: Constraints-Based
Planning in the Era of Limited Transportation Funds
.")

Note that the MARC plan for 2050 isn't particularly visionary. It calls for additional service, but not a lot more service, and more dedicated tracks where needed in the current footprint, but it doesn't call for any passenger railroad service outside of the basic footprint provided today. It definitely doesn't call for full bi-directional service on the Brunswick Line between Frederick and DC.

And really, this is merely trying to re-create what once existed.

-- Kilduff's archive of Maryland railroad stations

(if you click on the map it goes to the much larger image at the Library of Congress)  This railroad map dates to 1876.
New railroad map of the state of Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia. Compiled and drawn by Frank Arnold Gray, 1876

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9 Comments:

At 9:47 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Are you still in town?

Off topic:

https://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2019/10/financialization-as-symptom.html


One critique here -- what is missing is how to pay for this.

Also, how to use existing railroad tracks for more commuter rail.

I have no knowledge of how MD budgets for MARC. I believe that most of the VRE money is coming from the NVTC.

I'd say off the top of head that a multistage compact (WMATA) is not going to work again from a combined VRE/MARC service.

 
At 9:24 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

umm, not exactly. But I will be back soon, dealing with Eastern Market study.

2. Yes, no $. How do they do it in Germany? Part of it is that their land use paradigm is still more transit oriented.

In the US, obviously, it isn't, so we have the issues we do.

E.g., even electric cars (irrespective of the battery etc. issue) are "bad" for the environment because they discourage tighter connections between land use and mobility.

3. So this piece is kind of the fourth part of a three part series I have partially written/outlined.

The first is how to promote rail passenger service a lot better, including a proposal for National Train Month, expanding from National Train Day (Amtrak no longer does this) but opening up participation to the entire industry.

(It probably needs to be broken up into two, with the Train Month concept as one standalone piece.)

The third is how advocates are pushing Massachusetts to think of the entire state for rail service, and the results of an opinion survey by MassINC on resident attitudes about this. (They aren't quite at the thinking about a state level, but a bunch of initiatives outside of MBTA is leading there.)

The second is how to privatize, although it isn't fully privatized, Japan Railways broke up into units, mostly geographically bound. And how this might be a better model for Amtrak, say 6 different units, each charged with maximizing rail service.

(Both this piece and the first one have been influenced by my watching of "Japan Railway Journal" on NHK, which has spurred me to learn more about railway organization and promotion in Japan.)

And to do so there would be a requirement to set up a VV, and states would have to develop a vision plan and a constrained plan. They all do constrained plans, but not a vision plan. (I don't remember the details enough, but that's the issue in Virginia.)

I don't know exactly how it works in California with Joint Powers Authorities (if I had the time I would try to interview someone at Orange County Transportation Authority, which runs Metrolink; similarly BART operates Caltrain). But they bring together multiple jurisdictions and it seems to work.

(Note tha California is probably too big to have a statewide plan in the way that Maryland could. But with train service in SoCal and Greater SF, they do a good job.)

Anyway, the VV model is what I would propose. The compact the way it works now wouldn't work.

WRT your point about VRE, yep, and given that the legislature has been controlled by Republicans, that was probably the only way to do it. But the stte does have DRPT, and Amtrak Virginia has been an initiative under Democratic and Republican administrations.

 
At 9:45 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

WRT more freight tracks and commuter rail, basically the public has to pay for more tracks, because the freight companies have priority and they are private companies.

It's unfortunate that this is the legacy of how railroads were created by the private sector, but rail lines are really a nationally-important resource that should have greater public interest planning involved in their use and disposition.

And money... well, HOT lanes are financed and built by the private sector but paid by tolls.

This would be the kind of long term infrastructure that should be supported by an infrastructure bank, etc. It would be key to repatterning the land use paradigm.

====
While I think Obama was right to pursue HSR and it was too worrisome to the right because it challenged automobility and was a convenient way to oppose anything the democrats did, at the same time, since, I've been thinking while the moonshot is great, maybe we should do some blocking and tackling wrt restoring railroad service more generally.

Obviously, there are models like Boston, Greater NY, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Caltrain and Metrolink in California -- and with the two services in Cal., Caltrain is going gangbusters in terms of use while Metrolink is stagnant, but Metrolink is an impressive service nonetheless.

But there are many places where gaps in the system could have been addressed, opportunities for growth.

I don't know if the private initiatives in FL, TX and NV-CA are the way to go, but it does indicate gaps in the service footprint and at least there, potentially worthwhile enough to serve for the private sector to fill (well, in reality I don't think so, because the price to take the train for the private sector rises quickly, and doesn't scale the way a car trip does--it's the same cost for 1, 2, 3 or 4 people, but transit use raises cost for each additional passenger).

I read that Metrolink is asking for some of the HSR money to do service improvements in SoCal.

Making rail great in SoCal and Greater SF would have been a great thing under Obama.

Fixing lots of gaps in the Chicago area network, better integration and expansion of rai outside of Chicago to adjoining states. Making a state network in Massachusetts, connecting North and South stations. Expanding rail outside of the Metro-North footprint deeper into Upstate New York.

Electrifying the line from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh. Bringing back some of the lines that SEPTA shut down once they built the Central City Connector which required that all lines be electric to go underground in Downtown Philadelphia.
Extending the northeast corridor to Richmond. The Long Bridge.

Building from there the "Southeast Corridor."

3rd railing the Brunswick Line to get bi-directional service between DC and Frederick.

And not RR, but extending the subway to LaGuardia Airport.

Lots and lots of projects could have been initiated and they would have strengthened the rail network in ways that could be further built upon.

But without those big vision plans as an outline, you don't have the ability to move any of that forward when the once in a generation opportunity comes along.

 
At 9:52 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

WRT financialization. Umm, I'm not totally smart enough to fully understand that stuff. That the need to drive capitalism required it because of a money gap.

In my pea brain way, I think of financialization in terms of Toys R Us or Bonton or various supermarket chains and other businesses being driven out of business because private equity did asset stripping, took out big dividends, and left little capital in the firms so that they couldn't reinvest and so people stopped going there, and made them much more vulnerable to the slightest change in economic conditions, including being super vulnerable to the least negative occurrences.

But then, you could argue a company like Danaher is financially driven, and the way they deal with companies is completely different from private equity or even other companies like GE.

It's the difference between creating value and destroying value. Danaher creates lots of value.

... other value destroyers include the that Brazilian company which with Buffett bought Heinz and Kraft.

Decades ago, I didn't totally understand it, but Boston Consulting Group had this matrix for conglomerates where one of the boxes was for declining entities that still generated good profits.

Maybe that's how you categorize Kraft (although not since the changes) because the trends for food consumption doesn't favor the kinds of processed foods they produce.

But then again, there were still opportunities. But the company by cutting back on R&D/investment accelerated the decline.

To me, that's financialization.

 
At 9:57 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

when the dude running Safeway retired, there were big features in the two main trade magazines, and I criticized the one big magazine for not mentioning at all how Safeway destroyed value in their acquisitions of chains in Chicago and Philadelphia (the firms they bought ended up being dissolved after years of poor operation) and Texas (big declines in revenue, but the companies still operate).

I clearly hit a nerve because they responded, saying they did cover these stories as they unfolded.

But that was clearly so much of Steve Burd's legacy too, and an important lesson for others.

E.g., a big difference between Safeway and Kroger in terms of acquisitions.

But then, Kroger has if not destroyed value, not captured nearly as much of it as they could such as with the convenience stores they ended up selling off, etc. (By contrast, Giant Eagle has figured out how to cross-promote brands in their convenience store division and to use them to drive more business across the company's three divisions.)

 
At 10:04 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

FWIW, one of the cited pieces

https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2019/09/13/theft-or-exploitation-a-review-of-stolen-by-grace-blakeley/

if you read deeper into it, gets more to how I think about it, although as an economist, he is writing specifically about capitalism as financialization as outlined in the book, whereas I am thinking about it in that way sure, but also as a process of what we might call "reproducing" a business in deleterious ways.

But I guess we could just call that asset stripping and piling on debt, and there is nothing new in that, it's just operating on steroids now.

 
At 11:21 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

RE: HSR/Funding

https://www.psrc.org/sites/default/files/peer2019apr08-pres-mvg.pdf

https://www.railjournal.com/passenger/commuter-rail/germany-increases-regional-rail-funding/

No idea on how it all works. Looks like S-bahn does not own the rails, pays an access charge. Then federal funding on top of it. The munich powerpoint is quite amazing.

But yes, a federal push on commuter rail (rather than HSR) mandating some of entity that can assign service standards ) would be helpful.

Having one entity collect all firebox would probably also be good as you can use that for financing -- like Moses used Bridge and Tunnel.

The guy writing the finalization piece is a hard-core marxist and believes that capitalism failed in 1973. Again I'd point to the post-briton wood decision to use a reserve currency. I had a number of other links of austerity lined up as well but now lost.

Not pointing at austerity here, the separate issue is the way we maintain things in the county is borderline criminal (See PG&E power lines)-- only a place like Italy is as bad in the rest of the world.

 
At 2:25 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Thanks for this.

WRT your point about the US and maintenance of infrastructure

1. I have always considered it damning when one of the justifications for 3P projects is "forced maintenance" because contract provisions require it, while if it were operated by the public sector likely maintenance standards would be minimal and underfunded.

The solution shouldn't be outsourcing, but paying what's required for maintenance.

2. I still remember an early to mid-1990s cover story in the City Paper about this and DC, and how (1) because capital funding is separate from operating, mostly agencies would rather let infrastructure deteriorate because they preferred to use operating monies for other things, and then would periodically replaced nonfunctioning equipment.

(2) they suggested instead of say the schools, and housing, and other agencies have separate boiler maintenance people, why not consolidate such functions?

Now that's what Fenty did, with master contracts say for cutting grass for all DC facilities, rather than parks and schools etc. all doing their own thing.

OTOH, it's not clear to me that DGS works super well either. That their doing project management for parks projects etc. finds that they don't have any content knowledge people driving the process, just people with construction and contract management skills.

But in doing some research on Eastern Market dating to the 1970s, back then there was a DGS too. I guess some time later it was dissolved and responsibilities devolved to the agencies with the exception of "property management" which went through various permutations.

But the other problem is constant churn of top level management. It makes it hard to focus, to maintain continuity, or to develop institutional knowledge.

 
At 10:30 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Virginia passenger rail initiative:

https://ggwash.org/view/74274/commonwealth-corridor-rail-route-may-run-from-the-blue-ridge-mountains-to-beach

 

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