According to the Post, the DC Office of Planning calls on residents to submit negative comments because of the impact on the area where the station is proposed--Mount Vernon Triangle--rather than at Union Station, which was proposed in earlier maglev iterations. From the article:
A maglev station in the Mount Vernon Square area has the potential to change the character of the neighborhood and bring “substantial construction and long-term operational implications on nearby properties,” Andrew Trueblood, director of the D.C. Office of Planning, said in a statement that urged residents and city leaders to engage in the federal review of the multibillion-dollar project.
Um, duh. Any new infrastructure project causes problems while under construction and leads to change. It's rare when the change isn't beneficial (other than road widening).
Comment period open until April 21st.
The comment period is open til April 21st, 2021
and the full document is available at the Federal Railroad Administration website, Baltimore Washington Superconducting Maglev Project
Previous reservations of my own. I haven't been "all in" myself, because of fears of transit balkanization--for example Maryland's Governor is into maglev, but not in investing in Maryland's extant passenger rail system--because it will take so long to build--the projected opening would be 2030 just to get to Baltimore, and likely 10-20 more years to get to New York City, because just being from DC to Baltimore, and expensive--trip fares will be expensive, $60 one way, albeit for a 15 minute trip, it will draw energy away from Amtrak's separate plans to upgrade the Northeast Corridor, and because it will probably be after I am dead before the line reaches New York City.
But an objective approach is required. OTOH, just because I'll be dead by the time Northeast Maglev provides service to New York City or Boston shouldn't mean that we don't take a proper and expansive transportation planning approach to the project.
Plus, it allows us to look at it in multiple dimensions.
(1) push vision and revolutionary practice forward within a particular project
(2) move other related projects forward simultaneously, resulting in greater success overall.
Maglev Advantages. (1) Super Fast. (2) Can serve as a backbone for a wider passenger rail network, which would feed passengers to and from the maglev route. (3) Will link major cities in the Mid-Atlantic, eventually, so will have the power of being a network, not of lines, but of places. (4) Sustainable mode, powered by electricity. Can displace environmentally costly airplane travel over short distances. (5) Mid Atlantic states can generate offshore power cheaply (eventually) and sustainably. (6) Not necessarily limited to existing railroad right of way corridors.
Maglev Disadvantages. (1) Expensive to build. (2) Expensive to ride. (3) Difficult to acquire right of way. (4) Most states have weak existing passenger rail networks, which need to function in part as a feeder network to maglev. (5) Current plans for service are limited, from DC to Baltimore initially, and eventually to Philadelphia and New York City. (6) At this time there aren't plans to extend northward to Boston or south to Richmond. (7) New maglev stations aren't necessarily part of the existing rail network, requiring new transit and railroad connections to fully leverage the addition of the maglev service within the existing network of transit services.
New infrastructure as a way to drive complementary improvements across a transit network. In terms of transportation infrastructure, a few years ago I made the point that we should use new transit infrastructure projects to simultaneously drive complementary improvements across the overall transit network, so that the new infrastructure is wildly successful from the outset, and in turn increases overall transit ridership across the system.
I've written about this conceptually in terms of the Purple Line light rail in Suburban Maryland, the Silver Line addition to the DC area Metrorail system, Maryland's passenger rail system, what could be done with the Blue Line Metrorail, and leveraging the new Amazon HQ2 in Arlington County, Virginia for new transit connectivity.
Second would be how can DC benefit economically from leveraging Maglev service with a station in Downtown DC. After all, it competes with Arlington County, Alexandria, Fairfax County, and various centers in Montgomery County as a location for business activity, high profile headquarters projects, research centers, nonprofits, etc.
For example, I've written about how the Maglev, being underground in DC, could be a way to push forward the c. 2005 concept to underground regional through motor vehicle traffic for New York Avenue, which functions the connection for I-95 between Maryland and Virginia.
It doesn't surprise me that DC sees the Maglev as a threat, because (1) the city isn't particularly visionary any more when it comes to planning, (2) Maglev is promoted by Maryland's Republican Governor ("Hogan calls maglev ride 'incredible,' says state will seek $28 million grant to study
," Baltimore Sun
), (3) at the expense of more traditional and existing transit--subway, train, and bus services, (4) a railroad station in Mount Vernon Triangle would compete with Union Station as the city's premier railroad station, (5) for which there is tremendous expansion already planned ("Pressure mounts on federal agency over Union Station redevelopment. Critics say plan is too focused on cars
," Washington Post
This is key in broadening the local economy, in particular DC's economy, beyond dependence on the federal government.
But stations driving economic development for city centers is not a new phenomenon. One of the best examples in the US is the office district around Grand Central Station in New York City. But the power of railroad station related development extends even to small stations.
Maglev as yet one more example of the broader failure to do coordinated and integrated metropolitan, regional, and multi-state transportation planning. As I have written multiple times, I am enamored of the German "transport association" model, which provides overarching planning and coordination of transit service over wide areas, integrating multiple modes and different operators, through linked services, fare systems, and marketing, in ways that are transparent to the rider.
Although even the German approach has a problem with integrating for profit mobility organizations within the association, as do planning agencies in the US.
Not having an integrated "transport association" approach in the DC area is extremely problematic. You have multiple transportation planning agencies, multiple transit operators, multiple local agencies doing transportation planning, with no overarching planning organization, and different mobility and land use goals that are often conflicting, resulting in massive amounts of duplication and discoordination, let alone limited interest in promoting sustainable mobility.
DC's reaction proves my point, that the Maglev program is a perfect example of the failure to coordinate between modes and to develop a complementary program of transit network improvement.
The ideas below are offered based on the idea that fixed rail services should be seen as a set of integrated and complementary services. The map below, from Amtrak maglev planning c. 2003, shows how Amtrak intended to position maglev as a premium service, within a framework of integrated passenger railroad services, providing different speeds, express vs. local service, price points, etc.
The concept presented below is a complemented and integrated set of railroad passenger services in the Mid-Atlantic, with super speed maglev service as the backbone.
Proposed Complementary Transit Network Improvement Program
associated with the Northeast Maglev initial phase between Baltimore and Washington
2. Utilize existing buildings at the confluence of 7th Street, Mount Vernon Triangle, Massachusetts Avenue, K Street, and New York Avenue NW, knitting them together to serve as a combined station. The Techworld building would be an especially good option.
4. Use the maglev station as the anchor of a new business recruiting program for Downtown DC. Update DC's economic development plan and the Transportation and Economic Development elements of the Comprehensive Plan to acknowledge and support the maglev program. Update the Downtown Development Plan. The most recent Downtown (Center City) Plan is almost 13 years old.
Maglev should develop special promotions with DC's Capital One Arena for special event transportation to concerts, etc., as a marketing tool.
Although it's likely that Northeast Maglev would like to do this anyway, the fact is that to do so requires underground connections of two blocks or more, which necessitates close involvement with DC Government's planning, transportation and economic development agencies. Right now they don't seem on board.
7. Work with Northeast Maglev and Metrorail to provide free connecting service between Union Station and Mount Vernon Triangle as a benefit of the fare, the way that using Metrolink rail in Southern California includes free use of LA Metro transit, through the QR code on the ticket.
9. Start with the section of the proposed Separated Silver Line between Rosslyn and Union Station. Because the ability to build a full separated Silver Line between Falls Church and DC will take more than 10 years from a standing start, there could be a phased program, first with the section between Rosslyn Metrorail Station and Union Station, with later phases between Falls Church and Rosslyn and between Union Station and a connection to existing lines in the vicinity of RFK Stadium.
Initially this would add at least four new stations including a vital connection to Georgetown (and obviating the need for a gondola), as well as connections to existing stations at Dupont Circle, Mount Vernon Square, and Union Station. This will provide a vital connection between the Mount Vernon Square Maglev Station and Union Station, connecting to Amtrak and MARC and VRE regional passenger rail services.
(Note that providing underground connections between the Maglev station and the nearby Metrorail stations--Gallery Place, Mount Vernon Square, Metro Center--makes this less of priority as it relates to Maglev service, but Maglev, with a connection to a new Silver Line station, could complement and move forward various Union Station expansion efforts, which to expand needs additional subway service capacity, which would come from an additional Metrorail line.)
10. Consider raising the city's building height limit
("NCPC study on height limit: hearing, comments
," 2013) to leverage the Maglev service and to help pay for the cost of creating a Separated Silver Line in DC, and underground connections linking the Maglev station to Metrorail
Ideally, planning could start soon, so that service at the very least to National Airport could be provided by 2035, with a later phase extending service to Richmond.
(Note that planning for a southern extension could delay the program slightly, as the Downtown DC station would no longer be a terminus.)
16. Accelerate planned railroad improvements between DC and Richmond, including expansion of the Long Bridge, and throughout the State of Virginia, to complement access to the Maglev line through stations in DC, and as proposed above, at National Airport and Richmond.
17. Continue the proposed integration of the MARC and VRE railroad passenger services into the RACER concept by providing some "MARC Penn Line" connection service to Manassas, thereby incorporating the Manassas Line into the program. Introduce bi-directional railroad service between DC and Manassas in association with the combination of the MARC Penn and VRE Manassas Lines into one integrated service.
18. Extend Blue Line Metrorail service south to Dale City/Occoquan and Yellow Line Metrorail service to Fort Belvoir as discussed in past entries.