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.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

DC, Transformational Projects Action Planning, and the Baltimore-Washington Maglev project

Yesterday's Washington Post reports ("D.C. warns a maglev stop at Mount Vernon Square would bring disruption") that DC is far from "all in" on the proposed Northeast Maglev train project touted by the State of Maryland. The program is to start with service between DC and Baltimore, and over time continue north to New York with intermediate stops. 

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. 

-- Fact Sheet: High Speed Rail Development Worldwide, Environmental and Energy Study Institute

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.

First, should be using the approach that I call "transformational projects action planning," where you use big projects in two ways, to:

(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).

DC's Central Business District is on the decline, why not leverage Maglev as a way to stoke demand and broaden beyond dependence on the federal government.  OTOH, given that DC's central business district is experiencing a reduction in demand even in advance of the pandemic ("Could DC Incentivize Office to Residential Conversions?," Urban Turf), to me it's incredibly foolish to not consider the opportunities that Maglev could create in stoking new demand for office space and location within DC generally and the Central Business District specifically ("Could bringing premier regionally headquartered business enterprises to the Pennsylvania Avenue Corridor be key to its renewal and revitalization?," 2014), as opposed to the suburbs.

This is key in broadening the local economy, in particular DC's economy, beyond dependence on the federal government.


The private Brightline railroad passenger service in Florida, which will link Miami to Tampa, is being leveraged by localities to drive business and office demand in the areas around the new stations ("Brightline train stations boost new development in South Florida's downtowns," South Florida Sun-Sentinel).


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.


An offhand....

Proposed Complementary Transit Network Improvement Program
associated with the Northeast Maglev initial phase between Baltimore and Washington

1.  Use the maglev tunneling to underground the section of New York Avenue functioning as I-95 within the city ("Maglev as an opportunity for DC to underground through traffic on New York Avenues") to move regional/through traffic off surface streets.

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.


3.  Create a visitor center at the Maglev station ("2019 (US) National Travel and Tourism Week: A visitor centers agenda for DC") and implement my proposed heritage streetcar service for the National Mall and Arlington Cemetery ("A National Mall-focused heritage (replica) streetcar service to serve visitors is way bigger idea than a parking garage under the Mall").  Compared to the original concept, the heritage line would have  be extended between Union Station and Downtown.

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.

-- Center City Plans, DC Office of Planning

Maglev should develop special promotions with DC's Capital One Arena for special event transportation to concerts, etc., as a marketing tool.

5.  Create a set of underground connections between the new station and the Gallery Place, Metro Center, and Mount Vernon Square stations, modeled on the Chicago Pedway, Toronto PATH, and Montreal RESO/Underground systems ("Hong Kong needs to create a formal and planned pedestrian mobility network").  




Use the Urban Design Manhattan approach to horizontal and vertical mobility planning in association with transit stations to shape the program ("Public improvement districts ought to be created as part of transit station development process: the east side of NoMA station as an example").

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.

6.  Integrate railroad passenger fare media into the SmarTrip/CharmCard system as previously discussed ("One big idea: Getting MARC and Metrorail to integrate fares, stations, and marketing systems, using London Overground as an example") and include the Maglev service.  Provide discounts for SmarTrip/CharmCard users.

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.

8.  Use the Maglev program to drive forward the Separated Silver Metrorail Line as proposed in previous entries ("If DC had visionary elected officials and planners it could use the new WMATA "BOS" study to push through the development of a separated Silver Line in DC (and Northern Virginia)").   

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.  

11.  Extending the Separated Silver Line from Union Station to RFK would drive forward economic development opportunities for the RFK site ("Yes, modify and extend the RFK Campus lease; No, don't do it for the Washington Redskins football team," 2018) and provide Metrorail Service to the H Street corridor.  Benefits would be further extended if an additional leg of a Separated Silver Line were extended up Bladensburg Road to New York Avenue and potentially beyond.

12.  Extend the Maglev Service South to National Airport and Richmond.  In keeping with Virginia's existing plans to improve rail service throughout the state ("Virginia to build Long Bridge and acquire CSX right of way to expand passenger train service," Washington Post), extend planning for Northeast Maglev to Richmond, with a stop at National Airport.  

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.

This will provide better connections for Amazon HQ2 in Arlington and further the development of high speed rail service south of Washington, in terms of developing a Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor that complements and extends the Northeast Corridor (this was discussed in the previous entry, "More need for redundancy/"hardening" in the DC area rail transit system: Amtrak's temporary shutdown of service south of DC").

(Note that planning for a southern extension could delay the program slightly, as the Downtown DC station would no longer be a terminus.)

13. Integrate the Crystal City railroad station(s) into the ground transportation system of National Airport as previously discussed ("A brief comment on ground transportation at National Airport vis a vis VRE rail service")

14.  Merge MARC and VRE as discussed in previous entries, starting with the MARC Penn and VRE Fredericksburg Lines ("A new backbone for the regional transit system: merging the MARC Penn and VRE Fredericksburg Lines").  I call the merged system RACER, for Railroad Authority of the Chesapeake Region.  Introduce bidirectional services between DC and Fredericksburg.

15.  Complementing the Northeast Maglev, Maryland should develop an expansive statewide passenger rail program ("A "Transformational Projects Action Plan" for a statewide passenger railroad program in Maryland"), funneling riders from throughout the state to the Maglev stations, based on the future extension of the Maglev service to New York and as proposed above, southward to Richmond, and as proposed below, further north to Boston. 

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.

===========

19.  Get Northeast Maglev to commit to planning extending the Maglev from New York to BostonPrevious maglev planning efforts undertaken but since abandoned by Amtrak presumed service from DC to Boston.

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20 Comments:

At 5:11 AM, Anonymous h st ll said...

I like your suggestions! And yes start building the Maglev asap. Amtrak will still be available this a world leading megaregion, NE regional, Amtrak and Maglev are all needed and complement each other!

 
At 10:11 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Years ago talking to an H Street merchant and property owner, he asked me what I thought about the streetcar (before Atlanta lapped DC). I said "why wouldn't you want to be the first place on the east coast with modern streetcar service? It will draw new economic activity that you can take advantage of.

It's the same for maglev for Downtown. But like with the streetcar maglev has to go to more places to be worthwhile.

 
At 10:12 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Wow though. I'd love to be director of downtown planning for DC, and using maglev as the priming event.

 
At 10:39 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

from JFK: The great French Marshal Lyautey once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow-growing and would not reach maturity for 100 years. The marshal replied: In that case, there is no time to lose, plant it this afternoon.

Although outside of Pierre Salinger I'm not sure anyone can source that quote.

 
At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Alex B. said...

The Maglev is a pipe dream. If we're talking about public planning, then the obvious case for public investment isn't going to focus on the maglev.

Japan is building a maglev because they have existing HSR that is at capacity - the Tokaido Shinkansen runs 18 trains per hour at peak - that's a 1,300 passenger train leaving evert 3.5 minutes. When the Acela gets to that level of capacity, then we can talk about the Maglev.

Until then, public planning shouldn't be driven by this quirky project's proponents.

The idea that this could drive complementary improvements is nice, but there's zero evidence that it will. If we want complementary investments, then we plan for them directly.

 
At 11:09 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

The initial maglev line in Japan won't be finished until 2037. It's maybe 3x longer than DC to Baltimore, but I'm still surprised that the DC to Baltimore line is proposed to only take 10 years to construct.

But yep, DC's lack of vision doesn't surprise me.

I just slightly modified the post, without a notice up top.

The section on Downtown planning, #4, is augmented some, with a link to the city "Center City Plans" webpage. The most recent plan for the Center City is about 13 years old...

I also moved the Amtrak map from the end, to the end of the opening section, to illustrate the idea of an integrated and complementary set of rail services.

I'll have to modify this some, but I will submit it as a comment.

 
At 11:16 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Which we aren't doing. So plan for them. Using maglev as a priming event for planning is a logical thing to do.

Let the private sector spend the money for the maglev demonstration project. I wouldn't propose otherwise.

And yes, I do see it as a distraction from doing decent HSR.

The other things the DMV should be doing anyway and aren't.

Why not leverage the private sector initiative to do those things?

Definitely in terms of stoking downtown development, which needs a boost.

The Center City Action Plan is almost 13 years old.

 
At 11:49 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I guess another way to look at it is Gerschenkronian. From the standpoint of the "economic advantages of backwardness" rhe US can jump over the intermediate HSR stage, since we don't have HSR much at all.

At least for the Northeast corridor, and the west coast.

 
At 11:59 AM, Anonymous Alex B. said...

If you want to use the Maglev to jumpstart planning, that's fine. But the plan ought to ditch the idea of the maglev. Don't let the tail wag the dog here.

"we need a downtown plan because of the maglev" is a weak statement because the maglev is extremely unlikely to happen.

I'd much rather talk with these folks with connections to Japan about exporting and investing in their traditional HSR technology than the maglev. They're promising they don't need funding (ha!) while also planning for a 1,000 car parking garage in Downtown. Even if you think the maglev is a good idea, the execution here is bad.

Likewise, 'jumping over' HSR is silly. Japan is building their maglev both as an increase in technology but also because it's a necessary increase in capacity. They've maxed out traditional HSR - we've barely scratched the surface. Why lose all the network effects of expanding and improving an existing system based on open standards?

I'm all for the idea of leveraging this, but you have to show how you plan to get any actual leverage.

 
At 12:57 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I am not technical. The decision to leapfrog should be made after determining the costs and benefits. Obviously speed is the biggest benefit. The biggest reservation is whether or not people would pay the high fare cost.

If you're looking at traditional train travel, Maybe not. Compared to the Shinkansen, maybe the price is comparable.

If you look at the market differently, focusing on airplane travel, the cost is probably cheaper and the trip is simpler and more convenient.

But between DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and NYC/Newark probably isn't a big enough "internally focused" market for airline travel substitution, unless on environmental grounds you can ban short distance air travel between those cities. Which would be majorly difficult.

If you extend maglev to Boston with a couple more intermediate stops, maybe it could work.

Anyway for about 18 months I've been working on a conceptual approach to rethinking how to do real rail planning and delivery within the US. (Based in the Japanese in large part.)

Sure maglev is a distraction but with a comprehensive framework and approach it can be integrated.

As far as the points in thos entry go, yes all of the things independent of maglev (even underground connections between those 3 metrorail stations) should be pursued regardless.

Too bad DC is chicken little on maglev, when they could be saying "Don't do that, do this" a la Jackie Q in "Supertight."

 
At 2:49 PM, Blogger scratchy said...

The maglev isn't being built in Japan because the grand trunk line was (pre covid) at. capacity, and there was a surplus of power from the nuclear plants. Now, there isn't a surplus of power, and the number of travelers on the bullet train are way below capacity,
Honestly, this is not the region for it, as once one is dropped off in Baltimore, they need to contend with the substandard transit system there. One proposal is the Baltimore station being in cherry hill.
That's great, except any time savings will be eroded waiting on the light rail.
And there isn't the demand for it for an decent price point. Since it's going to. require so much tunneling, how about they build it in cascadia, where there is a demand?
And use the money on the current backlog of projects, which. are more worthwhile.

 
At 3:53 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Good points. But they've been building maglev already, haven't they? You're saying they've stopped, because of covid? I haven't kept up.

2. Just a line between Baltimore and DC has no use. Sure. Yes it's faster, but way more expensive, and if the station is in Cherry Hill, it's still a schlep to the core, which will take the same amount of time it takes to get from DC to Baltimore by maglev.

(Note when I worked in Towson there was a morning express train with no stops. It was to turn around and bring more people to DC. And it was only 35 minutes.)

And as you say, the transit system there is pretty weak. (Although potentially the Circulator system could be tweaked and make it useful vis a vis maglev.)

I don't know how the Casino has impacted core demand either.

3. This only makes sense if maglev is extended to Philadelphia and New York. And even then it's better if it goes to Boston.

Otherwise it's just one more wolfling transit mode, like the Monorail in Las Vegas or the demonstration personal rapid transit in Morgantown, WV (which I should have tried to get to, but never did).

But the point I made, that even though it is a single line, you have to think of it as a network of places (DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newark) not a network of transit lines, although the way it would integrate into local and regional transit makes sense, just as the Shinkansen is at the top of hierarchy, but embedded within a deep system of train travel in Japan.

4. There is no proposal that maglev be funded with public funds, although Maryland likely is motivated to do so. But maybe not once Hogan is off the scene. But Northeast Maglev has always maintained it would be privately funded, like Brightline (although some localities have been helping to fund stations and stops).

So it's not a matter of funds going to it, displacing other worthy and more practical transit initiatives.

5. Yes, Baltimore would need to do its own complementary transit network improvement plan. For them, with a lot less money than DC, without it being extended, it's more economically risky.

OTOH it could seriously drive business back to the core, and the biggest problem Baltimore has vis a vis the metropolitan area is so much latent build out capacity, with no force to drive recentralization back onto the core.

But this piece is focused on DC. Baltimore needs to do its own thing, although for complementary transit there's this:

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2012/05/from-files-transit-planning-in.html?m=0

although the ideas date to 2010.

+ more Baltimore area specific MARC planning and expansion, as discussed some in the cited piece above.

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2019/10/a-transformational-projects-action-plan.html

 
At 2:45 PM, Anonymous h st ll said...

@alex b - because even tho i love it, Amtrak is (like all American transit, sadly) poorly run and is among the worst in the OECD with how they spend money/invest in infrastructure/maintenance. Competition is desperately needed

 
At 4:07 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

sometime, hopefully in the next month, I'll publish my series on how to rethink rail passenger planning and service in the US.

Once I had to move I stopped working on it. It had been a three part series, now I don't know.

But it's based on how in the late 1980s, Japan National Railway privatized and broke up into five or six rail districts. Some are privately owned, some still owned by the government, because they just aren't that profitable. But they are complemented by a network of larger and smaller rail systems and services.

(+ my comments on the DC State Rail Plan, and then I wasn't even watching "Japan Railway Journal.")

I think in my map it's divvied up into 7 districts. But then you have multi-state, state, and regional authorities within, and where appropriate intra-state bus and water services to complement.

The second piece is on marketing.

 
At 8:57 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Just looking at that map, the big winner is Philly -- not DC or NY.

I'd frame this entire exercise as "let's apply some of richard's patented additive thinking" on top of a highly speculative, overhyped and probably fantasyland project.

What do we get -- a real need to rethink the DC downtown area, which between statehood, security restrictions and the move away from the CBD is going to be a dead for 20 years.


Law firms are the best to move to a "hybrid" model -- lawyers really only need to be in the office 2 days a week, and every law firm would love to cut their office space in half. Libraries are done which also used to be a huge space driver.

And law firms/WeWork is the top 25 of the DC market. Remove that and you've got a bunch of nonprofits that can't afford those rents.


We had to give up our subleased office -- can't use it for 10 months and saved us 2 layoffs. That said, that extra $150,00 we saved is looking like future salary increases rather than rent. We're running at about 65% efficiency without an office, but I'm very tempted to take that money, not re-hire those people give myself a raise and move to Colorado.

The large consulting firm we got the space from is also going to permanently withdraw space as well.





 
At 5:27 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Hmm. Yes, Philly would be a big beneficiary, but I would think Baltimore too.

Yes, it's pie in the sky, but the company has been funded for a long time, there's lots of cheap capital out there and there is the Gerschenkronian thing.

(Baltimore needs to do the same thing I recommend for DC. But it's more risky for them, if the maglev never extends.)

I think Alex B. is wrong about the drivers in the US being like those in Japan.

I do think that substituting short range airplane flights in the Northeast Corridor could be a big thing.

Then again, there's a lot invested in airports and local officials/economic development professionals aren't going to want to do anything that reduces air travel demand given the effects of covid.

But long term, it's one of many steps that can be taken to deal with climate change.

But in terms of additive thinking, it's only worth it if it's extended, and there's no way of knowing. It could be a wolfling, as I said in other comments, a one off thing that has no import whatsoever.

2. But the DC CBD thing is key. I did go back and add links to DC CBD planning. The main ED plan for "downtown" is almost 13 years old, and at that time, they defined the CBD expansively, beyond Downtown to include NoMA and the potential of South Capitol.

But as you say, covid has proved that a lot of the demand for office in Downtown DC is well positioned for WFH many days of the week, reducing demand for space.

It's another refiguring of the old front office/back office division of space location that Wall Street (and other types of) firms did, leading to the expansion of office districts in Long Island City and Jersey City. You don't need to put accountants in prime space.

And yes, not just your firm, but most firms would be happy to offload office space costs onto employees.

In your case, it's awesome it's resulted in reduced layoffs and likely future pay increases.

But the owner of the office building isn't likely to be happy.

YES, DC absolutely needs to strengthen its place in business as production, rather than support or import (import as "Congressman please do the bidding of this industry we represent).

I can see why DC put out a bid for HQ2, but they didn't meet the contiguous space requirements.

But how can DC benefit from HQ2. Things like what you said about the Green/Yellow Line corridor and a one seat ride to Crystal City.

Again, totally not surprised that DC's economic development planning is so backward. I guess like how the area defaults to WMATA as the primary transit planner, maybe for Downtown it's the BID.

=============
additive thinking now = "transformational projects action planning"

but it all goes back to something I submitted as written testimony in 2002/2003 when the DC Main Streets program was created, although the testimony had to do with HUD and Community Development Block Grants.

I wrote that every $ spent on revitalization needs to accomplish multiple objectives, that funds were limited, that DC's best competitors (Arlington and Fairfax, to some extent Montgomery and Alexandria) were investing simultaneously, that DC couldn't be satisfied comparing itself to Baltimore.

(Saw a presentation at the Building Museum by the Arlington planning director, c. 2001, and went up to him afterwards, saying "you should retitle your presentation to 'how to kill DC.'"

 
At 5:33 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

my brother was a lawyer (he lost his license long story) but still practices basically, more like an attorney that specializes in appellate briefs.

I asked him about how he conducts his legal research, since he doesn't get Westlaw etc. and he said that he can do great legal research just on the Internet, that most cases etc. (I didn't get into detail with him) are available.

(I don't know if the law libraries down where he lives are like Georgetown Law, which doesn't let in non students unless they have a bar card.)

So the biggest attraction to having a law office, like you said, used to be the library, but now that's all online.

So depending on how much legal work is actually meeting people "in your office" versus working on the computer, you don't need that space.

 
At 5:43 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Unrelated: I still haven't delved into the writings on the New Deal and the issue of moving capital to the hinterlands. But of course you're right, that's the point.

.... but the other day I was thinking about this in a different way, about the lack of "social capital" in the hinterlands and that we need to rebuild that too.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/04/opinion/sunday/trump-arkansas.html

 
At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Alex B. said...

The Maglev company has not been funded at all. Compared to the cost of building the project, they've spent approximately zero dollars.

There is absolutely zero reason to think they can or will deliver on this Baltimore-DC line, yet alone a longer line along the NEC that could actually substitute for airline trips.

I embrace the idea of transformative projects, but this isn't a project. It's a fantasy.

The point about Japan is that this thing barely makes sense in Japan, and they have a much, much more favorable environment.

 
At 1:08 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

OK and good point about relative funding demands thus far.

From a use standpoint, you're not wrong. The only reason to fund it is to demonstrate the technology and to "hoover" up excess capital sloshing around in the markets.

If it's not going to go beyond Baltimore, then it is a waste of time. There is no way there is enough demand to pay $60 per trip to get to and from Baltimore.

I was thinking about this because there is a new "airline" for premium passengers, running between LA and Aspen called Aero.

https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/uber-garrett-camp-airline-la-aspen-b1794058.html

Each way costs $1000 to $1250. It's premium, only 2 seats per side of the aisle, with the presumption you're next to someone you're specifically riding with. It's from a private terminal, the check in procedures are a breeze compared to run of the mill TSA terminal based security.

But by regular air, granted with advance purchase, the csot is about $325 ROUND TRIP.

I know there are a lot of wealthy people, but I don't see how there is enough demand for this service. The maglev is comparable.

In any case DC OP and other stakeholders need to get on the stick about long range planning for downtown.

 

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