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Five bus lines everyone in DC should know, love, and use

Metrorail’s six lines are so easy to remember that most Washingtonians have memorized them. Here are five convenient bus lines that everyone in town should know just as well.

Simple map of 5 main DC bus lines. Original base map from Google.

These five lines are among Metro’s most convenient and popular. Buses on them come every few minutes, and follow easy-to-remember routes along major streets.

For the sort of Washingtonian who’s comfortable with Metrorail but hasn’t taken the leap to the bus, these five lines are a great place to start. Unlike some minor buses that only come once every half hour, you can treat these five lines the way you’d treat a rail line, or a DC Circulator: They’re always there, and it’s never a long wait before the next bus.

If you can memorize Metrorail’s Red and Orange Lines, you can memorize these streets:

Wisconsin / Pennsylvania (30 series): If you want a bus on Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, just remember to catch anything with a number in the 30s. Nine bus routes cover this line, each of them with slightly different details, but a similar overall path: The 30N, 30S, 31, 33, 32, 34, 36, and the express 37 and 39. Collectively they’re called the “30 series.”

The other four lines are similar. Each has multiple routes with slightly different details combining to form a family, or series. Within each series some individual routes may come at different times of day, or continue farther beyond the lines this map shows. But the key is to remember the series name.

16th Street (S series): Four routes, each beginning with the letter S: The S1, S2, S4, and the express S9.

14th Street (50 series): Three routes, each in the 50s: The 52, 53, and 54.

Georgia Avenue (70 series): Two routes, in the 70s: The local 70 and the express 79.

H Street (X series): Two routes, starting with X: The local X2 and the express X9. When it eventually opens (knock on wood), the DC Streetcar will beef up this same corridor.

For the Metrobus veterans among you, this is old news. About 80,000 people per day ride these five lines, so they’re hardly secrets. But if you’re not a frequent bus rider, give these a try.

 Comment on this at the version cross-posted to Greater Greater Washington.

October 6th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bus, transportation

The Silver Spring Transit Center, now open, in photos

All photos by BeyondDC.

More photos at GGW and via Flickr/BeyondDC and Flickr/TheCourtyard.

September 21st, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bus, galleries, transportation

The biggest winners and losers in WMATA’s Metrobus overhaul

Last month, WMATA planners proposed changes to almost 100 bus lines. Some riders will love them. Others won’t. Here are the biggest winners and losers.

Photo by BeyondDC on Flickr.

Change is hard, but not necessarily bad

In a perfect world, every major street in the region would have a bus line running every 5 minutes. In the world of constrained budgets, every dollar a transit agency spends on low-ridership or redundant bus routes eats into what it can run on high-demand main lines.

Sometimes it still makes sense to run low-ridership routes. But figuring out where to draw that line, who wins and who loses, is incredibly hard. And since every decision a transit agency makes will create some losers, they can only hope to create more winners overall.

Thus, making changes to bus lines is always a difficult business. Changes that benefit one person will often make another person upset. And since existing bus lines have existing customers, changing them can lead to an outcry.

Let’s see how Metro did.

WINNER: MetroExtra

WMATA’s popular MetroExtra buses perfectly illustrate how making some existing riders unhappy can yield big wins.

By skipping over half the bus stops on a line, MetroExtra buses make some riders unhappy, since they have to walk further to get a stop. But the trade-off is buses move a lot faster, making everyone else on the bus happier, and offering more people a reason to start riding.

MetroExtra bus. Photo by BeyondDC on Flickr.

Since Metro began experimenting with MetroExtra eight or nine years ago, it’s been very successful, and very popular with riders. So it’s no surprise that just about every time WMATA tweaks its bus routes, they add service to more and more MetroExtra lines.

This round, Metro will add a new MetroExtra line on Veirs Mill Road, to be named the Q9. Veirs Mill connects the two branches of the Metrorail Red Line, from Rockville to Wheaton, and is already one of the busiest bus corridors in Maryland.

WMATA will also add more MetroExtra trips to three of the highest-ridership bus corridors in the entire region: The S9 on 16th Street, the 79 on Georgia Avenue, and the 16X on Columbia Pike in Arlington.

One MetroExtra line will see significant cuts: The 28X along Route 7 in Virginia. There, Metro is offering a choice of either cutting service from every 15 minutes to every 30, or ending the line at East Falls Church, eliminating service west to Tysons.

Route 7 is a natural transit corridor, one that planners envision for light rail or BRT. It’s historically suburban, but is rapidly becoming more walkable. Cuts there are a blow.

LOSER: Early morning trips to Dulles Airport

Metro plans to eliminate its 5A bus to Dulles Airport.

That’s an unpopular proposal. The 5A has been the main bus to Dulles for years, and for riders near its stops in L’Enfant Plaza, Rosslyn, and Herndon, it offers an express trip that’s often the fastest option.

But it’s redundant. The Silver Line Express bus from Wiehle station to Dulles is less expensive to operate since it’s a shorter route, and offers much more frequent service. And since many 5A riders have to ride Metro (or another bus) to get to Rosslyn or L’Enfant anyway, the Whiele bus is a better option than some assume.

While it’s nice to have an express bus from downtown to Dulles, a reasonable alternate exists, and so letting WMATA spend its resources somewhere else will probably help more riders, more often.

Except early in the morning.

The 5A makes a couple of early morning runs to Dulles before Metrorail opens. These are crucial runs, since the 5A is the only transit service to Dulles at those times. Even if early morning ridership is low, that’s an important cog in the regional transit network that ought to be there for people when they need it.

WINNER: Greenbelt Sundays

Buses will begin running on Sundays in Greenbelt on the C2, G12, and G14. This is a big win for a part of the region that’s had absolutely woeful weekend transit for a long time.

Yellow lines are bus routes with new Sunday service. Base map from WMATA.

LOSER: Low-ridership routes

WMATA is completely eliminating more than 20 low-ridership bus routes.

In most cases, they’re eliminating spurs and converting those trips to main line trips. For example, the 1Z will go away, but its trips will simply become 1B trips.

That will inconvenience a few riders who used the spur part of the 1Z, but the majority of 1-series riders would rather use the 1B, and they’ll get more buses.

WINNER: Colesville Road

The Z-series, which runs along Route 29 northeast from Silver Spring towards White Oak and Burtonsville, will have buses every 15 minutes on Saturdays, instead of every 30 minutes.

That’s the kind of frequent service that riders can use without worrying about consulting a schedule. Jumping up to that level is a huge win for eastern Montgomery County.

TOO SOON TO TELL: The Georgia Avenue leg of the Veirs Mill line

WMATA’s Q-series on Veirs Mill Road is one of the most important bus lines in Maryland. That’s why it’s getting MetroExtra service.

But one of the biggest cuts in Metro’s proposal will truncate the Q-series buses, ending them at Wheaton where Veirs Mill Road terminates, rather than having them continue south on Georgia Avenue to Silver Spring.

Q-series buses will stop at Wheaton. Base image from WMATA.

On the one hand, this is a major loss. The Wheaton-to-Silver Spring leg of Georgia Avenue is packed with bus riders. Cutting service there hurts one of the most productive parts of the Metrobus network.

But on other hand, there’s a lot of transit service on Georgia Avenue even without the Q-series. The Y-series runs every 10 minutes on Georgia Avenue, and the Metrorail Red Line runs directly below in a subway. Y-series buses are packed, which may be why WMATA is offering a rail fare discount between Silver Spring and Wheaton.

And there are benefits to a shorter Q-series. Buses come more often on a shorter route, and are more likely to stay on schedule. Ending the Q-series at Veirs Mill will likely improve the reliability of buses, and possibly reduce how long riders have to wait at stops.

Losing Q buses on Georgia Avenue is clearly concerning, but if it helps the rest of the line, if the new Q9 is a hit, and if other transit on Georgia can pick up the slack, things may end up better overall. It’s going to be an experiment, and it might fail. But it’s worth a shot.

Public hearing tonight

WMATA is hosting a public hearing on these proposals tonight, at 6:00 pm, at 600 5th Street NW.

If you have an opinion, attend and let them know.

 Comment on this at the version cross-posted to Greater Greater Washington.

September 17th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bus, transportation

Copenhagen proves bikes can work in the suburbs

One common criticism of bicycling is that it’s all well and good for dense core cities, but isn’t a serious transportation option in suburban areas. Suburbs in other countries prove that’s wrong.

Bike parking at Friheden Street transit stop in suburban Copenhagen. Photo from Google.

The photo above is from Friheden Street station, in suburban Copenhagen. And look at all those beautiful bike racks. How did they get there?

One of the most important uses for bicycles is as a last mile tool, to get from one’s home to a transit station, or from a transit station to one’s final destination.

Anywhere you have a transit station with a lot of other buildings a mile or two away, bikes can help connect one to the other. That includes suburbs.

If you provide the necessary infrastructure, and treat bicycling like a serious option, people will use it.

Yes, that’s a suburb

Unlike central Copenhagen, which is dense and difficult to drive a car through, the area around Friheden Street is suburban and relatively low density. Actually it looks a lot communities around the Washington Beltway.

Residential Friheden. Photo from Google.

Compare these two aerial photos, taken at about the same scale. The first image shows the area around Friheden Street station. The second shows Kensington, in suburban Washington.

Suburban Copenhagen. Photo from Google.

Suburban Washington. Photo from Google.

They look pretty analogous. Not exactly the same, to be sure; Friheden has a few apartment buildings sprinkled in, and its S-train station offers better service than Kensington’s MARC station. But they’re not so dissimilar as to be completely alien. They’re siblings, if not quite twins.

I admit I’ve never been to Friheden Street. I’ve never even been to Denmark. Frankly I have no idea if it’s a pleasant community, or what the less desirable things about it may be. I’m sure there are trade-offs to it, compared to an American suburb.

But I happened to be on Google Earth looking at Copenhagen, which is famously a bike paradise, and wondered what its suburbs look like. I turned on Google’s transit layer and started looking at the areas around suburban stations. Friheden Street just happens to be one I zoomed in on.

And look at all those beautiful bike racks.

 Comment on this at the version cross-posted to Greater Greater Washington.

August 31st, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bike, transportation

If car commercials were honest, this is what they’d look like

A sporty coupe glides joyfully along a seaside highway, all by itself. It’s heaven for the anonymous driver. That’s the standard, ridiculous car commercial.

This video shows what car commercials would look like if they were actually honest.

 Comment on this at the version cross-posted to Greater Greater Washington.

August 25th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: fun, roads/cars, transportation

Huge Metrobus overhaul will change nearly 100 bus routes

Metrobus planners are proposing to change bus service on almost 100 routes, all over the Washington region. If the changes happen, many routes will see better service, others will face cuts, and some will go away completely, including the popular 5A bus to Dulles Airport.

Every WMATA bus route. Thick blue lines are route families that will change. Thin blue lines are families that will not. Sketch map from the author.

WMATA’s proposal generally aims to increase service on routes with a lot of riders, and decrease it on ones with fewer riders. According to WMATA, the changes will “improve overall on-time performance and customer satisfaction, increase ridership, and improve cost recovery.”

To get feedback on the idea, Metro has an online survey and will run a series of public meetings. If the WMATA board approves the changes this October, they’ll take effect in stages beginning in December 2015 and rolling out through mid 2016.

Greater Greater Washington hopes to analyze these changes and report back in a future post. For now here’s a list of every proposed change. For more details, including route maps and more detailed descriptions of changes, see Metro’s page for the project.

Changes to routes in DC:

  • 5A: Eliminate all service.
  • 34: Eliminate route 34 on evenings and weekends.
  • 54: Shorten route by eliminating segment between McPherson Square and L’Enfant Plaza. Improve frequency between 14th & Colorado and Takoma Station.
  • 63: Add one AM peak trip.
  • 64: Add one AM peak trip and one PM peak trip, and increase scheduled running time.
  • 79: Add four AM peak trips and four PM peak trips.
  • 80: Shorten route by eliminating service between McPherson Square and Kennedy Center. See D4 below for replacement service.
  • 81, 83: Eliminate route 81 and convert its trips to route 83 (contingent upon adding Sunday service on the revised C2 line).
  • 82: Eliminate two AM and three PM trips.
  • 90, 92, 93, 94: Eliminate route 93. Add trips on routes 90, 92 and 94 to compensate.
  • 97: Add one AM peak trip
  • A2, A6, A8, A42, A46, A48, P6: Eliminate routes A42, A46, A48. Replace with additional trips on routes A2, A6, A8, and P6.
  • B8, B9: Eliminate routes.
  • D1: Shorten route by eliminating segment between Franklin Square and Federal Triangle. Reduce service hours.
  • D3: Eliminate entire D3 route.
  • D4: Extend route D4 from Franklin Square to the Kennedy Center to replace cut segment of route 80.
  • E2: Increase scheduled running time.
  • E4: Increase scheduled running time.
  • G8: Shorten some AM peak trips to start at Brookland Station. Add three AM peak trips. Add some PM peak trips between Brookland Station and Avondale. Increase scheduled running time.
  • H6: Reroute in Fort Lincoln via Costco.
  • N3: Eliminate entire N3 route.
  • S9: Add two AM peak trips and one PM peak trip.
  • U8, W4: Extend some peak U8 trips to Congress Heights. Reduce peak trips on the W4 route. Improve combined U8/W4 frequency between East Capitol & Benning and Congress Heights from 10 minutes to 7.5 minutes. Increase scheduled running time for the W4.
  • X1, X3: Shorten X3 route to end at Duke Ellington Bridge. Increase scheduled running time.
  • X8: Add one AM and PM weekday round trip; add one PM Saturday and one PM Sunday round trip.
  • X9: Add two AM peak trips and two PM peak trips. Increase scheduled running time.

Changes to routes in Maryland:

  • 81, 83: Eliminate route 81 and convert its trips to route 83 (contingent upon adding Sunday service on the revised C2 line).
  • B29, B31: Eliminate route B31. Convert existing B31 trips to B29 short trips between New Carrollton Station and Bowie Park and Ride.
  • C2, C4: Restructure service. Turn around half of C4 trips at Wheaton rather than running all trips to Twinbrook. Operate C2 at reduced frequency between Greenbelt station and Takoma Langley. Add additional C4 trips. Add Sunday service on route C2 between Greenbelt and Takoma Langley.
  • F4: Improve Saturday schedule reliability.
  • G12, G13, G14, G16: Eliminate routes G13 and G16, and convert their trips to G14. Shorten G14 to eliminate service on Aerospace Road. Add Sunday service to G12 and G14.
  • K11, K12: Eliminate route K11, and convert its trips to run as K12.
  • J12, J13: Eliminate route J13, and convert its trips to run as J12.
  • Q1, Q2, Q4: Discontinue route segment between Wheaton and Silver Spring stations during Metrorail operating hours. Add special rail fare discount between Wheaton, Forest Glen and Silver Spring Stations to reduce the number of bus trips needed on this segment.
  • Q9: Add new route: Limited‐stop Metro Extra on Veirs Mill Road between Rockville and Wheaton stations. Service would operate on weekdays only, every 15 minutes between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.
  • R3: Eliminate entire line.
  • V14, V15: Eliminate route V15 and convert its trips to run as V14. Improve Sunday service by running the full V14 route and expanding service hours to match Saturday service.
  • W19: Transfer route operations to MTA Commuter bus. Eliminate service south of Bryans Road. Reduce service frequency to every 30 minutes. Reduce hours to being later in the morning and/or end earlier in the evening.
  • Z6, Z8: Add Z6 Saturday service between Silver Spring Station and Castle Blvd. Reduce Z8 Saturday frequency to coordinate with new Saturday Z6.
  • Z9, Z11, Z13, Z29: Restructure service to combine routes.

Changes to routes in Virginia:

    1A, 1B, 1E, 1Z: Eliminate 1E and replace with ART service in Dominion Hills. Eliminate route 1Z and convert its trips to 1B. Restructure route 1B to bypass Seven Corners Shopping Center and eliminate 1B service on certain holidays.
  • 1C: Improve schedule reliability.
  • 2B: Add hourly Sunday service.
  • 3T: Shorten route by eliminating service between West Falls Church Station and East Falls Church Station. Eliminate
    supplemental trips on certain holidays.
  • 4A, 4B: Eliminate all Saturday service on route 4A. Eliminate supplemental trips operated on route 4B on certain holidays.
  • 5A: Eliminate all service.
  • 7A: Eliminate all trips after 1 AM on Friday and Saturday nights
  • 7H, 7X: Eliminate route 7H. Shorten route 7X by eliminating service between Lincolnia Road and Arbor Park.
  • 7Y: Terminate alternating trips in the District, bypassing the Pentagon. Terminate remaining trips at the Pentagon without service into the District. For trips entering the District, re‐route using 14th Street Bridge to access the District, and eliminate service between 18th and I Streets NW and the Convention Center.
  • 9A: Eliminate entire line. See 10A restructure to replace missing coverage.
  • 9A, 10A, 10R, 10S: Eliminate 9A, 10R, and 10S completely. Convert some trips to 10A to compensate. Restructure 10A service to provide coverage to Powhatan Street and Huntington Station lost by eliminating the 9A line. Would eliminate service connecting Alexandria and Crystal City to Rosslyn.
  • 10B: Improve weekday peak frequency from every 30 minutes to every 15 minutes, and Sunday frequency from every 60 minutes to every 30 minutes.
  • 15K, 15L: Improve weekday schedule reliability.
  • 15M: Eliminate entire line.
  • 16H: Shorten 16H route by eliminating segment between Crystal City and Pentagon City.
  • 16X: Extend 1 AM and 3 PM weekday peak‐period trips to Culmore.
  • 18E, 18F, 21A, 21D: Eliminate entire 18E and 18F line. Restructure 21A and 21D to cover Bren Mar Park, and transfer route operation to Alexandria DASH.
  • 23A, 23B, 23T: Split off‐peak and weekend service to match weekday peak‐period route pattern, to improve frequency between Shirlington and Ballston.
  • 26A: Improve weekday peak frequency from every 60 minutes to every 30 minutes.
  • 28X: Reduce frequency from 15 minutes to 30 minutes, OR reroute to terminate at East Falls Church, thereby not serving West Falls Church or Tysons.
  • 29N: Improve weekend service frequency from every 60 minutes to every 30 minutes.
  • 38B: Eliminate supplemental trips on certain holidays.

 Comment on this at the version cross-posted to Greater Greater Washington.

August 18th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: bus, transportation

MD & VA commuter rail look great together on one map

Maryland’s MARC train and Virginia’s VRE are very similar regional rail systems. This map shows what they might look like as a single integrated regional network.

Map from Peter Dovak at Transit Oriented.

Although MARC and VRE are so similar, they operate totally independently of each other. Riders on one may not even be aware the other exists. This map would help solve that.

The two agencies will probably never merge, but it might someday be possible to integrate their operations to work more like a single system. MARC trains might run across the Potomac into Virginia, and VRE trains might one day continue north into Maryland. It would be difficult but possible.

In the meantime, this map from Peter Dovak at Transit Oriented is a nice unofficial first step. And it’s easier on the eyes than the current official MARC or VRE maps.

 Comment on this at the version cross-posted to Greater Greater Washington.

August 12th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: commuterrail, maps, transportation

Metro’s inefficient info displays worsen train crowding

By prioritizing elevator information rather than train arrivals on its platform displays, WMATA forces riders to make bad decisions. The result: inefficient use of sparse train capacity.

Not the best use of this technology.

Picture yourself in this scenario

Imagine you’re descending into a Red Line station. You hear a train approaching and rush to the platform. The train pulls up and you see that it’s full.

You glance over at the real-time train arrival display, hoping there will be another train a minute or two behind. If so, you’ll wait for it rather than crowd on now. Maybe you’ll have just enough time to move down the platform to a less crowded spot.

Alas, the display is cycling through elevator outages on the Orange Line in Virginia. Who knows how long until the next train arrives. You’d better crowd on now.

Prioritizing less important info results in badly informed riders

Scenarios like that play out thousands of times every day all over the Metrorail system. It happens because Metro’s PIDs, the Passenger Information Displays that show how long until the next train arrives, are programmed to also cycle through each elevator outage in the entire system.

Cycling through elevator outages often takes a long time, making it difficult for riders to get the real-time train arrival information that the displays were invented to show.

In turn, badly-informed riders can’t use the system efficiently, and exacerbate overcrowding. Without good information, riders push onto full trains when an empty one is a minute behind, and rush into the nearest door rather than move down the platform to a less crowded one.

Those are increasingly important problems given Metro’s capacity limitations.

Wheelchair users need elevator info

WMATA displays elevator outages on the PIDs because it’s crucial information for a small minority of riders: the wheelchair bound, and others who can’t use escalators or stairs.

For those groups, having plenty of advanced notice about which elevators are out is absolutely necessary. Removing that information from stations would therefore be an unacceptable trade-off.

But that information doesn’t have to be on the same screens as train arrival information. In fact, trying to display multiple elevator outages on the PIDs, where there’s only enough room to scroll through them one by one, is a remarkably bad way to provide that information.

A better way, in Chicago. Photo by Matt’ Johnson on Flickr.

Displaying elevator outages on the PIDs requires riders who need that information to wait and watch an entire cycle, even if a train they could take is on the platform now.

It would be far more efficient to display that info on a separate screen that can show several outages at once, like the larger more advanced screens at station manager kiosks.

Or even a low-tech dry erase board, the preferred solution for Chicago’s CTA.

By trying to satisfy two entirely different sets of needs with one limited screen that runs on decades-old technology, WMATA isn’t getting as much out of the PIDs as it could.

 Comment on this at the version cross-posted to Greater Greater Washington.

July 24th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: metrorail, transportation

Twelve out of 33 DC Streetcar fixes are complete

Earlier this year, outside experts identified 33 issues for DDOT to address before the H Street streetcar can open. According to DDOT spokespeople, 12 of those 33 have since been completely fixed. The remaining 21 are in progress.

Workers modify 19th Street station following an APTA review of the DC Streetcar.

According to new DC Streetcar Launch Manager Timothy Borchers, workers are making significant progress towards satisfying the 33 recommendations from this spring’s APTA review.

Borchers himself is one of the solutions. DDOT hired him this spring, following an APTA recommendation that DDOT bring on more experienced project managers. Borchers worked for years on the world’s largest streetcar network in Melbourne, Australia, and helped launch the new Atlanta Streetcar in 2014.

Progress report

During an interview with reporters last week, Borchers didn’t supply a specific list of exactly which 12 of the 33 total items are complete. But he did outline DDOT’s recent progress.

Among the items that are complete: Crews have repaired the three cracked tracks, several new staff people have been hired (including Borchers himself), DDOT has finalized its pre-revenue operations plan, and crews now track all streetcar work using a single master matrix.

As for the rest, all 21 remaining items “are in some stage of completion,” says Borchers.

Platform modifications

The most visible work in progress now is retrofitting the 19th Street station to meet disability accessibility standards. The slope of the concrete in the original platform was a few degrees off from federal requirements. Therefore, crews are now re-leveling the platform.

Workers may soon begin modifying other platforms, to prevent streetcar doors from scraping against the platform edge. Although Borchers was careful to note that DDOT is still in the process of determining its exact solution to the scraping problem, he says it’s being caused by the streetcars’ self-leveling system, hydraulics that keep streetcars level with the platforms at stations.

Workers may only need to fine-tune the streetcars’s self-leveling system, but it may also be necessary to adjust some of the platforms.

Meanwhile, engineers are working on a new design for a set of stairs near the streetcar railyard, where the narrow landing between the bottom of the stairs and the edge of the streetcar tracks is potentially dangerous. The new design will add a “pivot,” so the stairs empty onto a landing parallel to the tracks rather than leading directly into them.

Existing stairs leading straight to the streetcar tracks. Photo from DDOT.

Streetcar vehicle fixes

Inside the car barn, changes are underway to the streetcar vehicles themselves.

After one of DC’s streetcars caught fire in February, analysis determined the cause was inadequate insulation on the pantograph—the electrical mechanism connecting the streetcars to the overhead power wires.

Although it was a DC streetcar that caught fire, the problem was with the railcar’s design. Thanks to lessons learned from the DC fire, all streetcars nationwide manufactured by United Streetcar are now being retrofitted with improved insulation.

If you spot a United Streetcar on Benning Road, its retrofit is complete and its pantograph is safe.

A retrofitted United Streetcar (left), with a Czech-built streetcar (right) on Benning Road, on Thursday, July 16.

Another change coming to the railcars is rear-view cameras. The APTA review recommended replacing rear-view mirrors with cameras in order to narrow the profile of the railcars, to help avoid side collisions with parked cars.

As of Thursday, the cameras have been installed but the mirrors have not yet been removed.

The white attachment at upper right is the new rear-view camera.

No fences for Benning Road

One APTA recommendation that DDOT has decided to only partially implement is the suggestion to add fences to H Street and Benning Road, in order to cut down on jaywalking.

Borchers explained that while fencing can be appropriate for rail lines in other types of environments, it’s inherently incompatible with a busy main street where there are lots of pedestrians. DDOT will install a short segment of fencing on the Hopscotch Bridge, but otherwise H Street and Benning Road will remain fence-free.

Instead, more signs and pavement markings will warn pedestrians to watch out for streetcars.

Next steps

According to Borchers, DDOT workers will continue to power through the remaining 21 items this summer, working towards final certification from DC’s safety oversight office.

When everything is finally ready to go, the streetcar will enter a final pre-revenue operations phase, simulating the exact operations of passenger service.

Since DDOT already performed significant pre-revenue operations in the waning days of the Gray administration, they’ll be able to follow a reduced timeline on this second go around. Once it begins, that will likely take two to three weeks, if everything goes well.

 Comment on this at the version cross-posted to Greater Greater Washington.

July 21st, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: streetcar, transportation

Smaller stations, fewer dedicated lanes for Gaithersburg BRT

As designs for the Corridor Cities Transitway BRT line solidify, officials are revising plans to try and cut costs and ease approvals. Among the changes: Smaller stations, fewer dedicated lanes, and fewer grade-separated street crossings.

>Original two-bus station design (left) and smaller one-bus design (right). All images from Maryland.

Smaller stations

According to initial designs, all transitway stations would have been 150 feet long, large enough to comfortably accommodate two articulated buses in each direction.

The revised plans reduce six of the transitway’s ten stations down to 65 feet long, and the other four stations down to 125 feet.

The 125-foot stations will still be able to squeeze in two buses at a time. The 65-foot stations will only fit a single bus. All stations will be designed so they can expand to 125 feet later if necessary.

With buses scheduled to come every six minutes at peak times, single-bus stations could cause delays if buses begin to bunch together.

Dedicated lanes at the Belward property

The Corridor Cities Transitway will be, for the most part, true BRT. It will have a dedicated running way for most of its length. But now officials are proposing that it run in mixed traffic for a 1.1 mile detour around the Belward property, aka the last farm in Gaithersburg.

Original alignment through the Belward property (left) and proposed mixed-traffic realignment around it (right).

This change isn’t to save money, nor is it to avoid upsetting car drivers. It has to do with the historic farmhouse in the middle of the property.

Under federal rules concerning historic preservation, the state cannot build the transitway through the farm unless the property is disturbed by development first. But Montgomery County’s master plan does not allow for development on the farm until after the transitway is up and running. It’s a chicken and egg problem.

Thus Maryland’s new plan: Buses will detour around Belward farm on existing roads, in mixed traffic.

It’s not clear whether the detour plan is supposed to be temporary or permanent. It could be the state will operate the detour at first, long enough to allow development at Belward, and then retrofit in the dedicated transitway once development is underway.

Or it could be the state will never correct this problem, and buses will run in mixed-traffic around Belward long after buildings have replaced the farm. Time will tell.

At-grade street crossing

Another major cost-saving change is coming where the transitway crosses MD Route 28, Key West Avenue.

Transitway crossing of Key West Avenue.

Initial plans called for an underpass below Key West Avenue. Buses never would have had to stop for a red light. New plans show a surface crossing, meaning buses will have to contend with traffic signals.

And although the state webpage does clearly say that an at-grade crossing will have minimal “effects on general traffic flow through the intersection,” it doesn’t say anything about how this change will affect transit travel time.

Questions about cost

Montgomery County official Glenn Orlin recently revealed that costs for the transitway are climbing.

The most recent state cost estimate, from 2012, was for $545 million. Officially that’s still the estimate. But Orlin says a new estimate is forthcoming and will be “in the $700-800 million range.” If true, that’s a troubling increase, and could explain some of the state’s moves to reduce costs.

On the other hand, Orlin also indicated the new estimate is in year-of-construction dollars, while the old estimate was in 2012 dollars. If so, inflation could account for the lion’s share of the difference. Until the actual estimate comes out, it’s impossible to know.

It may not matter anyway, as the transitway remains unfunded, and prospects for funding under Maryland Governor Hogan appear slim.

 Comment on this at the version cross-posted to Greater Greater Washington.

July 14th, 2015 | Permalink
Tags: BRT, master planning, transportation



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