Special Features

Image Libraries

Blog
All northeast US passenger rail on one awesome map

This map shows every Amtrak, commuter rail, metro, light rail, and tourist rail line from Maine to North Carolina, to scale.

It comes from NortheastRailMap.com, and you can even download it in a fully-editable Adobe Illustrator format.


Image from NortheastRailMap.com.

Update: The map’s author has requested that you “like” their page on Facebook. Please help them out and do that!

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

November 5th, 2013 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: commuterrail, intercity, lightrail, maps, metrorail, streetcar, transportation



It’s going to be an exciting 6 months for DC area transit

When the new Rosslyn Metro entrance opened earlier this week, it became the first in what will be an exciting string of big transit projects opening in the DC region. Still to come: Metro, MARC, streetcars, and BRT.


From left to right: Alexandria’s BRT, MARC, Silver Line, DC streetcar.
BRT and Metro photos from Alexandria and Fairfax County.
MARC and streetcar photos from BeyondDC.

The next big event will be on December 7, when MARC trains begin running on weekends between DC and Baltimore. MARC’s transition from a commuter railroad to a more general-purpose transit system will open up Baltimore and other parts of Maryland like never before.

After that come streetcars. Sometime in late December, or possibly January, DDOT expects to start running streetcars along H Street.

Then in February the Silver Line will open, and begin carrying passengers to Tysons Corner and Wiehle Avenue.

Finally, sometime in the spring of 2014 Alexandria will open its Route 1 transitway, marking the beginning of the first bona fide bus rapid transit line in the region.

All together, it’s the most exciting time for transit openings in the DC area since the early 1980s, when Metrorail was opening new segments every few months.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

October 9th, 2013 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: BRT, commuterrail, metrorail, streetcar, transportation



Denver proves Purple Line private funding can work

click to enlarge
Denver is expanding its light rail system using private partners.

Maryland Governor O’Malley is expected to announce today that the federal government has approved the Purple Line’s planning, and that Maryland will seek a private company to help pay for construction.

The idea is that a private company would pool its money together with state and federal funding to construct the Purple Line. The same company would then operate the line. In exchange, they would keep the fares, and Maryland would pay an annual contract fee.

With limited federal funds available, this type of public-private partnership is becoming common nationwide. DC is considering it for streetcars, but Denver offers a more instructive example.

In 2004, voters in Colorado passed a referendum for 122 miles of new rail transit in the Denver area. But the funding approved as part of that vote wasn’t adequate to build everything, so the transit agency had to find an alternate strategy. They’ve since approved two public-private partnerships, and are in the process of contracting a third.

Denver’s first partnership was for the Eagle P3 project, which is building 40 miles of electric commuter rail to the Denver suburbs and airport, at a cost of about $2 billion. The partnership is proceeding smoothly, with construction well underway and completion expected in 2016.

The second partnership is for a 10-mile-long suburban light rail extension. It began construction last year and is also expected to open in 2016.

The third will be for the 18-mile North commuter line. The transit agency put out a Request For Proposals in June, and is expected to select a partner company this fall.

All in all, Denver has or will soon have private partnerships to build almost 70 miles of new rail.

These deals do come with a cost. Typically the annual fee the state has to pay the partner is higher than the typical operating subsidy would be. So in essence, the operating cost is higher. But in exchange, the partner builds the line more quickly and sometimes more cheaply than the government could on its own.

Update: As expected, O’Malley announced the plan to use a partnership this afternoon. He also announced $680 million in state funds for the Purple Line, plus millions more for the Corridor Cities Transitway, Montgomery County Ride-On, and road projects.

August 5th, 2013 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: commuterrail, funding, government, lightrail, transportation



Northern Virginia picks transportation projects to fund

click to enlarge
Almost $20 million will go to new VRE railcars.

For years, leaders in Northern Virginia have been asking Richmond to let Northern Virginia raise its own money to spend on its own transportation priorities. They are finally getting the chance.

When the Virginia General Assembly passed a broad new transportation funding bill earlier this year, it included a section for Northern Virginia to raise and allocate hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Those new taxes began rolling in on July 1, with the beginning of Virginia fiscal year 2014.

On Wednesday night, the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) officially approved its first set of projects. The authority allocated about $210 million, split roughly evenly between transit and roads.

The largest projects include the Silver Line’s Innovation Center Metro station, new VRE railcars, and widenings along Route 28.

NVTA also approved a bond validation lawsuit that will preemptively ask Virginia courts to rule on NVTA’s legality. That process should take 6-9 months, and NVTA will have to wait until it’s over to actually start spending money. Taking the suit to court now means NVTA won’t have to spend years fending off other legal challenges.

The project list is shown below. For more details, see the project description sheets on NVTA’s website.

Project Funding
in millions
Location
Transit and multimodal projects
Innovation Center Metro station $41  Fairfax Co.
VRE railcars $19.8 Regional
VRE Lorton station 2nd platform  $7.9 Fairfax Co.
WMATA buses  $7  Regional
WMATA Orange Line traction power upgrades for 8-car trains  $5  Regional
DASH buses  $3.3 Alexandria
Potomac Yard Metro station environmental study  $2  Alexandria
Crystal City multimodal center bus bays  $1.5 Arlington
VRE Gainesville extension planning  $1.5 Regional
VRE Alexandria station pedestrian tunnel & platform improvements  $1.3 Alexandria
Herndon Metro station access improvements (road, bus, bike/ped)  $1.1 Fairfax Co.
ART buses  $1  Arlington
Leesburg park and ride  $1  Loudoun
Loudoun County Transit buses  $0.9 Loudoun
Route 7 Tysons-to-Alexandria transit alternatives analysis (phase 2)  $0.8 Regional
Falls Church pedestrian access to transit  $0.7 Falls Church
Duke Street transit signal priority  $0.7 Alexandria
PRTC bus  $0.6 Prince William
Alexandria bus shelters & real-time information  $0.5 Alexandria
Van Buren pedestrian bridge  $0.3 Falls Church
Falls Church bus shelters  $0.2 Falls Church
Road projects
Rt 28 – Linton Hall to Fitzwater Dr $28  Prince William
Rt 28 – Dulles to Rt 50 $20  Fairfax Co.
Belmont Ridge Road north of Dulles Greenway $20  Loudoun
Columbia Pike multimodal improvements (roadway, sidewalk, utilities) $12  Arlington
Rt 28 – McLearen to Dulles $11.1 Fairfax Co.
Rt 28 – Loudoun “hot spots”  $6.4 Loudoun
Chain Bridge Road widening  $5  Fairfax City
Boundary Channel Dr interchange  $4.3 Arlington
Rt 1 – Featherstone Rd to Mary’s Way  $3  Prince William
Edwards Ferry Rd interchange  $1  Loudoun
Herndon Parkway intersection with Van Buren St  $0.5 Fairfax Co.
Herndon Parkway intersection with Sterling Rd  $0.5 Fairfax Co.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

July 26th, 2013 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: BRT, bus, commuterrail, funding, government, lightrail, metrorail, roads/cars, transportation



Where is DC’s train to the beach?

click to enlarge
Ocean City’s boardwalk, with its tram.

If you live in New York, Philadelphia, or Boston, you can hop onto a commuter rail train any summer weekend and travel to the beach. But not if you live in DC. Here we have no train, and the buses are impractical and expensive.

Let’s compare:

Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority recently launched its Cape Flyer service, from Boston South Station to Cape Cod. A round trip ticket to Hyannis is $35.

New Jersey Transit runs trains from Philadelphia 30th Street Station to Atlantic City for $20 round trip, and from New York Penn Station to the Jersey Shore for $25 round trip. New Yorkers can also take Long Island Rail Road from Penn Station to Montauk for about $40 round trip.

For DC, there is no train, much less an affordable one. There are no tracks directly between DC and Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The only track connection is at the very top of Chesapeake Bay, near Wilmington, DE. Amtrak does offer service to Ocean City, but you have to connect to an Amtrak bus at BWI, and it’s $120 for a round trip.

Greyhound also runs buses from DC to Ocean City, but it’s $50-$100 per round trip, depending on how far in advance you buy tickets online.

Building a new rail bridge across Chesapeake Bay is probably not practical. Even if it were, that’s surely not the top priority for limited transit funding. But why not better bus service? Ocean City is a natural transit destination; it’s compact and urban, at least near the boardwalk.

As summer rolls by and Washingtonians head out for weekend jaunts to the beach, how many of us wish we didn’t have to rent a car to get there?

July 8th, 2013 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: bus, commuterrail, intercity, proposal, question, transportation



Weekend MARC? I’d make that trade any time

There was good news and bad news for Maryland transit yesterday.

The bad news was Maryland’s decision to cut bus service on the ICC. The good news was that the Purple Line, Corridor Cities Transitway, and Baltimore Red Line are all advancing, and that MARC’s Penn Line will start running on the weekend.

Overall, that’s a huge net gain for transit in Maryland.

The new BRT and light rail lines are still years away, but weekend MARC service could start as soon as this winter. The MARC news alone is a bigger win for transit than the ICC buses are a loss.

Not that there’s actually any trade here. MARC isn’t expanding service because ICC buses are going away. The two are unrelated. Just that, as a transit user, if I were given the choice between those two things, I’d definitely pick weekend MARC.

And although Maryland is deservedly criticized for the ICC, it’s also worth noting that the ICC is in the past, and the state’s current plans are extremely progressive.

Most of the new state’s new transportation money is going to transit instead of roads, and most of the road projects are relatively reasonable. There are plenty of proposed interchange improvements and widenings, but there’s no sprawl-inducing, traffic-generating outer beltway.

May 17th, 2013 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: BRT, bus, commuterrail, lightrail, roads/cars, transportation



DMU trains are the DC region’s missing transit mode

click to enlarge
DMU train in San Diego. Photo by mrpeachum on flickr.

In the DC region we have Metro and commuter rail trains, with light rail, streetcars, and BRT all in the works. And of course, regular buses. But one common mode we don’t have is DMU trains, which bridge the gap between light rail and commuter rail.

DMU stands for Diesel Multiple Unit. DMU trains are intended to operate on routes that look like commuter rail, but at almost light rail frequency. They go over long distances, with infrequent stations, usually on or adjacent to freight tracks. But instead of coming only at rush hour, trains come all day long, as often as every 15-20 minutes.

That’s a great service model for suburban corridors that need something better than rush-hour MARC or VRE service, but are too far away for light rail and don’t have the density to justify the costs of Metrorail.

DMUs, and their electric cousin EMUs, are used in Philadelphia, New Jersey, Portland, San Diego, Dallas, and Austin. They’re proposed in even more cities.


click to enlarge
Austin DMU on-street. Photo by paulkimo90 on flickr.

One big advantage of DMUs over traditional commuter trains is that DMUs can operate on-street, like light rail. That makes integrating them with downtown areas much easier, because it frees DMUs to go anywhere, rather than only to a city’s main rail hub.

All MARC and VRE trains to DC must go to Union Station, because all the long distance tracks through DC go to Union Station. Not only does that constrain route planning, it’s also a limit on capacity, because there are only so many platforms at Union Station. But a DMU could go anywhere.

There are not currently any plans for DMU lines in the DC region, but there could be. DMU would be a great solution for Maryland’s proposed Charles County corridor or Fairfax’s Route 28. Officials are looking at light rail for those corridors, but they’re far out in the suburbs and wouldn’t have very frequent stops, so DMU might be more appropriate.

In the long term it might also make sense to convert some of MARC and VRE’s existing lines to DMU, or to supplement them with more DMU trains. That would give them more operational flexibility, and could increase service. But MARC and VRE are established as traditional commuter rail, and may be uncomfortable with anything else.

MARC and VRE also have to use tracks owned by freight companies. DMUs can be used in mixed company with freight, although that requires federal approval. But if the freight lines are already using their tracks to capacity, which is common in the DC area, then there’s no room for more trains no matter what they look like.

DMU isn’t Metro, and it isn’t light rail. DMU trains can’t do all the things those modes can do. It’s not an appropriate mode where frequent stops are necessary. But for long corridors with infrequent stops and moderate capacity needs, it’s ideal. We should keep in mind as we continue to advocate for new transit lines.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

April 9th, 2013 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: commuterrail, lightrail, proposal, transportation



Maryland, Virginia, fund these projects!

click to enlarge
Tysons grid of streets, no. 2.

Maryland and Virginia will both enact major new transportation funding bills this year. Neither bill says exactly which projects will be funded, but here are the top 10 projects in Maryland and Virginia that most deserve to get some of the funds.

Number 1: 8-car Metro trains. Metrorail is near capacity, especially in Virginia. More Metro railcars would mean more 8-car trains on the Orange, Blue, and Silver Lines.

Number 2: Tysons grid of streets. Tysons Corner has more office space than downtown Baltimore and Richmond put together. Converting it to a functional urban place is a huge priority.

Number 3: Purple Line. Bethesda, Silver Spring, Langley Park, College Park, New Carrollton. That’s a serious string of transit-friendly pearls. The Purple Line will be one of America’s best light rail lines on the day it opens.

Number 4: Baltimore Red Line. Baltimore has a subway line and a light rail line, but they don’t work together very well as a system. The Red Line will greatly improve the reach of Baltimore’s rail system.

Number 5: Silver Line Phase 2. The Silver Line extension from Reston to Dulles Airport and Loudoun County is one of the few projects that was earmarked in Virginia’s bill, to the tune of $300 million.

Number 6: Arlington streetcars. The Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcars both have funding plans already, but could potentially be accelerated.

Number 7: Route 7 transit. Leesburg Pike is the next Rosslyn-Ballston corridor waiting to happen. Virginia is just beginning to study either a light rail or BRT line along it.

click to enlarge
Corridor Cities Transitway, no. 8.

Number 6: Corridor Cities Transitway. Gaithersburg has been waiting decades for a quality transit line to build around. BRT will finally connect the many new urbanist communities there, which are internally walkable but rely on cars for long-range connections.

Number 9: MARC enhancements. MARC is a decent commuter rail, but it could be so much more. Some day it could be more like New York’s Metro North or Philadelphia’s SEPTA regional rail, with hourly trains all day long, even on weekends.

Number 10: Alexandria BRT network. This will make nearly all of Alexandria accessible via high quality transit.

Honorable Mentions: Montgomery BRT network, Potomac Yard Metro station, Virginia Beach light rail, Southern Maryland light rail, VRE platform extensions.

 Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.
 
 
 

April 3rd, 2013 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: BRT, commuterrail, funding, government, lightrail, metrorail, roads/cars, streetcar, top10, transportation



Growing Baltimore might get more TOD and a fancy train shed

Baltimore’s decades-long population decline has officially reversed. The city grew by about 1,100 people last year. Congrats to Baltimore!

In more specific but also exciting news, Amtrak has adopted a new master plan for Baltimore’s Penn Station. It includes significant new development around the station, and a new canopy over the tracks that would dramatically improve the rider experience.

The plans are conceptual, and will have to go into greater detail before development can begin.


Concept plan for Penn Station. Image by Beatty Development.

March 15th, 2013 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: architecture, commuterrail, demographics, intercity, master planning, transportation



Denver frequent transit map

Denver is in the midst of a huge regional rail expansion. That’s great, but like in many cities (including DC, historically), the urban bus system has been largely ignored amidst all the hubbub over rail.

I got my planning degree at the University of Colorado, and after discussing Denver’s bus system with some friends recently, decided to produce this map. It shows the city’s high-frequency bus routes along with its existing and future rail lines.

Although the geography is obviously different, in many ways this map is a sequel to my DC 15-minute bus map from last August. I applied a lot of the lessons learned during that exercise to this Denver map. Compared to the DC version this map shows more information, presented more cleanly.

Read more at DenverUrbanism.com.


Denver rail and frequent bus map, including future lines. Click map for full size version.
Other sizes via flickr.

February 27th, 2013 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: BRT, bus, commuterrail, lightrail, maps, streetcar, transportation



Media

   
   



Site
About BeyondDC
Archive 2003-06
Contact

Search:

GoogleBeyondDC
Category Tags:

Partners
 
  Greater Greater Washington
 
  Washington Post All Opinions Are Local Blog
 
  Denver Urbanism
 
  Streetsblog Network



BeyondDC v. 2013d | Email | Archive of posts from 2003-2006