DC Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie tweeted yesterday that he wants the city to look into either a Metro or MARC station at the corner of New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road. Streetcar might be a better option.
That corner is easily the most suburban place west of the Anacostia River in DC, and maybe in the entire District, so it could certainly use a transit investment to help it develop a more urban character. But what sort of transit would make sense?
Metrorail is not a sensible solution, because there’s not a Metro line anywhere nearby. WMATA’s Brentwood rail yard is very close, so adding a new station at Bladensburg and NY Ave wouldn’t require all that much new track construction. But that would result in a 1-station spur of the Red Line, which would have limited usefulness. A bigger problem is that a new spur would decrease the capacity of the Red Line’s existing Silver Spring leg. Operationally it just wouldn’t make sense. And even if it did, a new Metro station would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
MARC could be a good solution, because MARC’s Penn Line (the best one) does pass by just 1 block north of New York Avenue. An infill station there would be easy to build, and would provide about 60 trains per day. MARC stations are extremely simple, so this is something that could be accomplished relatively easily.
But 60 trains a day isn’t actually very many, if your goal is to induce transit oriented development. The relative simplicity of a MARC station makes it an attractive short term goal, but in the long term a better solution may be needed.
One mode McDuffie didn’t mention, but that maybe should be considered, is streetcar. None of DDOT’s proposed streetcar lines pass through here, but the H Street line and the Florida Avenue / 8th Street line are both close. It wouldn’t cost very much to add a spur from those lines that goes up West Virginia Avenue and ends at New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road, like this:
Potential new streetcar route, using portions of the H Street and 8th Street lines, with a spur up West Virginia Avenue. Dotted lines indicate alternate routes.
Another option for a streetcar spur would be to go up Bladensburg Road itself, breaking off from H Street at the Starburst intersection. That would better serve the Carver Langston neighborhood and National Arboretum, but wouldn’t be as good for Ivy City.
A third permutation could spur off of the Rhode Island Avenue streetcar, using Montana Avenue to cut south to New York Avenue. This might be the cheapest streetcar option, but it would also probably be the least useful, since it wouldn’t go to many new places.
DC has so many great transit projects in the works that anything will likely be hard to budget. Metro is probably not realistic at all, and a MARC station is the best bet for something soon. But a streetcar on West Virginia Avenue, Bladensburg Road, or Montana Avenue may well be something to shoot for.
Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.