When the MTA unveiled its Twenty Years Needs Assessment earlier this year, I was disappointed. The fantasy planner in me wanted something more adventurous, and the 20-year wants were more exciting the 20-year needs. A few decades ago, when the MTA’s needs assessment included East Side Access and the Second Ave. Subway, the report seemed more exciting, but now the agency needs to make sure its trains can keep running over the existing track over the next few decades. Expansion will have to wait.
To the south of New York City, though, expansion is all the rage. If we want to find a transit agency eying a multi-billion-dollar growth initiative replete with fantasy maps that could become reality, we need look no further than the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. As part of their 2040 assessment — or really their needs for today or tomorrow — the WMATA has proposed adding 10 stations and a new loop line that would alleviate congestion on crowded trains while serving criminally under-served areas. The plans don’t, unfortunately, include bench seating in their new rolling stock, but their $26 billion investment could solve a lot of Metro’s access issues.
Metro’s planners have begun suggesting that the region add 10 new stations and create four “super stations” by adding capacity and connections around the two Farragut Square stations, Union Station, the Capitol South station and the Pentagon station.
The 10 new stations have not been named. But going clockwise from Rosslyn, they look something like Rosslyn II, Georgetown University, Georgetown, West End, Thomas Circle, Mount Vernon Triangle, Capitol Hill North, Navy Yard II, Waterfront II and Potomac Park.
The actual locations have not been decided, but the idea is to have them built by 2040…The proposed stations and connections, chosen over three other concepts, reflect the need to expand capacity in the system’s core, said Shyam Kannan, Metro’s chief planner. “The inner lining, where we share tracks for two lines, worked for 40 years but becomes a problem going forward given the demands of the system,” he said.
The Post goes on to discuss the challenges facing the WMATA, and they, of course, start with the price tag. It’s not a stretch to say that $26 billion for new or expanded stations and a good amount of tunneling is wildly optimistic. It would require Virginia and DC to convince their third partner to spend on a rail extension that doesn’t touch Maryland and would need to convince everyone that more than 14 percent of area residents would turn to the subway for their daily commuting needs. Despite population growth in D.C. and crushing congestion, that figure hasn’t gone up in nearly two decades.
Outside of the WMATA, DC is forging ahead with transit in ways New York is not. They’re planning out a streetcar/light rail system that will put our Select Bus Service to shame and seem willing to tackle capacity issues. Whether the money and political support materializes is another question entirely, but the will is there in a way it doesn’t seem to be in New York right now.
Of course, maybe this is all just fantasyland. It’s easy to make a map and toss up on the Internet. It’s hard to fight for dollars, spend them properly and improve service. Still, for once, I envy DC and the WMATA’s forward-looking proposals. It’s a hell of a lot sexier than a bunch of signal system upgrades.