Home U.S. Transit SystemsWMATA In D.C., a $26 billion plan for Metro expansion

In D.C., a $26 billion plan for Metro expansion

by Benjamin Kabak

Is this the Washington DC Metro system of the future? Plans for 2040 call for a loop line servicing ten stations.

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.

When the plans were first announced a few weeks ago, The Washington Post ran an extensive piece on the upgrades, and Metro’s own planning blog showcased the map. The Post summarized:

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.

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Alex C December 24, 2013 - 12:08 am

Maybe they got encouraged from the recent expansion and haven’t had their souls crushed yet like here in NYC. Nobody at the MTA would dare suggest expansion at this point since all the city and state politicians either hate transit or think it’s completely irrelevant. We also have NIMBYs, lots and lots of NIMBYs who oppose literally anything and everything because NIMBY. Best of luck, DC. May you avoid the hellish transit expansion fate NYC received.

Bolwerk December 24, 2013 - 12:55 am

New York advocates can’t see across borders in more ways than one. We need to build more fairness and efficiency into the land use process, probably at the charter level.

But DC has its share of NIMBYs too. Georgetown?

Dizzy December 24, 2013 - 9:32 am

Georgetown is almost unanimously on-board with bringing Metro to Georgetown: http://georgetownmetropolitan......finalized/

The extent to which Georgetown NIMBYs had an impact in skipping the neighborhood during original construction is still debated: the archival record suggests it was never seriously considered as an option, while others swear they remember an anti-Metro campaign from residents and businesses gearing up ‘just in case.’ Either way, times have changed.

Bolwerk December 24, 2013 - 11:19 am

Well, there are definitely geographic reasons construction in Georgetown would be difficult, at least if the route is to cross the river into Virginia.

Chris C December 25, 2013 - 5:18 am

There was a recent article in the Washing Post about the history of this and the consensus was that the ‘NIMBY’ argument was there but was much over blown ‘the subway will bring the wrong sort of people’.

But the real reason was down to the geography and geology of the area as well as economics and lack of population to support a stop as to why a station wasn’t built in Georgetown.

Bolwerk December 25, 2013 - 9:09 pm

Fair enough. To be clear, I wasn’t really referring to the apocrypha about the Metro never making it to Georgetown to begin with. I was just saying wealthy, white Georgetown has NIMBYs. Most of the wealthier neighborhoods to the northwest do too.

Dizzy’s point that the neighborhood is backing Metro now was fair though.

Anonymous December 24, 2013 - 12:23 am

As a DC resident, we’d kill for SBS over the abomination that is DC streetcar. Even if they built it out completely, it’d still be faster to take the existing buses.

Bolwerk December 24, 2013 - 12:55 am

If that’s true, they are doing the streetcar wrong.

Steve S. December 24, 2013 - 11:52 am

Quite. If H Street NE is the template, they are quite literally making every mistake in the book. Generally, it’s preferable to run light rail tracks in their own separate running lanes, and H Street (four traffic lanes) is wide enough to accommodate this; however, the installation has the streetcar tracks in the outer driving lanes, creating unnecessary conflicts with parallel parkers etc. Also, H Street, while busy, isn’t really busy enough to demand four driving lanes. In my (albeit limited) experience with it, I suspect two driving lanes there would be quite adequate.

This also makes me worry about M Street SW and SE, as that street desperately needs a road diet, and a dedicated LR ROW would be an excellent way to go about it; a botched implementation would make things worse for everybody.

Bolwerk December 24, 2013 - 12:48 pm

I agree that isn’t best practice, but it hardly automatically implies being slower than conventional urban buses.

JohnS December 24, 2013 - 4:25 pm

Seattle’s experience with the SLUT line (South Lake Union) indicates that yes, you can spend lots and lots of capital dollars on building rail, but if you insist in running it in non-dedicated lanes, you’re really not much faster than existing bus service. Both streetcars and buses can benefit from transit signal priority. The real streetcar advantage (other than ride comfort) is capacity, and unless you’re going to run multi-car streetcars you don’t even get that.

Otherwise your streetcar lines are basically development enhancement – sending developers the signal that this is an area you want to see development in, since tracks are perceived to be more permanent.

None of this is intended as anti-streetcar, just pointing out that if you’re going to spend the money, do it right.

Bolwerk December 24, 2013 - 9:32 pm

Speed isn’t always the point, but if it’s replacing a bus line it shouldn’t be slower. Again, it may not be best practice, but there are plenty of examples of trams working well in mixed traffic.

Alon Levy December 25, 2013 - 9:10 am

I do not know of a single mixed-traffic streetcar in a developed country that works. Nor do I know a single such streetcar at all in the parts of Europe that were never communist.

Dizzy December 25, 2013 - 3:21 pm

Well, they are former communist countries, but the trams in Czech Republic and Slovakia work pretty well in my experience

Bolwerk December 25, 2013 - 9:27 pm

You’re the last person I would have expected that from. What do you consider “works”? HBLR has at least one stretch of relatively busy mixed traffic and seems fine.

From personal experience (SORRY), I would cite Dusseldorf and (small stretches only) maybe Cologne. Also Milan. Hell, even Philadelphia’s subway-surface trolleys seem decent. Vienna supposedly works, but I haven’t used transit there.

The thing these places all generally have in common is low automobile traffic, of course, at least on the stretches with the public transit. But it’s not unworkable.

Alon Levy December 26, 2013 - 4:51 am

Are those European systems you describe mixed-traffic streetcars? They run on surface streets, but I think Stadtbahnen are in separate lanes. My recollection of the Milan trams is that the old ones run in mixed traffic and the modern ones run in separate lanes. Google Earth touring Milan shows no cars on the tram line I followed, unlike the case on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia.

Also, Milan may have lower car ownership than the average American city, but it’s a large, dense city without freeways except at its fringe. It has plenty of traffic per unit of road, if not per capita.

Mixed-traffic streetcars, especially in the parts of the world where transit is workable (i.e. dense cities), get stuck behind cars. They are more comfortable than a bus, but are slower than a bus since they can’t swerve around cars as well. There are many on-street trams in Europe that run in separate lanes, and those are slower than subways but at least faster than walking even after you factor in waiting time, which is more than I can say for mixed-traffic transit.

Philadelphia’s trolleys should be compared with Boston’s Green Line, which has a very short shared-lane segment on just one line, and has twice the ridership of the Subway-Surface Lines on only somewhat longer route length.

John December 26, 2013 - 8:40 am

Doesn’t Amsterdam have mixed-traffic streetcars? I’ve only been there once, but I remember them working fairly well.

Bolwerk December 26, 2013 - 11:16 am

Yes, I believe you are right. The places I cited all do it, but mostly only for short stretches. Dusseldorf seems to do it the most extensively of any major western-ish European city I can find. Flash doesn’t work on Linux, so I can’t play with street view, but:

http://www.ecocompactcity.org/.....eldorf.jpg – modern LRV in mixed traffic

https://www.google.com/maps?q=Dusseldorf&hl=en&ie=UTF8&sll=51.219142,6.809206&sspn=0.040911,0.110893&oq=D&t=h&hq=wehrhahn&hnear=Dusseldorf,+D%C3%BCsseldorf,+North+Rhine-Westphalia,+Germany&fll=51.228384,6.791723&fspn=0.00032,0.000866&z=21 – caught by satellite surveillance

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/.....450405.jpg – you can see tram tracks on a side street

http://www.urbanrail.net/eu/de.....f-tram.htm – second picture down on the right (not sure this is legal though)

https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Harkortstra%C3%9Fe,+Dusseldorf,+Germany&hl=en&ie=UTF8&ll=51.218639,6.790397&spn=0.000639,0.001733&sll=51.219476,6.790672&sspn=0.000639,0.001733&oq=Harkorts&t=h&gl=us&hnear=Harkortstra%C3%9Fe,+40210+D%C3%BCsseldorf,+Germany&z=20 – short stretch of mixed traffic

Ridership aside, the Philly subway-surface lines work and are pretty punctual/convenient, and auto traffic doesn’t come anywhere near zero.

Alon Levy December 27, 2013 - 7:05 am


My bad.

Still, the new French trams (maybe also new trams elsewhere in Europe?) are to my knowledge separate-lane, and the speed of mixed-traffic trams leaves a lot to be desired. Hell, even separate-lane trams aren’t the fastest, although they’re still competitive with city traffic and with walking.

Dizzy December 27, 2013 - 9:47 am


It’s true that mixed-traffic (or even dedicated-lane) trams aren’t a particularly rapid mode of transit, but if you’re comparing them to driving, you have to factor in the parking issue. I think one of the major reasons the trams in Prague were so successful (my experience is from 2006, so maybe it has changed since then?) is that, aside from the whole post-communist-lack-of-car-culture thing, there is a major dearth of parking in central Prague. Why bother with that mess when there is a robust network of trams that covers many of the core arterials?

Bolwerk December 27, 2013 - 11:44 am

Alon: I think everyone recognizes dedicated lanes are best practice. Like here, it’s not always possible for political or other reasons. I’m not exactly thrilled by it either, but I still don’t see how the practice is a show-stopper.

Spendmor Wastemor December 25, 2013 - 12:02 pm

DC Metro management’s drooling incompetence should preclude them from getting a nickel of Federal, State, Local or wishing fountain dollars. Their staff isn’t much better.

John-2 December 24, 2013 - 1:05 am

If I were coming in from Alexandria and south, I probably would be doing a bit of a “WTF?” over the apparent rerouting of the Yellow Line away from its quick one-seat trip across the Potomac and through downtown D.C. west of the Capitol.

Ambitious? Yes. Well thought out? Maybe if you live in Georgetown and are among those ruing the decision of area residents 45 years ago to keep their community Metro-free. Other areas more likely see this proposal as a definite work-in-progress in need of tweaking.

Alon Levy December 24, 2013 - 1:47 am

Okay, this looks like about 13 km of new tunnels, going clockwise from the split north of Arlington Cemetery to just east of the Long Bridge. In the official plans it’s only about 8 km, since the circle is smaller, with its north-south component running under 10th West rather than under 2nd West as this map appears. The cost of these new tunnels is $6 billion (link), so $750 million/km. The other $20 billion is other things – a single flying junction south of Rosslyn for $1 billion, more station entrances, signal priority for buses, outward extensions, more cars to lengthen trains, and more railyards.

It’s actually a lot easier to imagine massive extensions in New York than in DC. To put things in perspective, full SAS is 13 km, Triboro is 34.5 km, Utica south of Eastern Parkway is 6.5 km, Nostrand is 5km, new Hudson tunnels toward Grand Central by any name are 6.5 km, the 7 extension is 1.5 km, Queensway is about 5 km of rail between the Main Line and the A, the 7 from Hudson Yards to Secaucus is about 6 km, 125th is 2 km, and completing Utica north of Eastern Parkway to SAS is 9.5 km. The city’s ignoring Utica and Nostrand now but the 1970s extension proposals didn’t. Washington doesn’t have a Utica; H Street North has a lot of bus ridership and so does the 14th/16th West corridor, but 14th and 16th are way less densely built than Utica, and only H looks comparably dense.

AG December 24, 2013 - 8:50 am

I agree – it does need to be put in perspective.

I personally believe Phase II of the SAS would probably get done in this same time frame as what WMATA wants to do (by 2040)..

Even closer in time frame and very much possible in terms of dollars is “Penn Station Access” – whereby there would be six new Metro North Stations (Co-Op City/Morris Park/Parkchester/Hunts Point/W125th/W60th).

There is also strong hope there will be another Trans-Hudson tunnel by 2040…

HOPEFULLY Triboro RX and the Rockaway Line can get done in that time.

When we look at those projects – if they happen – those would be considered huge expansions elsewhere…

lawhawk December 24, 2013 - 9:06 am

Size matters, and DC’s proposals are big relative to the DC geography, but not so much when compared to NYC or longstanding ideas/plans for expansion.

Those plans for NYC expansion are still out there; it’s just finding the way to get them built – paid for – and running.

The 2d Ave expansion would include more riders than many entire transit systems elsewhere in the nation. It’s arguable that the Utica or Nostrand expansions would encourage significant growth in those areas.

Upzoning and getting the revenue from the air rights locked in (no backtracking as we’re already seeing with Hudson Yards) would help get the subway expansion on track. But it would also take a mayor and governor who are interested in such things. Cuomo certainly isn’t, and DeBlasio has yet to show his cards.

The MTA has to negotiate contracts with the TWU, and job protection/salary hikes are all part of the talks. Expansion plays a role in job growth/shifting work from positions that can be phased out to other roles, and would encourage long term growth in the city, particularly with affordable housing and affordable modern office space at a premium.

Eric December 26, 2013 - 4:49 am

Why can’t MTA fund these quickly the same way Los Angeles has through Measure R?

AG December 26, 2013 - 10:28 pm

Simple… taxes are already sky high in the NYC metro area… The commuter tax was voted down… you expect a tax will get voted for expansion? Plus there is nothing “quick” about LA’s expansion.. it’s a decades long process… mostly for light rail at that.

Eric December 24, 2013 - 4:35 am

“To the south of New York City, though, expansion is all the rage. ”

You must mean to the south of Philadelphia…

Mike December 24, 2013 - 9:16 am

SEPTA had a hard enough fight just getting enough funding to avoid a “doomsday budget” that would have cut back everything except the subway and el. Pennsyltucky is never going to kick in money to expand transit in the economic heart of the Commonwealth, and without that state share they won’t get federal funding.

Neil Flanagan December 24, 2013 - 7:03 am

Wait! Let’s get this clear. Metro was never seriously considered for Georgetown! There were other parts of the city that fought Metro, such as Chevy Chase and Kingman Park, but not Georgetown.

That is not to say that residents wouldn’t have done it if they’d got the chance.

AG December 24, 2013 - 8:33 am

I’d be interested to know where they plan to get the money… Will they float bonds? Will they charge a special tax like in LA? Or are they planning to rely on federal money?

Dizzy December 24, 2013 - 9:40 am

That is the key question. One big problem is that most of this proposed loop routing goes through areas that are already built out (within the DC definition of the term, given Height Act, zoning, and historical constraints). You cannot do what was done with the Silver Line, where you add a special tax on Tysons commercial property owners in exchange for giving them massive upzoning, plus leverage a lot of toll money from the Dulles Toll Road.

Still, there is an expectation that adding these stations and routings will increase property values, which can be captured through special taxes. That will likely have to be part of the funding structure. Bonds – probably. Federal money – definitely.

Herb Lehman December 24, 2013 - 10:32 am

It’s very ambitious, but I hope the Metro is able to succeed in getting this expansion built. When visiting DC, I always wondered why Georgetown had no train service and always assumed it was because of NIMBYs. Interesting to see that the earlier comments say that might not be so.

Michael_G December 24, 2013 - 10:35 am

Another component of WMATA’s proposed Loop line would be the construction of express tracks through Arlington County connecting the new Dulles Airport Silver Line to the future Loop line. It would essentially bypass the congested Ballston, Virginia Square, Clarendon and Court House Orange Line stations by using, most likely, the right-of-way of Interstate 66. (Greater Greater Washington has a good rundown of what it could look like: http://greatergreaterwashingto.....ress-line/)

The Loop plan is not perfect, but it accomplishes two big things: It helps ease the train congestion heading through the Orange/Blue junction at Rosslyn and better distributes Metrorail passengers going to/from Union Station, currently only served by the Red Line. Both choke points are at capacity and conditions are only going to get worse, especially with the introduction of the SIlver Line Phase 1 service in 2014.

The Washington Union Station Master Plan released by Amtrak in 2012 doesn’t factor in a second Metrorail station into the mix, so it will be interesting to see how the local planning efforts for Metrorail expansion plays territorially with Amtrak in the coming years. (Amtrak previously thwarted D.C. officials who wanted to use an unused tunnel beneath the Union Station rail yard for the H Street streetcar line.)

If I could snap my fingers, I’d build a new tunnel for intercity passenger rail (Amtrak/MARC/VRE) from Union Station to the planned Long Bridge rail replacement span via L’Enfant Plaza and turn over control of the current First Street Tunnel to Metrorail for Loop line use. This is an interconnected infrastructure situation where improved Amtrak through-service, Union Station expansion, Metrorail expansion and D.C.’s planned Southwest EcoDistrict redevelopment plan could benefit from the same initiative.

D.C. may need a reincarnation of the McMillan Commission to get all its future megaprojects built. But that would require a champion in Congress and continued support from Virginia politicians, too. (The Loop line and Dulles express line would help Virginia commuters more than Maryland or D.C., so it’s not necessarily an easy sell locally, either.)

Alon Levy December 24, 2013 - 11:25 am

But there’s no capacity problem on the Yellow and Green Lines. The Orange and Blue Lines have a problem, so it’s fine to add a fourth core line, going east-west from Rosslyn through Georgetown, H Street, and Union Station; this also parallels the city’s busiest bus.

If more Long Bridge capacity is required, then the region should start with the underused mainline rail infrastructure. Without any significant concrete pouring*, it’s possible to run 12 and even 18 tph through the First Street Tunnels. Current peak traffic is if I’m not mistaken 6 tph. It would also turn L’Enfant into a plausible relief station for Union Station for passengers coming from the Maryland side.

*By which I mean, with nothing fancier than making all platforms high and adding staircases and elevators down to the platform from Avenue H.

Michael_G December 24, 2013 - 3:39 pm

Yes, WMATA’s Green/Yellow lines aren’t currently facing the same type of capacity issues as the Blue/Orange at Rosslyn, but with so much commercial/residential growth along the Green Line corridor (especially around the Waterfront and Navy Yard stations), there are future concerns about congestion, which would explain the additional Loop line stations adjacent to the current Waterfront and Navy Yard stations.

A true crosstown Metrorail line connecting Rosslyn, Georgetown, Union Station and the H Street NE corridor with the Orange or Blue Line branches east of the Anacostia River would work well, too, and solve the Rosslyn and Union Station capacity issues. But with the H Street-Benning Road streetcar line — and its eventual extension westward to Georgetown via the future K Street transitway — there may not be as much of a need to have both a streetcar line and a Metrorail line going all the way out H Street NE. (A case could be made to run the new crosstown Metrorail line eastward from Union Station out H Street NE to Bladensburg Road, then along the Route 1 Corridor in Maryland to the Green Line’s route to Greenbelt and maybe beyond to Laurel and BWI Airport.)

In any regard, the Yellow Line bridge over the Potomac is not at capacity, so it makes sense to look at ways to better utilize that bridge.

Erik December 24, 2013 - 10:50 am

Boston is also moving forward with transit. There’s theUrban Ring project, which is still to be funded but inching along mostly through creative use of a mix of buses, bus lanes, and bus tunnels (the touch-based Charlie card makes boarding the buses very fast even without true BRT fare systems. There is also the
Green Line Extension, which will bring rail access to an entirely new area (Somerville – where I live and just bought a house!). Just like the SAS the first phase is fully funded and they are still working on the rest. This saw the light of day largely b/c it’s creative use of existing rail rights and they are combining it with a bike path, so that’s something the Queensway may be able to learn from.

Alon Levy December 24, 2013 - 11:52 am

The GLX is seeing the light of day because the courts forced the state to build it as a mitigation for the Big Dig, and the MBTA hasn’t been able to get out of this obligation the way it did from the North-South Rail Link obligation. It’s even unhelpfully cut the line back to College Avenue. The cost, $1.3 billion for 7 km, is an order of magnitude more than what light rail should cost on an intact rail ROW, and not much less than what subways cost in non-English-speaking countries. When DC’s Silver Line costs this much it’s an outrage, and that’s a line involving viaducts and freeway median running, which shouldn’t cost this much to build but are still harder than the GLX infrastructure.

If you want to see what the MBTA and Massachusetts really think about rail expansion, ask why they’re sandbagging Silver Line light rail. The estimate for the number of new riders induced by railstituting the southern half of the Silver Lie is sandbagged by about two orders of magnitude: see the estimates on PDF-page 36 here and compare with average US rail bias of about 40%, i.e. rail should get 40% more ridership than a bus independently of other factors.

Rob December 24, 2013 - 4:13 pm

“criminally under-served” – are we a bit hyperbolic here, especially if referring to Geotown which arguably didn’t want it in the first place?

“doesn’t touch Maryland” – the plan hardly touches VA either, with no significant new lines or stations. Virtually all the new would be in dc.

And if you could suck money out of the whole country at will, you, too could forge ahead with grandiose plans [not that ny isn’t in its own way [e.g. path terminal, fulton, etc]].

JohnS December 24, 2013 - 4:31 pm

WMATA can’t ‘suck money out of the whole country at will’ any more than any other transit system can.

Rob December 26, 2013 - 3:26 pm

Not true. The DC metro was built with a grossly disproportionate federal share, I believe much more than any other system got. Compare what they got and get to SEPTA, for example, and as AG says, to NY.

AG December 24, 2013 - 4:57 pm

“And if you could suck money out of the whole country at will, you, too could forge ahead with grandiose plans [not that ny isn’t in its own way [e.g. path terminal, fulton, etc]].”

Rob – NYC is a donor to the rest of the nation… The NYC region as a whole is grossly underfunded by the feds.

Plus the PATH and Fulton (though arguably overpriced) were actually because of the national security event on 9/11… That money was for rebuilding… not the normal course of transit expansion. You’re comparing apples to oranges on that one.

AlexB December 24, 2013 - 4:16 pm

DC’s proposal is clearly more ambitious than anything coming from the MTA, which can’t seem to even come up with a plan to seriously expand its transit system beyond a few stops on 2nd Ave and some minor improvements to bus service. That said, I feel that Metro’s proposal will take their system down the wrong path and lock in inefficient operational patterns for decades to come. (Loops are bad, straight lines are good!) I wrote about this in much greater detail here: http://greatergreaterwashingto.....town-loop/.

In NYC, without adding more lines, there are a number of things that could be done to increase capacity:
– Fix the Rogers Junction where the Nostrand and Eastern Parkway lines merge;
– Reconstruct DeKalb so all trains stop and the Brighton and 4th Ave express don’t have to merge; and,
– Make the installation of CBTC a priority throughout the system and finish it in 5 years.

Do those things, buy more subway cars, and the NYC subway could (and will) add as many riders as Portland’s entire light rail network. Although, Alon Levy’s list of projects (Utica, 2nd Ave, Nostrand, 7 Queens Extension, etc) should still be pursued – most of them have been on various expansion plans since the 60s.

Nyland8 December 25, 2013 - 1:38 pm

“Loops are bad, straight lines are good” ??

Uh … not exactly. Sounds a bit oversimplified, especially in the case of the NYC Subways, which would benefit enormously with a bit of a bypass around Manhattan.

In our case, an arc, or semi-beltway from Bronx to Queens to Brooklyn, would effectively become more of a straight line – by becoming the shortest distance between points. Because those who commute between the boroughs wouldn’t have to endure slower, more crowded, and unnecessary stops in Manhattan. This, in turn, frees up more seats on the spurs, and thus encourages more overall subway usage.

For example, if every inbound Bronx train is already packed near capacity before it even reaches Harlem, this greatly discourages mass-transit use. But if the Bronx commuters bound for Queens and Brooklyn, and vice versa, didn’t have to go through Manhattan to get where they’re going, and could do it in less time, mass-transit becomes a better option than driving along … you name it. The Throgs Neck; the Whitestone; the Van Wyck; etc.

In our case, all spokes are bad, some wheels are good!

AG December 25, 2013 - 1:49 pm

Very true… hopefully the Triboro RX becomes a reality (which would probably have more of an impact than this $26 billion plan in DC)… I did ask the MTA why they did not include a stop in Astoria for their plan to use Metro North on the Hell Gate Line (where it could connect to the subway in Astoria) and they said the station would be too expensive because it’s too high there (or something of that sort).

Alon Levy December 26, 2013 - 6:03 am

Re Astoria Metro-North, it’s a bunch of issues, some serious, some not.

1. The plan is not to run frequently off-peak and to charge high fares. This is attractive if the alternative is a slow bus-train connection as in Coop City, but not if it’s a subway connection that’s more direct than Metro-North would be. So Astoria is projected to have low ridership, not justifying high capital expense.

2. The station is so high that it’s prohibitively expensive to add tracks. At current traffic levels, mixing stopping Metro-North trains with Amtrak is fine, but if Amtrak is sped up and has serious ridership, it’ll brush up against the limit of mixed traffic there.

3. The houses are very close to the viaduct carrying the tracks, so adding platforms requires a fair amount of takings and a lot of new viaducts (=$$$). To save money on even harder construction, the alternative Metro-North investigated had relatively short Astoria platforms, 4 cars long if I’m not mistaken.

Eric December 26, 2013 - 11:18 am

2. If the tracks are already so crowded there, how can the ROW possibly be used for TriboroRX?

Alon Levy December 26, 2013 - 11:40 am

The plan for Triboro is to buy out CSX and move it to the passenger tracks. There’s very little freight, and if it’s sped up with electric locomotives it can keep up with passenger trains on the bridge. Commuter trains making stops at Port Morris and Astoria can but it’s more difficult (just at Astoria it’s easier).

AG December 26, 2013 - 10:48 pm

Yeah – I understand the technical issues… but I think IF those could be overcome – there could be potential ridership (opening up travel for ppl to go from Queens to Westchester and Connecticut more easily). Of course the Triboro RX would be better for ppl going between Queens and the Bronx…

A Washingtonian December 24, 2013 - 5:29 pm

“It’s a hell of a lot sexier than a bunch of signal system upgrades.”

Part of this is due to the relative youth of the system, I’m sure when the Metro is 100+ years old it will be needing massive signal system upgrades as well 🙂

And actually, Metro is doing signal system upgrades right now, as demanded by the feds after the 2009 crash. Locals and visitors will recognize this as constant single-tracking and 30+ minute headways on weekends while they work on the system bit by bit. So will anyone who remembers how smooth the ride used to be when they used Automatic Train Control before that incident. Since June 2009, all trains have been operated manually and the ride quality and comfort suffers for it.

A Virginian December 26, 2013 - 3:34 pm

‘how smooth the ride used to be when they used Automatic Train Control’ – I know that was the conventional wisdom and the official policy, but as a regular rider, I knew it was anything but. The atc would jerk it forward in acceleration, reach the set speed, and then jerk into dynamic braking in repetitive short cycles.

And their claimed tunnel capacity constraints are largely a function of their aversion to 8 car trains. I believe there are few if any 8 car blues, and no 8 car yellows. It would be like the operating 6 car trains on the E & F and saying another tunnel is needed because the trains are maxed out.

Dizzy December 27, 2013 - 9:50 am

“Aversion” isn’t quite the right word. There are actual, physical constrains to running more 8-car trains. Specifically: rolling stock, rail yard capacity, and electrical infrastructure. All 8-car trains during peak hours is an identified medium-term priority, though.

A Virginian December 27, 2013 - 1:54 pm

There are NO constraints to operating 8 car trains [less frequently than shorter trains]. And since what we are talking about is limited track capacity, that is the way to go.

BenW December 27, 2013 - 2:53 pm

The 2040 plan is talking about track capacity, yes—isn’t the one of the points of the (now starting to arrive) 7000-series car order to add enough rolling stock to make 8-car trains feasible for all lines, at least during the rush?

A Washingtonian December 24, 2013 - 5:37 pm

To clarify for people less familiar with the DC system, the need for expansion is less about need for new stations and much more about the need for new capacity.

Metro is a 2-track system for its entire length, and there are currently major chokepoints on the two crossings of the Potomac River.

The Rosslyn-Foggy Bottom tunnel, used by the Blue and Orange lines, is currently is at its capacity in terms of trains per hour during peak service. And the Silver Line, which is opening in a couple months, will use the same route, reducing service on those two lines. The river crossing the Yellow Line uses between Pentagon and L’Enfant plaza is similarly constrained because the Yellow Line and Green Line share two tracks where they run concurrently (also at capacity in TPH during peak).

Therefore, the new Potomac River crossing in this plan and decoupling the Green Line from the Yellow Line are much more important than the new stations themselves.


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