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Managing demand on Metrorail

Officials who worry about traffic congestion in the D.C. region now talk more about managing demand than about building new roads. Metro officials are developing a similar theme when they talk about the future of our transit system. In each case, the planners' premise is that we're running out of room, and it's really expensive to build new stuff.

L'Enfant-Michael Williamson.jpg Crowded trains at L'Enfant Plaza. (Michael Williamson-The Washington Post)

An emerging issue for both planners and transit riders is the question of where to send the Metro trains along the tracks we have now.

On Wednesday night, the Riders' Advisory Council listened to Metro's Jim Hughes explain the plan to create new versions of some Blue and Orange Line trains -- maybe with different colors or different destination signs -- to adjust to changes in transit demand

New destinations
Metro no longer builds new rail lines. It has to adjust to the new line toward Dulles that Virginia is building and it has to adjust to where the riders want to go, which is increasingly toward the eastern side of downtown Washington. Hence, the proposal to divert some rush-hour Blue Line trains away from the jammed tunnel at Rosslyn and instead send them over the Potomac River bridge into L'Enfant Plaza Station, then on up to Greenbelt.

Some Blue Line riders who travel from Franconia-Springfield or Crystal City to Rosslyn or Foggy Bottom would be less likely to get a one-train ride, but according to Metro's calculations, there are many more gainers. They include people from those same areas who exit at L'Enfant Plaza or Gallery Place or many other stations on all the lines that stop on the eastern side of downtown. See a map.

Additions and subtractions
These are some of the points that Hughes, Metro's director of intermodal planning, made in an important discussion that will continue for months till the Metro board adopts a final plan.
-- The plan helps many more Blue Line riders than it hurts, and it also does good things for rush hour riders along the Orange, Green and Yellow lines by adding trains.
-- The additional service for Orange Line riders would come in the form of three new trains originating at West Falls Church, serving riders on what is Metro's most crowded route during the morning rush.
-- While this plan is usually described in terms of what it does for riders from Virginia, it also provides more rush hour trains for Marylanders who now take the Green Line from Greenbelt or transfer from the Red Line at Fort Totten.
-- Three Blue Line trains per peak hour would be diverted from the Rosslyn tunnel, but it's difficult to calculate whether the train you're riding now would be one of those. The trains are not evenly spaced during the peak hours, because they need to merge onto the same Potomac bridge that Yellow Line trains are using.
-- Within the District, rush-hour service is either the same or more frequent under this plan. The gains come for riders using the stations along the Green-Yellow Line tunnel.
-- There are two communication problems: How to explain this proposal to riders and how to make sure that once it's implemented, everybody gets where they want to go.

Related post: Easing the Orange Crush

By Robert Thomson  | August 5, 2010; 11:21 AM ET
Categories:  Blue Line, Commuting, Metro, Orange Line, Transit  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock, Metrorail  
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Comments

If the plan "helps many more Blue Line riders than it hurts" it's just proof that Blue Line riders are lazy. They could get to the same place in the same amount of time by getting off their fat asses and switching to yellow.

No mention, of course, of when the promised eight-car trains (removed during the service non-reductions) could ever return.

Posted by: jiji1 | August 5, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

"There are two communication problems: How to explain this proposal to riders and how to make sure that once it's implemented, everybody gets where they want to go."

There is a very simple solution to both these problems, which is to create new lines (even if it requires using oddball colors like Burnt Umber in order to name all of them) such that each Metro line is described by a unique name that corresponds to one and only one set of starting station-interim station-end station points. In other words, you don't have a Blue Line that sometimes goes through Rosslyn and sometimes doesn't, you have a Blue Line that goes through Rosslyn and a Fuschia Line that goes from Huntington across the bridge and on to some end point in Maryland. And you don't have an Orange Line that starts in Vienna and goes to New Carrollton except when it starts in West Falls Church and ends in Landover, you have an Orange Line that goes from Vienna to New Carrollton and a Pink line that goes from WFC to Landover.

Once these new lines are created (which requires nothing more than redirecting trains and putting up signage) anyone who wants to go from point A to point B merely needs to look at the system map, determine which line or lines service those two points, and hop on the next train for that line that comes by. No communication problem whatsoever.

Will Metro ever figure this out and implement the simple solution? Not a chance.

Posted by: FeelWood | August 5, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

@ jiji1 If you work anywhere from Rosslyn to Farragut West it is faster to take the blue line from Virginia instead of switching to the yellow. The riders it helps are the ones who already get off to transfer to the yellow line who board at places like Franconia and Van Dorn. Those of us headed to Rosslyn/Foggy Bottom/Farragut are hurt by the switch.

Posted by: wmsheppa | August 5, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

We demand the Region start building additional lines. I didn't rent a place in Silver Spring because I wanted a car. I bought because of Metro. When Metro shuts down over Labor Day and during snowstorms or anytime a passneger gets sick, brakes overheat, whatever, we are denied the use of our tax dollars.

Build additional rail lines NOW.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | August 5, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Yes, wmsheppa, but Metro has been saying that the switch will benefit Blue Line riders headed to L'Enfant and points east. If they are already switching to Yellow, it wouldn't be much of a help. Instead, they're riding all the way to Rosslyn and back for fear of walking three feet in one direction and three feet back.

Posted by: jiji1 | August 5, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

And if they don't have a crayon box available to help come up with a sixth color, they should just switch to numbers. Multiple lines with the same colors and different routes is the kind of thing I would expect from Congress (although then they'd name three of them after Senator Byrd).

Posted by: jiji1 | August 5, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

a. Wasn't this brought up a year or three ago?

b. For the trains that are destinationally confused, I suggest Plaid.

Posted by: edallan | August 5, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

The lines / colors thing really isn't that hard. Other cities do it. In Boston, the green line has B, C, D, and E branches that all split going out of the city, and the red line has Ashmont- and Braintree-destined trains going south. Then there's New York, with the 2/3, formerly the 1/9, the 4/5/6... exactly what @jiji1 above specifies, with the same color (red for the 1/2/3, green for the 4/5/6) representing different routes.

No, the biggest problem has to be: there's exactly $0 lying around to throw at good solutions.

Posted by: EtoilePB | August 5, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Scary proposal. This would require trains from different lines to merge at several already busy locations. Every day Metro demonstrates that it can't keep track of its trains with any accuracy. Simple merges where two lines just need to alternate, like on the Blue-Orange lines, regularly back up. A proposal such at this is beyond Metro's capabilities and would inevitably produce gridlock.

Posted by: washpest | August 5, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

@anarcho-liberal-tarian--

Instead of spouting you usual "Build more now" drivel, how about explaining to us how you would propose all of this construction be paid for?

We're waiting...

Posted by: ceebee2 | August 5, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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