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Commuter Graphic: A Dulles Extension Milestone

With the formal commitment of federal dollars to a new Silver Line to Dulles International Airport, the D.C. area is about to see the most significant expansion of the transportation system since the Metro system was first laid out.

This week's Commuter Graphic outlines the pain and the payoff of the project.

GR2009031400962.gif

See full Silver Line coverage.

By Mike McPhate  |  March 15, 2009; 10:32 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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Comments

Having the metro head out to Dulles sounds great and all, but for Orange line commuters, this seems like a disaster. The Orange line is already really crowded during rush hour. Now this would dump even more commuters out at East Falls Church to get on the orange. I haven't really been keeping up with the info on the expansion, but I can't imagine how this is going to work out well. Is increasing Orange line capacity part of the plan or are they just ignoring that problem?

Posted by: juggler9000 | March 15, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

juggler9000, you have it wrong: The new Silver Line trains will not dump anyone at East Falls Church, as they will instead continue all the way across DC to end at Stadium-Armory. There are two reasons for this: (1) They figure people will be less likely to use the new line if they have to change trains at either of the "Falls Churches"; (2) There is nowhere to terminate a train between the spot where the new line is to merge onto the Orange Line and Stadium-Armory because the geniuses who laid out the tracks didn't include pocket tracks. A pocket track is a short third track, normally located between the other tracks, that allows the transit agency to lay up a train out of the way of in-service trains; this can be done because a train broke down, such that the pocket allows for a convenient spot to shove the train out of the way so as to minimize service delays (you then retrieve it after rush hour ends), or it can be used to turn trains when a service is ending short of the actual end of the tracks (Mt. Vernon Square is a great example, as the Yellow Line trains use a pocket track north of that stop to turn around when they aren't running to Fort Totten). Trying to turn a train without a pocket track is too disruptive to allow for it during rush-hour service, which is why the Yellow Line terminates at Mt. Vernon Square during those hours (there is no pocket track at Fort Totten), and it's why the Dulles Line trains will have to go all the way to Stadium-Armory.

(to be continued)

Posted by: 1995hoo | March 15, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

(continued....the Post limits length of blog comments)


What this also means is that there have to be service cuts somewhere. You can understand the problem that comes from two different services using the same track when you consider that for safety reasons the trains must maintain a certain distance between each other. That means that there is a limit on the number of trains that can use a stretch of track each hour. Currently the Orange and Blue Lines both see reduced capacity because of the shared trackage from Rosslyn to the interlocking east of Stadium-Armory where the lines split. Adding the Dulles Line to the SAME tracks will further reduce capacity. You cannot increase capacity while adding another service to the same two tracks; the only solution is to build more tracks, and the money for that simply isn't there. It's been reported that in the long term WMATA would like to build a second cross-town tunnel from near Rosslyn to near Stadium-Armory and run the Blue Line through that, but I don't recommend holding your breath waiting for this to happen. The cost would make the current $5 billion projection for the Dulles Line look like a minor expenditure.

(one more to come)

Posted by: 1995hoo | March 15, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

(final comment)

So yes, the Dulles Line does pose problems for the Orange Line, but Blue Line commuters will get it even worse. WMATA plans either to reduce service on the Blue Line or else re-route some of the Blue trains as a "Brown Line" over the bridge and up to Greenbelt. The Blue Line already tends to have shorter trains than the other lines (i.e., trains with fewer cars), and large numbers of Blue Line riders use that line to reach Foggy Bottom and Farragut West, so this plan would then force people to change at L'Enfant Plaza or at Gallery Place, the latter with the idea of going to Farragut North and walking. I really wonder how fully the impact of the proposed Brown Line has been analyzed.

Posted by: 1995hoo | March 15, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Why is the Silver Line being planned into Loudoun County instead of extending the Orange Line into Centreville/Manassas/Gainesville? The proposed Metro stops in Loudoun County are currently undeveloped fields in the middle of nowhere while the I-66 corridor is fully developed and could really use extension of the metro.

Posted by: yoderiad | March 15, 2009 10:36 PM | Report abuse

"Why is the Silver Line being planned into Loudoun County instead of extending the Orange Line into Centreville/Manassas/Gainesville? The proposed Metro stops in Loudoun County are currently undeveloped fields in the middle of nowhere while the I-66 corridor is fully developed and could really use extension of the metro."

It's called "juice".

The developers who stand to gain from building up (already-overbuit) Tysons and Dulles Corridor, along with the yuppies in the overpriced homes in the area have a LOT more of it than do the middle-class and working class people who live in Centerville/Manassas/Gainsville.

Posted by: ceefer66 | March 16, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Why is metro going into Loudon and not I-66 past Vienna?

Simple answer: Because its been in the planning and hoping stage for the last 30 years when both tracks of land were probably barron fields. It'll take another 30 years of planning to get new track laid for metro if ever.

Posted by: JTDCA | March 16, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

past Vienna on I-66 already has rail....its called VRE. Dulles corridor just has crappy buses. After Dulles gets its Metro, then I-66 Metro is "next up".

Posted by: thetan | March 16, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

"past Vienna on I-66 already has rail....its called VRE. Dulles corridor just has crappy buses. After Dulles gets its Metro, then I-66 Metro is "next up". "
Posted by: thetan | March 16, 2009 1:51 PM

The VRE line to Manassas runs and terminates pretty far from the Centerville and Gainsville area along I-66.

Are you familiar with the area in question? Doesn't look like it.

Posted by: ceefer66 | March 16, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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