Transcript: March 17, 2009
Metro Assistant General Manager of Planning and Joint Development Nat Bottigheimer will respond directly to questions about planning issues during an online chat next Tuesday, March 17, when he hosts a new online chat entitled "What's the Plan?" — a live hour-long chat from noon to 1 p.m. Bottigheimer will be discussing Metro's plans for providing a network of faster bus service and how Metro can handle growth over the next 15 years. Visitors may post questions before and during the chat.
AGM of Planning and Joint Development Nat Bottigheimer: Alright, everyone, we're ready to get started ...fire away!
Arlington, VA: The Orange Line's nickname is the Orange Crush. While this is cool, it's not when you have to let three or more trains pass you by bc there are too many people on the station platform trying to board an already crowded train. The Red Line has a stop (GrovesnorStrathmore) that has every other metro train empty, bc this was a problem in the past where several trains from Shady Grove would be overcrowded. Metro needs to implement a plan like this on the Orange Line. There also needs to be better planning when the Blue Line and Orange line merge at Rosslyn. There is always a backup of trains. Either that or Metro should revise its station list to show that it'll take 45 minutes for your train to reach Ballston to Foggy Bottom. Also, did Metro receive Stimulus funding. If so, how much and where how it be utilized?
Reply: Hi, Arlington! During the peak of the peak hour there are additional Metrorail trains that begin at West Falls Church to operate eastbound during the morning rush. Additional trains are also added in the evening. Rosslyn has both Blue and Orange trains and the capacity of the line at that location is 27 trains in one direction in one hour. There is no capacity to add additional trains, hence the introduction last year of 8-car trains and the increase in numbers of 8-car trains that will be occurring over the course of this spring and summer as new cars are added. Nevertheless, during the peak hours of 730 AM to 830 or 900 AM, there will be extreme crowding because everyone wants to travel at the same time as is the case on the highways. We encourage people to shift their travel out of that time period if possible to take advantage of available capacity. On stimulus, Metro has received about $200 million in formula funds that we’ve targeted towards some very near-term basic needs: replacing our oldest buses, buying new MetroAccess vehicles, replacing crumbling platforms, rehabbing our oldest part of the Metrorail system from Judiciary Square to Rhode Island Avenue, …etc.
Washington, DC: A few months ago the DC Dept of Transportation and WMATA conducted a series of targeted community meetings to discuss Metro accessibility and gaps in service. What is the latest on the report from these meetings and what are the agencies' next steps for implementation? I am particularly interested in the Deanwood area serviced by the U4 and W4 bus lines.
Reply: Thanks for asking about this. Our final report for the DC Neighborhood Circulation Study has been provided to DDOT staff and by the end of the month it will be posted on the project website “dcgetinvolved.com/circulationstudy”. The recommended services may require new funding, and the next stage will involve working with the District Department of Transportation to identify funding for these needs.
HYATTSVILLE, MD: I have heard rumors of the possible extention of the green line into laurel and anne arundel county is this true and if so when can i see this happen. Thanks.
Reply: Thanks, Hyattsville. Discussions about this arose seriously for the first time in 2005 under the last governor. Maryland DOT and the Maryland MTA have conducted some preliminary studies of the feasibility of possible extensions. Two challenges are: (1) there’s already really good infrastructure in place for MARC / Amtrak, and it goes straight to Union Station without the intervening stops between Greenbelt/College Park and downtown. It’s also a possibility that this could be a commuter rail service. (2) There’s a lot of interest in building extensions on to our existing rail lines, but there’s a real need to make travel through the downtown “core” more reliable and to give us options to reroute trains in the event of a service disruption. We don’t want Metrorail to become one of these starfishes with really long, wavy arms and a tiny body in the middle.
Arlington , VA: Are there any efforts to consolidate bus stops? There are often bus stops every block or in some cases even more often which make for excruciatingly slow Metrobus trips. Would not spacing bus stops further apart make bus service faster as well as reduce emissions and fuel consumption?
Reply: Thanks for raising this point, Arlington. YES, this is a big issue for us. You’re right that over the years we have accumulated at lot of bus stops -- more than 12,000 around the region. And it definitely affects bus travel time. My own bugbear is taking the bus home from the Silver Spring Metrorail station. Depending on the route, there are four bus stops before you get out of downtown AFTER the trip starts at the transit center. It can take 5-10 minutes just to get beyond the downtown, especially with the stops on the near-side of the stoplights. So based on our understanding of the relationship between travel time on operating cost, and reliability on customer satisfaction and ridership, we’re trying to address this challenge. When we look at the routes along our priority corridors, one of the things we look at is possible bus stop consolidation. We’re also doing a study right now on bus stop standards, and one of these we’re proposing for priority corridors is no more than five stops per mile (see our project website “metrobusstopguidelines.com”). But we’re REALLY going to need popular support for making changes to the number of bus stops out there, because every bus stop proposed for removal will have constituents, and we’re going to have to have really good information on the overall benefits of applying an overall bus stop spacing policy if we’re actually going to be able to make progress in this area.
New Carroltton , MD: What is the progress on the "purple line". I realize its a multicountydepartment project. What will Metro's role be in this collaboration?
Reply: The Maryland Transportation Administration has the lead on this project, and the MTA is consulting closely with Metro particularly about the College Park and New Carrollton Metro stations where the Purple Line would cross Metro station plazas. Metro has also worked closely with the MTA to design facilities that will accommodate the Purple Line at the Silver Spring Transit Center.
Silver Spring, MD: Mr Bottigheimer, what are some of the new bus service coming to Metro? I t is good to see Metro paying attention to the bus side finally. metro has done a prro job with the bus side of things.
Reply: Thanks for the question, homey. Some of the new services we’ve been working on include the new Metro Extra service on Georgia Avenue (the 79), and new services along Wisconsin and Pennsylvania Avenues in the District. The restructurings there have given patrons new limited stop options. Travel times on the 79 are about 20% faster than for the local bus, and a lot of people appreciate that and use it. We’re rolling out a similar service on 16th Street beginning Monday, March 30th, and we’re planning similar kinds of improvements to the Q2, which travels from Shady Grove to Silver Spring along the Rockville Pike, Veirs Mill Road, and Georgia Avenue. There are public meetings for the Q2 study on Tuesday, March 31st at the First Baptist Church of Wheaton, 10914 Georgia Avenue, from 7 - 9 pm. More information is available about the Priority Corridor Network and individual projects on the WMATA website,” http://www.wmata.com/about_metro/planning_dev.cfm”
Alexandria, VA: When is WMATA going to implement the "Blue Line split", with some trains using the Yellow Linw bridge?
Reply: Hi, Alexandria. There's a lot of interest about this subject. To free up space at the tunnel under the Potomac Rosslyn portal, WMATA staff have developed a plan to divert some Blue Line trains from Rosslyn to the Yellow Line bridge during the peak periods. Under this plan, some trains would operate between Franconia/Springfield and Greenbelt, while others would maintain the connection to Addison Road. The movement of Blue Line trains away from the Rosslyn tunnel would allow additional Orange or Silver line trains to take their place and to maintain a 26 train per hour throughput, the maximum that can be operated. Another reason for this plan is that an increasing number of patrons are traveling from Alexandria and south Arlington to areas of the downtown east of Metro Center, and this service would reduce their travel times. We're expecting to bring this plan forward to the Metro Board for its consideration later this year.
Arlington, VA: Improving bus service is a relatively cheap way to expand transit capacity in the DC area, especially if there are dedicated bus lanes in congested areas. But those lanes can be an enforcement problem, and the last time I was on 9th St. at rush hour, the buses were stuck because the lane was full of bumpertobumper cars. Is Metro looking at ways to enforce the busonly lanes, like cameras on buses?
Reply: Arlington, you've put your finger on another one of the big challenges we face to providing higher quality bus service. Metro runs the transit service, but local governments own the roads and traffic signals, and control and enforce parking for cars and service vehicles. To address this challenge, we've been working closely with departments of transportation and elected officials around the region to define improvements that local governments can commit to making to give higher priority to buses. As far as enforcement goes, the District of Columbia is moving forward to use streetsweeper-mounted cameras as part of a parking enforcement strategy. We're going to be monitoring the success of this initiative to see what we can learn from it and if bus-mounted cameras would work.
washington , dc: You mentioned that you are doing a study on bus stop spacing. When will this study be done, what is its scope, and more importantly, how will it impact real policy? Seems like a nobrainer to know that having a bus stop on every block is an inefficient use of resources. Will there be specific recommendations for particular routes, or are you trying to come up with a onesizefitsall policy that can then be used to tweak all Metrobus routes?
Reply: The study should be available on the project website “metrobusstopguidelines.com within a month. To answer your last question, it's the latter: we're trying to establish a system-wide policy that will guide our planning for specific routes as we address their needs.
New Carrollton, MD: Hello. I noticed that there are a few metrobuses that are painted in the new paint scheme (RedGrey and BlueGrey), besides the new Articulated buses. Eventually, will the entire fleet have this new paint scheme?
Reply: Good question, New Carrollton. Our new color scheme is going to be red and silver for local services, and blue and silver for express services.
Stony Brook , NY: I'm wondering if the stimulus package for urban areas is going to have any effect on population densities in various parts of DC and if that will have a collateral effect on future bus routings.
Reply: Thanks for asking, Dad. Just having the federal government give priority to transit systems and urban areas sends a signal that urban areas are important areas for investment, and will play in role in attracting new residents in the future.
AGM of Planning and Joint Development Nat Bottigheimer:
I'm sorry I couldn't get to all of your questions. There were a lot of really good ones about strategic bus planning. This reflects the growing attention that we and the region are paying to creating a bus network that has identity and quality independent of the rail network, and I hope we'll be able to position some of our bus needs for federal funding, especially projects of regional significance like the K Street Busway.
Let's do it again next month!