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  #21  
Old Posted Jun 19, 2009, 6:34 PM
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Pretty fair article. I use SmartBike all the time, but it is extremely limited in scope. DC is ready to expand, has the money, and would have more stations functioning by now if not for Clear Channel shirking its side of the bargain (they're adhering to the letter of the law, but only via loophole; they've abandoned the spirit of the agreement).

The good news is that both DC and Arlington have money for bike-sharing that *has* to be spent in the next year or it goes away, so any delays aren't likely to be very long.
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  #22  
Old Posted Jun 22, 2009, 10:33 PM
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Two red line trains have collided this afternoon on the DC Metrorail system, I guess somewhere in the vicinity of Takoma or Fort Toten. I'm watching live coverage on CNN right now and they're reporting at least two fatalities have occurred.
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  #23  
Old Posted Jun 22, 2009, 10:46 PM
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Please direct discussion about the crash to the thread about it in Current Events.
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  #24  
Old Posted Jun 24, 2009, 2:44 PM
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Raising tolls on the Dulles Toll Road is an effective way to ensure higher ridership on the Silver Line. Making driving more expensive (or to reflect its actual cost --global warming, congestion, land-use effects, dependence on foreign oil, etc...) is a good method to increase transit ridership.


Fees Likely To Double on Dulles Toll Road by 2012

By Sandhya Somashekhar
Washington Post
Wednesday, June 24, 2009

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...303289_pf.html

The cost of driving on the Dulles Toll Road is likely to double over the next three years to help fund Metrorail's $5 billion expansion in Northern Virginia, officials with the agency in charge of the road and the rail project announced yesterday.

Under the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority proposal, tolls would go up incrementally, starting in January. It costs 75 cents to drive through the main plaza and 50 cents to use one of the on- or offramps. The proposal, subject to approval by the authority's board of directors, would increase the main toll to $1.50 by 2012, and the ramp toll would rise to 75 cents.

Higher tolls have long been planned to help raise money for the 23-mile Silver Line connecting the East Falls Church Metro station with Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County. Construction on the eastern portion, through Tysons Corner and ending in Reston, has begun. That stretch is expected to be operational by 2013.

The project is receiving local, state and federal funding, including a $900 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration. But more than half of the cost is expected to be covered by toll road proceeds, essentially ensuring that the tolls will continue to climb beyond 2012.

"My concern is not if they raise the toll but how high they raise it," said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors member Pat S. Herrity (R-Springfield). "We don't want to strangle the Dulles corridor. We don't want employers not building around the toll road, and we certainly don't want employees avoiding the toll road because the tolls are too high."

Tolls on the eight-lane road connecting the Capital Beltway and the Dulles Greenway last went up in 2005. Since then, control of the road has shifted from the state to the airports authority, which is the governing body of Reagan National and Dulles International airports. That shift was intended, in part, to facilitate the link between toll collections and the Metro project because both are under the authority's purview. But some critics say the arrangement has given too much power to an unelected regional body.

Airports authority officials presented the toll plan to an advisory panel of state and local officials. Under the proposal, tolls at the main plaza and the ramps would increase by 25 cents next year; only the main plaza toll would rise thereafter, by a quarter in 2011 and another quarter in 2012.

The authority has planned a series of public hearings for this year, and its 13-member board of directors will vote on the matter in the fall. But with so much of the rail project dependent on toll revenue, it is not a question of whether the tolls will increase but whether the changes will take place incrementally or all at once.

The large burden on commuters has prompted some area officials to seek additional funding sources.

"I would hope that regionally we will press for more federal funding," said Scott K. York (I), chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors and a member of the advisory committee.

The authority's board of directors is expected to give tentative approval to a plan this summer, in part to prove to investors that the board is willing to take potentially unpopular steps to make sure the project is solvent. But some members of the advisory panel say they want to ensure that the authority is not seeking a higher toll rate than necessary.

"I think we should evaluate every year whether or not it is necessary to increase the tolls," said Fairfax Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D), who sits on the panel.
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  #25  
Old Posted Jun 24, 2009, 9:11 PM
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Lawmaker to seek $3 billion for Metro transit improvements

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House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Wednesday that he plans to seek $3 billion for Metro transit capital improvements, just days after a crash between two trains killed nine people.
No offense to you guys, and I know that D.C. has a special relationship with Congress, but almost every city with urban heavy rail could use funds to bolster safety and improve maintenance. If D.C. needs $3 billion, so be it, but how about giving some to all the other cities with heavy rail. You could base it off ridership compared to Washington, or metro area population, or whatever formula you like, but Philly, Baltimore, New York, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco, even Atlanta and Los Angeles, could use money for maintenance and system repairs to improve safety.
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  #26  
Old Posted Jun 25, 2009, 6:32 PM
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You're right, emathias. Write Congress and tell them to treat transit operations the same way they treat highway maintenance.
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  #27  
Old Posted Jun 25, 2009, 8:51 PM
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Yes, please do!
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  #28  
Old Posted Jun 25, 2009, 8:54 PM
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Well, there are two separate issues here:

1. The Federal role in all transit funding
2. The Federal role in DC transportation.

Like it or not, DC is a special case. I'm not going to comment on the specifics of Hoyer's idea, but DC has a lot of special circumstances that no other American city has to deal with.
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  #29  
Old Posted Jul 8, 2009, 4:50 PM
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Traffic Eases Nationwide -- Except in D.C., Study Finds (Washington Post)

Traffic Eases Nationwide -- Except in D.C., Study Finds

By Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post
Wednesday, July 8, 2009

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...l?hpid=topnews

Although traffic has lightened up a tad in almost every other major metropolitan area in the nation, the misery index in the Washington area has increased, according to the annual national traffic study released today by the Texas Transportation Institute.

Washington continues to rank second to Los Angeles in auto congestion, which causes the average driver on the area's highways and byways to waste about 62 hours a year crawling through traffic, according to the study, which used data from 2007.

"Some of that is related to the good general economy in Washington, with the expansion of government and government services," said Tim Lomax, a research engineer for the institute and co-author of the study.

The study is the latest validation of the Washington area's traffic problems and raised questions about whether the region's current political and economic focus will work. The area has initiated some of the most expensive and controversial road projects in its history, including the new Springfield interchange, the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge, the HOT lanes on the Capital Beltway in Virginia, the planned widening of Interstate 66 in Virginia and the Intercounty Connector being built in Maryland.

Experts agree that no single approach -- building more roads or commuter rail lines -- will reverse the trend. They say it will require political courage to do the unpopular and a public willingness to sacrifice a little and, perhaps, pay more.

"The best solutions are going to be those in which actions by transportation agencies are complemented by businesses, manufacturers and commuters," Lomax said. "The problem is far too big for transportation agencies alone to address it adequately."

Washington area drivers wasted an additional three hours in the car compared with the previous year, the study found. Houston and Philadelphia, which remained the same, were the only other major metropolitan areas where traffic did not improve.

Factoring in the price of gas and lost productivity, Lomax's study concludes that sitting in traffic cost the Washington area almost $2.8 billion in 2007. Ninety million gallons of gas and 133 million hours went to waste.

The annual cost nationally was $87.2 billion, with 2.8 billion gallons of gas wasted, and people spent 4.2 billion hours in traffic purgatory.

Lomax used Federal Highway Administration data that included information gathered through 24-hour monitoring of highway systems.

The study would appear to conflict with a regional report last year, done through the use of 80,000 aerial photos, which showed that congestion had eased somewhat since 2005.

"They were seeing the beginnings of the recession," said Ron Kirby, transportation planning director for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which conducted the regional study.

"Our work is a bit more recent, in 2008, and the recession was more thoroughly underway. But I don't take issue with the rankings. Whether we're second to Los Angeles, or third or fourth, we're right up there with the worst."

Kirby and Lomax agreed that once the economy picks up, so will traffic congestion.

"The solution isn't to have high unemployment forever," Lomax said.

The federal stimulus act gives Washington, Maryland and Virginia a boost of $1.3 billion in transportation funding, which will come to the region in the form of orange traffic cones as scores of major arteries are overhauled.

Sometimes something as simple as doubling the number of lanes on an off-ramp can eliminate a bottleneck backing traffic up on a major highway, Kirby said, pointing to recent improvements on a Beltway off-ramp near the American Legion Bridge.

But bigger changes bring greater results. For example, Washington commuters often travel east to west, with thousands of drivers from Maryland heading to jobs along the Dulles corridor and in Tysons Corner that were developed a generation after the housing was built to the east. Relocating people where the jobs are, or creating jobs where the people are, would alleviate congestion.

"We can't resolve that by building more [highway] capacity so that more people can commute from east to west," Kirby said.

Another congestion reliever is "pricing" the commute, Kirby said. Already planned for the Intercounty Connector, Shirley Highway and the Dulles Toll Road, this system would allow variable tolls to skyrocket in special high-speed lanes when congestion builds, encouraging people to avoid the expensive commuting hours.

Combine that with plans to extend Metrorail to Dulles and to build a Purple Line north of the city, and congestion could drop another notch. Kirby would like to see high-quality bus service using the new high-speed lanes. Traffic also could be eased if jobs were relocated near outlying Metro stops so that people could reverse commute from the District to the suburbs.

"The region's doing a good job when it comes to providing alternatives," said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. "We need to do more of it."
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  #30  
Old Posted Jul 10, 2009, 3:11 PM
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Aging Red Line to Get $177 Million Overhaul (Washington Post)

Aging Red Line to Get $177 Million Overhaul
Metro Rehab to Begin Early Next Year

By James Hohmann
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 10, 2009

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...070902967.html

Metro's Red Line riders aren't likely to get relief from what has become a painful commute anytime soon.

The transit agency is planning to begin a major overhaul of the line in early 2010 that will last years.

The $177 million project, intended primarily to rehabilitate the oldest and busiest part of the aging rail system, was already in the works before the June 22 crash that killed nine and injured 80. Yesterday, Metro officials told a board committee that they might shift some funds to areas identified by federal investigators looking into the cause of the accident. The current spending plan covers some work on train control systems, an area being probed by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The plan is expected to be approved by the full board Thursday and includes:

-- New escalators at the south entrance of Dupont Circle.

-- Rehabilitation of the platforms at Shady Grove and Rockville.

-- Track repairs from Grosvenor-Strathmore to Medical Center.

-- Upgrades to the train power system and automatic train controls.

-- Modernization of air conditioning and ventilation equipment.

-- Retrofitting tunnel ventilation and fire equipment.

-- New escalators, a staircase and a canopy at Foggy Bottom station on the Orange Line.

The first phase will focus on the area of track between the Dupont Circle and Silver Spring stations and will take 48 months to complete, said Metro spokeswoman Taryn McNeil.

Single tracking, when trains share one track, would begin as early as 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. During those hours, Red Line trains normally run about 15 minutes apart. David Couch, who is in charge of Metro's infrastructure projects, told board members nervous about delays that he thinks crews can keep the interval between trains from growing much beyond that. The section of track between Judiciary Square and Farragut North would have longer delays, and he said Metro would wait until 10 p.m. to start work there.

Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. acknowledged after the meeting that the planned work will probably lead to longer headways between trains.

The price tag of the revised proposal is about $80 million more than an estimate Metro board members saw last summer. Originally, the Red Line rehabilitation was going to cost $96.2 million. However, the agency added projects on other lines and additional platform and track work.

Some Metro board members, supportive of the renovations, expressed concern about committing to spend money before the NTSB notifies the agency of its findings.

"We're shooting our shot here, and it better be well-aimed," said D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), Metro board chairman.

Catoe insisted that the maintenance work is critical. "It's like I have a leak in my kitchen, and it's flooding the floor, but I'm not going to fix that yet because I need to find out what's happening to my electrical system. I have to fix that leak, and then when I find out what it's going to cost to do that electrical system, I have to make some other priorities within my budget to be able to fund that."

The money will come mainly from Metro's capital reserves and about $34 million in federal stimulus funds.

Separately, board members expressed frustration that Metro staff was not able to clearly explain the additional protection a sister system has to address "flickering" track circuits, a malfunction that appears to be at the heart of last month's crash. The Bay Area Rapid Transit system installed a backup tool in its train protection system shortly after BART service began in 1972 "for basically resolving the issues that WMATA is facing," BART spokesman Linton Johnson said last week.

Metro does not have the same kind of tool, but it does have "diagnostic tools," said Metro rail chief Dave Kubicek.

Asked whether Metro could have prevented the crash if it had something similar to BART's system, Metro officials said they did not know.

"I want to commend you," Graham told Kubicek. "You should be a lawyer."

Later, Catoe said he will rely on a review by an independent team of signal experts for recommendations on any safety upgrades.
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  #31  
Old Posted Jul 12, 2009, 3:12 AM
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Green-Light the Purple Line (Washington Post)

Green-Light the Purple Line
Maryland Gov. O'Malley should endorse light rail without delay.

Sunday, July 12, 2009
Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...071102333.html


THE JOKE in suburban Maryland is that everyone has an opinion about the Purple Line. In the next few weeks, at least, only one person's matters. Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) is expected to decide on the specifics of the long-planned transit project, including its route and whether it should be bus rapid transit or light rail.

It should be an easy call. The county executives, county councils and planning boards of Montgomery and Prince George's counties favor light rail and agree on the general alignment: from Bethesda to New Carrollton along the existing Georgetown Branch railroad right of way. The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, which coordinates transportation projects in the Washington area, also voted unanimously for light rail. There's a reason for the broad support: Light rail is sturdier, will attract more riders than bus rapid transit and will deliver them to their destination more swiftly.

The last spasms of opposition come mostly from Chevy Chase, where elected officials have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat light rail and are now threatening legal action. They contend that light rail is too expensive to win federal funding, that a key study of the project is skewed against bus rapid transit and that light rail would ruin the Capital Crescent Trail. Some advocates of Baltimore's Red Line project also fret that the Purple Line would compete for the same federal dollars.

Let's dispel the myths:

-- Yes, light rail is more expensive, but the Purple Line has one of the highest ridership estimates of transit projects in the country and would be a top candidate for federal funding. Maryland should try to secure federal dollars for light rail first; if that fails, there's always the option to downgrade to bus rapid transit.

-- If anything, the study in question, known as a draft environmental impact statement, shortchanges light rail. The report's ridership estimates end at 2030; presumably, light rail will operate long past that and continue attracting riders.

-- The Capital Crescent Trail is a haven for cyclists and joggers, but Maryland purchased the right of way in 1988 with the intent of building a transit line. Light rail would keep some of the trail, and much of the surrounding foliage, intact.

-- There's no rule that the federal government can fund only one major transit initiative in a state at any given time. Rather, federal officials will fund projects based on cost-effectiveness per rider. The Purple Line and Baltimore's Red Line both are worthy candidates. It doesn't hurt that former Maryland transportation secretary John D. Porcari, a long-time champion of the Purple Line, is now deputy secretary of transportation for the Obama administration.

Instead of being obstructionist, Chevy Chase officials should dedicate the thousands of dollars that would fund a legal challenge to minimizing the impact of light rail on the trail. Meanwhile, Mr. O'Malley ought not to let a vocal minority drown out strong support for light rail. With federal officials soon deciding how to allocate millions of dollars for transportation, Mr. O'Malley should endorse light rail -- and do it soon.
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  #32  
Old Posted Jul 12, 2009, 7:40 AM
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I can't imagine O'Malley not supporting light rail when every agency has voted in favor of it (and by extremely significant margins).
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  #33  
Old Posted Jul 12, 2009, 5:23 PM
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-- New escalators, a staircase and a canopy at Foggy Bottom station on the Orange Line.
Boy is this needed. I don't even touch this station with all of it's problems with the escalators. I just head over to Farragut West.
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  #34  
Old Posted Jul 12, 2009, 10:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordo View Post
Are there any upgrades to the core system that can be made without tremendous expense? I only ever see extensions mentioned, never upgrades to the core.
Wonderful point. It's become the panacea for rail is to keep building to the boondocks when it actually starts to put a decent system into financial inefficency.

Quote:
All of the problems mentioned that would cause problems to Metrorail have been done out here on BART, so they can look across the country to see what happens when you expand endlessly into the hinterlands and woefully underbuild core capacity. Unfortunately, any upgrade to the core of the BART system that would increase capacity in any significant way (fourth track through the Oakland Wye and/or second Transbay Tube) are absurdly expensive - tens of billions.

So we're stuck with a system that peaks worse than any other heavy rail system in the US (probably the world), and we won't be able to capture all of those peak riders soon. The operational problems of systems like this are annoying - but the financial problems that result from systems like this are catastrophic. Variable pricing would help, but not nearly enough to fix things.
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  #35  
Old Posted Jul 13, 2009, 6:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 202_Cyclist View Post
Let's dispel the myths:

-- There's no rule that the federal government can fund only one major transit initiative in a state at any given time. Rather, federal officials will fund projects based on cost-effectiveness per rider. The Purple Line and Baltimore's Red Line both are worthy candidates. It doesn't hurt that former Maryland transportation secretary John D. Porcari, a long-time champion of the Purple Line, is now deputy secretary of transportation for the Obama administration.
Well, this one is extremely misleading. Each and every transit project requires a state match, and it's doubtful whether Maryland can fund even one project, let alone two, regardless of Federal approval. The approval of one will greatly diminish the chances of the other. Baltimore residents have every right to be upset about the Purple Line usurping their light-rail funding.

Also: Maryland has politicians who undoubtedly favor one project over the other. Since FTA approval is often based on political pressure just as much as cost-effectiveness, a bunch of politicians supporting the Purple Line at the expense of Baltimore's Red Line will play a serious role in whether the Baltimore project gets Federal approval.

Finally, there are social-justice issues to contend with. The Purple Line, in its initial segment, will run almost exclusively through wealthy and middle-class areas of Montgomery and western PG, areas where residents presumably have a greater amount of choice as to housing location (relative to workplaces) and greater access to autos. Baltimore's Red Line, while it serves mostly yuppies in Canton on the east end, serves many underprivileged, poor neighborhoods to the west. Since an explicit goal of transit policy is to provide mobility to those who cannot afford widespread auto ownership, and possibly cannot afford to move to areas within walking or transit distance of their workplaces, the government has an imperative to fund transit improvements to poor areas. This is not done as a form of welfare but as an improvement to these neighborhoods that allows access to jobs, to encourage the poor to support themselves.

----------------

I'm not against the Purple Line. It's a great idea, especially for DC's planning system of dense, Metro-oriented town centers. Circumferential rail lines probably wouldn't succeed in any other American city. Even in NYC, America's transit capital, the G remains the lowest-utilized of all subway lines because it only connects outer boroughs.

But to represent the Purple Line as a slam dunk, and as the first transportation priority of the entire state of Maryland, is just wrong.
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  #36  
Old Posted Jul 13, 2009, 1:55 PM
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Doesn't the purple line have higher ridership projections than the red line? They're both pretty high, but I thought I remembered reading the purple line was higher? And it's not remotely fair to basically punish the people in the northern DC suburbs who support the purple line just because they're more wealthy than the area proposed for the red line expansion.
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  #37  
Old Posted Jul 13, 2009, 4:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordo
Are there any upgrades to the core system that can be made without tremendous expense? I only ever see extensions mentioned, never upgrades to the core.
Yes.
1) Do you include light rail and BRT? A generation from now, central DC (and Arlington and Alexandria) will be supplemented by an expansive streetcar and BRT system that will provide substantial relief to the Metro.

2) Metro is looking at building underground pedestrian connections (and allowing free transfers) between some of the close together downtown stations. The best opportunities for this are at the two Farragut stations and between Metro Center and Gallery Place.

3) Metro is in the process of lengthening all trains from 6 cars to 8.

5) Metro just announced a $177 million rehab/upgrade project for the Red line. It's mostly track work and whatnot, but it dispels the myth that big money only goes to the suburbs.

6) A few years ago DC opened a new infill Metro station at New York Avenue. Alexandria is considering one at Potomac Yards.

7) 2nd entrances with new mezzanines are being planned at some stations, such as Rosslyn, Ballston and East Falls Church.

Now all that having been said, you're right that it's really easy for suburban jurisdictions to talk about Metro extensions, and harder to expand in the core, but there is plenty of talk and money going to core issues.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OhioGuy
Doesn't the purple line have higher ridership projections than the red line?
For the highest investment light rail alternatives: 68,000 daily for the Purple line, 42,000 daily for the Baltimore Red line.
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  #38  
Old Posted Jul 15, 2009, 1:28 PM
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A Fast Track to a Busway (Washington Post)

A Fast Track to a Busway
Agency May Seek U.S. Funds for Network of Special Lanes

By Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 15, 2009

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...403542_pf.html

Picture yourself whizzing from Dumfries to Tysons Corner in rush-hour traffic. Imagine every traffic light turning green as you zip swiftly from the heart of the District during the commute home.

Those fantasies wouldn't be so far-fetched under a proposal up for consideration today that would rely on federal stimulus money to create a network of rapid service bus lanes throughout the metropolitan region within two years.

In a bid to grab some of the $1.5 billion available as part of the stimulus outlay for transportation, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has packaged a number of existing and revised plans to propose a bus rapid transit system that would rival Metrorail in its scope.

The proposal recognizes that there is neither the time nor the money to build enough high-speed rail service to alleviate the crush of traffic in the nation's second-most-congested region. If bus service becomes less expensive and significantly faster, the theory goes, commuters will abandon their cars and ride to work instead.

"You can fight the traffic and then pay $13 to park when you get there, or you can walk to the bus and get there faster," said Ronald F. Kirby, COG's director of transportation, who pointed out that many federal and private-sector employees receive subsidized transit passes. "You're essentially going to get congestion-free travel for free."

The proposal, for which COG hopes to receive $300 million in stimulus money, would link existing HOV lanes and highways where exclusive toll lanes are being built with feeder streets in suburban neighborhoods and the city. Those streets would have dedicated bus lanes, enabling buses to bypass intersection congestion, or electronic devices that would regulate traffic signals to favor approaching buses.

At the heart of the system would be a radically restructured K Street between Ninth and 23rd streets NW, an east-west D.C. thoroughfare already thick with bus traffic. Long-standing plans to create a pair of bus-only lanes would be expanded under the proposal, increasing the number to three, including an alternating passing lane. Parking would be eliminated, and two lanes in each direction would be devoted to regular traffic.

With the ability to pass one another on K Street, the buses could leapfrog when necessary to avoid delay, merging onto dedicated bus lanes that could carry them across the Roosevelt and the 14th Street bridges to new exclusive lanes on interstates 66 and 395 in Virginia. New high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes would carry them along Shirley Highway to Dale City.

Twelve other roadways that currently carry 80,000 bus riders a day in the District, Virginia and Maryland would be modified with special lanes and priority signal controls to speed bus passage. The proposal also seeks federal funding to provide 1,600 bicycles to be made available for public use at 160 bike stations in the District, Alexandria, Arlington County, Silver Spring and Bethesda.

Kirby said the proposal is not intended to increase the number of buses on the road but to increase the number of riders on each bus.

"There's a lot of bus service out there now that's stuck in traffic," he said. "It's more about managing the roadway in many places so that people will get there faster, rather than adding buses."

The overall price tag for the project, including construction of some bus stops that would resemble mini-train stations and other improvements, is put at almost $820 million. The proposal, to be considered today by COG's Transportation Planning Board, would seek $300 million in stimulus funding. That's the maximum amount available to any jurisdiction competing for part of the $1.5 billion.

To receive the money, projects have to be ready for immediate groundbreaking and are supposed to be completed within two years.

"If we got this grant, these facilities have to be on the ground in two years -- by 2012," Kirby said. "Physically, it can be done. The K Street busway is a big construction job. The other pieces are incremental and very doable."

To meet the two-year deadline, work would have to begin in the spring and summer of next year, Kirby said.
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  #39  
Old Posted Aug 2, 2009, 1:04 PM
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Va. Wants Federal Funds for High-Speed Rail (Washington Post)

Va. Wants Federal Funds for High-Speed Rail

By Jennifer Buske
Washington Post
Sunday, August 2, 2009

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...101959_pf.html

Virginia officials will ask the federal government for more than $1.6 billion in stimulus money to implement high-speed rail between Petersburg and the District.

The state wants to claim part of the $8 billion available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's rail stimulus program. The funding will be used to make infrastructure improvements needed for trains to travel up to 90 mph along the Interstate 95 corridor -- a speed that could cut the travel time almost in half, said Jennifer Pickett, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. The current maximum speed is 79 mph, she said, but trains rarely reach that along the stretch, which is traveled by more than 716,000 people annually.

The state will apply for the funding in stages, with the first application for $72 million due Aug. 24, said Barbara Reese, deputy director of policy for Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D). If approved, the money will go toward "shovel-ready" improvements on a stretch between Fredericksburg and Prince William County. The next application -- for $1.57 billion to finish I-95 corridor improvements -- will go out in the fall. Projects will include updating signals and grade separations and adding new track, a move that will benefit freight shipments, too, Reese said.

"High-speed rail has been a priority of ours," said Sharon Bulova (D), chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and vice chairman of the Virginia Rail Advisory Board. "I think the more we can shift motorists from their single-passenger automobiles to passenger rail, the better."

Pickett said the state is in a good position to get stimulus money because it already has a dedicated source of rail capital funding, has invested more than $197 million in the Richmond-to-Washington rail system and has received the go-ahead from Amtrak to pursue high-speed rail. Virginia is also an important link to the Northeast, one of the nation's busiest transportation corridors, he said.

Virginia Railway Express officials said high-speed rail would also benefit Virginia commuters traveling along the Fredericksburg line to Union Station. Once high-speed is in place, the commuter rail service could add an express train with limited stops and shave time off the current commuter schedule, which has trains operating between 60 and 70 mph, VRE spokesman Mark Roeber said.

"It would draw a whole new clientele," Roeber said. "Now, for the most part, trains beat cars heading into D.C., but not always. If we were running an express, no car could beat that train, and the demand for that service would be very high."

VRE's average daily ridership reached 15,700 in July. If an express train is added, Roeber said, it could attract an additional 1,000 riders daily.

Pickett said high-speed trains, operated by Amtrak, could be implemented as early as 2011 along the Fredericksburg to Prince William stretch and by 2017 along the rest of the I-95 corridor.

The plan to add high-speed trains is the second major rail transportation effort in Virginia this year. This fall, the state will begin running intercity trains from Lynchburg and Richmond to Washington. This expansion in passenger rail service is expected to remove 1.4 million cars from the highways and save more than 8.3 million gallons of fuel each year, officials said.
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  #40  
Old Posted Aug 2, 2009, 1:26 PM
orulz orulz is offline
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My question is - what are they going to do about Ashland? It needs to be bypassed. I wonder if that is included in the $1.57 billion. Also there are plenty of slow curves on the old RF&P. So far all I have ever heard about is 90mph top speeds between Richmond and Washington which is not that much of an improvement.

Amtrak was previously talking about electrifying Washington-Richmond so I wonder whether that figures in as well.
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