…imagine if hundreds of thousands of people didn’t take Metro everyday. That trip to Tyson’s Corner malls would be a Christmas time nightmare everyday.
A recent WMATA study modeled the region without transit to measure economic benefits–property values increased, jobs in a regional economy, freeway lanes and parking garages not built.
It’s clear that quality of life comes from a complex set public and private investments and variety in housing, transportation, recreation can feed that complexity.
This region, outside of the Metro system has had a remarkably dismal approach to transportation. Often transportation is framed as an inevitable zero sum game between cars and transit. it is not and any look at Europe–we always look at Europe, don’t we?–will reveal a more comprehensive approach to transportation that includes very modern expressways and happy, cycling Dutch.
The biggest missed opportunity in the region is a meaningful Purple Line. Nearly a decade ago there was a choice between a subterranean addition to Metrorail, and a Trolley.The trolley appealed to those of smaller vision who thought that knitting together down-county communities with a quaint train was progressive, while a heavy rail progress sounded too much like progress.
Here we are and the trolley still exists only on paper. This would be bad enough, but the opportunity missed is a rail line that would have taken a wider arc in the County, through Wheaton and Grosvenor and onto Rock Spring. This subway would have been better tied to where development is and will take place in the County, and it would have pulled in a major business center onto the transit grid: Rock Spring and Montgomery Mall. Presently this “suburb” of Bethesda is equivalent in energy to downtown Bethesda. Finally, the hop to take the subway to Tysons via the centerline of the Beltway is the next logical step. Anyone going to Dulles?
Infrastructure and transit do not happen easily, but bigger plans actually have a better chance of success. Witness the progress on the Metro extension through Tysons compared to the Trolley through SIlver Spring.
I think you’re on to something; if we’re making an investment let’s get some return on it–like linking a regional economy and connecting to an international airport.
I wonder if there’s a way to estimate ridership too. Would there be more or less demand on an outer purple line than on an inner purple line?
@ GK: I am perplexed by the reference to a “biggest missed opportunity” asserted to have happened a decade ago. A chief reason why the Purple Line light rail was chosen over a Metro style underground subway was that an underground subway was several times more expensive, and funding such a system was considered beyond reach even at that time. Since then the funding constraints have only become more severe.
@claudia: Yes, there are models to estimate ridership, and they were used when the outer purple line and inner purple line were compared. The outer purple line did have higher ridership, but not proportionate to the increase in total cost. The inner purple line was evaluated to be more cost effective, i.e. the best return for each dollar spent. The most recent ridership estimate for the Purple Line is 60,000 riders each day.
Cost was one of the main criteria, but funding and cost are not equivalent. A project of one scope may be lined up for a certain sources of funding. A larger scope project opens up other sources and interested parties. Somehow northern Virginia was able to find the funding necessary.
Remember also that time is the biggest factor in terms of cost. A line that is partially below ground offends nobody and can proceed as swiftly as is technically feasible. Again where is the simple trolley after these years.
Finally, transit means having options. A sensible approach would provide several. DC’s addition of street cars is an excellent compliment to the subway system. Unfortunately, the trolley and the subways options we are talking about were always adversaries. As you indicated, one had to come at the expense of the other, and I believe the County chose wrong. Given the timeline of such projects, the other Purple Line would be coming on line now and the logical link to Tysons’ Silver Line would be the next step.
@claudia: ridership numbers are as suspect as cost estimates, but it doesn’t take much to realize that a heavy rail line that is positioned within higher growth areas of the County, is in line with the premier high growth corridor in the region (Tysons-Dulles), and has the probability of goosing the development capacity of Rock Spring has vastly greater upside potential than a trolley that links two mature downtowns and areas to the east. A street car might be a fine complementary connector for the latter, but not serious competition to the former.
I think that the choice was set up with preconceived notions endemic to Montgomery County, namely myopia that cannot see across the Potomac and an aversion to big plans.
Mike the Biking Guy
And not counting those people like me that ride bicycle to work. Well, if it rains — I will add up to the traffic too.