Two years have passed since Metro celebrated its 25th anniversary in March of 2001, and since NARPAC has updated the state of Metro planning. The potential constraints on Metro's future growth were pointed out at that time, and the next real window of opportunity for taking a bold new step was pointed out later that year. In the early months of 2003, Metro proposals are beginning to unfold. Although NARPAC finds them very substantially better than nothing, they fall well short of following Metro's original standard of proving transit service "worthy of the nation's capital".

Unfortunately, the evolution of new transportation plans and studies in the nation's capital metro area are also symptomatic of a broader and deeper problem: the metro area has not developed any "Comprehensive Plan" for its own burgeoning growth, and there is little if any correlation between the new Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)10-year plan, the outdated DC (Inner City) Comprehensive Plan, or what should be its second-tier spin-off plan, DC's Transportation Plan, also just beginning a major update. To complete the confusion, a large number of individual DC "area plans" such as the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative; the Southwest Waterfront; the South Capitol Street Redevelopment; the Kennedy Center Urban Deck; and the very major St. Elizabeth's Site Redevelopment, all pay very little attention to the opportunities to incorporate public transit improvements in their basic outlines.

To focus on the WMATA effort (those initials are used interchangeably with "Metro"), it is worthwhile to explore briefly the documents which provide genetic materials to the 10-Year Plan soon to be published. Three particular documents deserve at least a brief review:

o the original "Transit Service Expansion Plan" of April 1999;

, o the "Core Capacity Study" of September, 2001, and

o the "Regional Bus Study" of September, 2002.

Each of these are summarized briefly in the ensuing paragraphs, followed by a summary discussion and NARPAC commentary on the new Metro 10-year plan.


o Since this chapter was developed in March of 2003, it has become evident that Metro is even worse straits than considered at that time. Metro has received no approval for its planning efforts, and by late summer of 2004, it is clear that the WMATA Board has been reduced to begging for just enough funds to offset system depreciation and gridlock over the next six years. The failure to get this funding, they claim, will put them into a "death spiral" from which they cannot recover. NARPAC does not disagree with this pessimistic outlook. We believe that even with this trivial $1.5 billion over the next six years, Metro will still have given up on future growth and expansion within DC, and that this will have a major and serious impact on the future growth and pre-eminence of our nation's capital city.

To this end, NARPAC has prepared its own notional Long-Range Metro Vision which asserts that Metro could well use $20 billion over the next 25 years to keep pace with the expansion of the national capital metro area. Only the Federal Government can continue to assure the future of DC's public transportation systems, and it is time for the Congress to accept that responsibility.


This short, slick, document seems to properly start at the beginning to lay out what is needed. It starts out by asserting that "The region is at a crossroads.

...To prevent the region from becoming completely gripped by gridlock that stalls future economic growth and damages the region's quality of life, action must be taken on three critical fronts:

1. The region must prepare a dynamic plan for transit and highways that includes preservation of today's system, improved system management strategies...., and targeted expansion to meet tomorrow's needs;

2.Local land use decisions must be coordinated at the regional level with priority given to directing growth to areas that have or are planned to have supporting infrastructure; and...

3. New funding mechanisms....must be identified to pay for needed improvements.

The report then refers to the important role of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Transportation Planning Board, and summarizes that Board's long-term vision in its relevant 1998 planning effort:

a. In the 21st Century, the Washington metropolitan region remain a vibrant world capital, with a transportation system that provides efficient movement of goods and people;

b. This system promotes the region's economy and environmental quality...., and

c. The system is fiscally sustainable, promotes areas of concentrated growth, manages both demand and capacity.....and joins rail, roadway, bus, air, water, pedestrian and bicycle facilities into a fully interconnected network.

These in turn lead to ten goals that can provide the basis for the plan:

1. The region must commit to doubling transit ridership by 2025 in order to maintain transit market share and to enhance its contribution to mobility and accessibility.....;

2. Major transportation corridors and the regional transportation system must include a significant transit element..., in a way which ensures that the region remains economically viable and competitive in the world market place;

3. Public transportation must be envisioned as an essential means to support and enhance community livability and quality of life;

4. The region must preserve and increase the quality of service...;

5. The quality of service for current transit riders must be enhanced....;

6. Coordination and integration of the region's transit and highway improvements...must be a priority...;

7. New fixed-guideway transit routes must be planned and advanced;

8. Short-term emphasis must be placed on improvement's to the region's bus systems, and on improved access to the rail system;

9. Core area growth must be supported and enhanced to take advantage of significant infrastructure investments....:

10. Transit projects and progtrams should be designed and planned to contribute to the livability of metropolitan communities.....

The report then goes on to list a variety of potential projects in each of four categories:

o Improve Access to and Capacity of Metrorail

o Improve Bus Service Levels and Expand New Service Areas

o Selectively Add Stations, Entrances and Station Capacity to the Existing System

o Expand Fixed Guideway Services
(this category includes a variety of both heavy and light rail proposals)

The report concludes with an interesting discussion of "forces that shaped this vision", singling out two particular challenges:

a. The "wedges and corridors" system of development envisioned in the 1960, with most employment focused in the central areas has now evolved into a pattern of multiple regional activity centers, many of which are not easily served by transit. Transportation facilities, both highway and transit, have failed to provide the "spiderweb" structure necessary to serve this new development pattern, and

b. The level of investment in the transportation network has failed to keep pace with the regional growth in population and employment.


In the latter half of 2001, WMATA undertook a major study of Metro's present and future capacity in two major workshops. The first workshop defined the boundaries of the current system by analyzing current ridership and system capacity for both Metrorail and Metrobus, and then defining a set of projects to maximize the capacity of the current core system. The second workshop then addressed mechanisms for expanding that core capacity, and laid out specific transit expansion projects.


The study identifies the core of the metrorail system as that part within DC's initial borders (including the Blue Line stations from Rosslyn to National Airport now in Virginia), but excluding Red Line stations north of DuPont Circle, and Green Line stations south of Anacostia. These 30 stations account for 60% of the riders, 90% of the transfer activity, and 100% of the train trips, but only 19% of the trackage, 22% of the traction power, and 17% of the "interlockings". Metrorail ridership has increased 7% in each of the past two years, exceeding 650,000 average weekday trips in 2002.

In 1999 the Metro Board had adopted a goal to double both bus and rail ridership by 2025, equating to approximately 3% annually from the 1999 baseline (based on demographic projections by the Metro Washington Council of Governments). That would bring weekday ridership for the rail system to almost 1.1 million daily, and bus ridership to about 870 thousand. If the 3% baseline projection is extrapolated from 2002 data, those targets will be reached four years sooner. A 4% annual growth rate would take another six years off, reaching those targets by 2015.

Inescapable is the fact that public transit systems serve primarily commuters and therefore suffer from morning and afternoon peaks. So, of course, do our roads and highways. For Metrorail, 70% of all rides occur during those 4-hour rush hours, with almost half of those compressed into one peak AM and PM hour, as shown on the chart to the left, copied from the WMATA study report. Ridership during those peaks is 3.5 times higher than during the middle of the day.

Under WMATA/COG assumptions, the three busiest stations by 2025 will be Gallery Place/Chinatown, L'Enfant Plaza, and Metro Center, but not because of the 255,000 riders that enter or exit (E&E) per day, but because of the 413,000 riders that make line-to-line transfers. Those three stations will account for 86% of all in-system transfers. In terms of "E&E" only, Union Station, Farragut North and Farragut West join Gallery Place as the four highest use stations. The very high number of transfers seems to be underplayed in the study, but suggests to NARPAC the root fallacies in the outdated "hub and spoke" design. All of the six stations cited above are already "at or approaching capacity" limits.

System Capacity

The most basic considerations for system capacity include the number of passengers per car, the number of cars per train, and the number of trains per hour. The number of passengers is the simplest, set by the size of the car, number of seats, and stand-up crowding allowed. WMATA sets the limit at no more than 120 passengers with no more than 50 standing. The second parameter depends on the number of cars in the inventory and the length of the train platforms in the stations. All Metro stations are designed for eight-car trains (with some modifications), but a significant number of additional cars will be needed beyond normal turn-over, even if car life is extended, as now planned, from 12 to 15 years. Maxing out the system (included the now-planned route extensions to Dulles and Largo) would require almost 600 new rail cars beyond the 176 already on order.

The key problem is the number of trains that can be run through the tunnels per hour. That in turn depends on the speed of the trains, loading and unloading time, and spacing between trains. Metro estimates that the "minimum headway" between trains should be around 135 seconds (which isn't very long!). The Orange Line currently run a 120 second headway for one peak hour each way with 6-car trains. If Metro could retain this time spacing with 8-car trains, another 4 trans per hour could be squeezed through the system.

But the shared tunnels between Blue and Orange, Yellow and Blue, and Yellow and Green limit the number of total trains to 29 per downtown tunnel on Blue/Orange, 24 on Red (the only line that doesn't share its tunnel) and 20 on Yellow/Green. Hence the system maxes out with 75 8-car trains running hell-bent-for-leather 2.25 minutes apart through the core during rush hour. That number could be raised almost 80% to 120-140 with another 18 miles of underground tunnels (with stations) in the downtown area far from a simple solution!

As an aside, it might be noted that the eight afternoon rush half-hours vary in riders by more than 3:1 between the highest surge and the first and last half hours. The same number of passengers could be transported in a bit over two and a half hours if the maximum surge was maintained. For whatever it's worth, then, one might postulate that an emergency evacuation of all normal outbound commuters could be accomplished in two and a half hours. If substantially more of the city's daytime population tried to flee by Metrorail, the system could easily be saturated for four or five hours, particularly if conditions on station platforms became chaotic and significantly increased the practical "headway" between trains. Should emergency evacuation requirements now set new guidelines for system capacity?

There are of course several other potentially limiting factors on the rail system. These include the availability of power for the trains, the maintenance yard capacity, and station platform, escalator, and "fare gate array" capacities. In fact, all of these other considerations will require additional funding before the system can run all-out twice a day, five days a week. For instance, 57 of the 86 power substations would need to be upgraded. The "precision stopping system" needs to be upgraded for eight-car trains. 166 new maintenance shop spaces beyond the current 126, space for 382 more cars in the rail yards beyond the current 1262, and 33,000 additional at-station car parking spaces over the current 52,000 are needed. One of the more innovative station modification programs includes pedestrian tunnels between neighboring stations (Metro Center to Gallery Place, and Farragut North to Farragut West) to avoid multiple train transfers. A second one involves extended mezzanines to separate passengers waiting for trains and those moving in or out of the stations.

Similar, though less extensive problems affect the Metrobus system as well. Though there are no problems with inadequate tunnels and station facilities, more buses will obviously be needed, along with additional storage and maintenance facilities. WMATA proposes some 1300 more buses and eight more bus garages. It is also interesting to note that WMATA estimates that innovative new uses of buses could delay reaching rail station saturation by up to three years. One scheme has more buses paralleling the Metrorail routes. Another introduces express service between known high-demand entry and exit points.

The total estimated cost of reaching full capacity of the current Metro system by 2025 is some $4 billion, of which $3.3B would be committed by 2014. Some $2.7 of this would be for Metrorail improvements, and $1.3B for Metro Bus. And of the total $4B, about $1.B would be for rail cars and 0.5B for buses, the rest for power, station enhancements, maintenance yards/shops/garages, and additional parking. Of particular interest to NARPAC is the estimate of $640 million required to provide 33,000 parking spaces, equating to some $20,000 per vehicle.

And by 2025, the capacity of the system would be saturated (NARPAC's word, not WMATA's), and 17 of the 30 core stations would still be "congested" (WMATA's word, not NARPAC's). By WMATA's definition, the situation has become "congested" when more than 100 people get on an escalator per minute; when more than 55 people go up the same staircase per minute; when more than 22 people go through on fare gate per minute (All after a 2.5 minute queue), and when each person on the platform, from one end to the other, has ,on average, 3.5 square feet of floor space. That floor space amounts to a 22.5" square, or a 25.2" diameter circle.

Expanding the Capacity of the Core

To NARPAC, the most interesting part of this landmark study involves various proposals to expand the core, rather than just "max it out".WMATA engineers propose to build an entirely new underground "New Blue" Metrorail Line in three segments. First, they would separate Blue from Orange from Rosslyn to Union Station through new twin tunnels to Georgetown and add a major new transfer station (from New Blue to Yellow/Green) at Mt. Vernon/Convention Center. They would then add a new segment from West Falls Church to Rosslyn to provide an independent line from Tysons Dulles into the downtown core. Lastly, they would then build East from Union Station through Stadium-Armory, using a new bridge over the Anacostia River to Benning Road and out to the already-planned extension to Largo, in Maryland. A diagram of the proposed new line, taken from the WMATA report (and doctored by NARPAC) is shown below:

The first phase of this scheme would provide substantial capacity relief on Orange/Blue at Rosslyn and Stadium Armory, and on Green/Yellow at L'Enfant Plaza and Mt.Vernon/UDC. It would reduce congestion on various segments of the Red Line, and it would provide important linkage crosstown from Union Station to Georgetown, benefitting as well riders arriving at Union Station from Amtrak, VRE and MARC commuter railroads. More important, it would add 14 new 8-car trains per hour to the maximum core capacity of 75. The preliminary cost estimate for drilling 6 new miles of rock tunnel, adding 6 stations and 40 new rail cars, and expanding the Alexandria rail yard and maintenance shop in 2002 dollars is $1.65 billion.

The second 7-mile on-surface phase westward to West Falls would relieve Orange Line capacity through Fairfax and Arlington, and provide express service to the core, at a cost of $2.2 billion.. The third 6-mile underground phase eastward to Benning Road would provide important new connections across the Anacostia River and cost some $1.8 billion. And together, the three segments provide important capacity increases plus "single-seat" (no change) service from Tysons to Rosslyn to Georgetown to Union Station to Prince George's County.

. WMATA also proposed to expand core capacity by providing route redundancy and connectivity which would provide for "incident management" to skirt around several major stations which could attract the attention of terrorists or other malcontents. It would also allow moving trains from one line to another if and as temporary demand changes, and also provide "staging areas" in the new tunnel connections for major events at Convention Center, MCI Arena and the National Mall. Four new connections are suggested: an Orange-Blue connector at Rosslyn; a Red-Blue/Orange connector near McPherson Square; a connector from the New Blue Line to Green/Yellow above Gallery Place; and a Blue-Yellow connector just beyond the Pentagon Station. All four connectors are estimated to cost $650 million. WMATA's diagram is (poorly) copied below:


In September, 2002, WMATA published the results of their two-year study to explore how best to double overall bus ridership throughout the Metrobus area by 2025. The major objectives were to:

o alleviate crowding on many routes within DC;
o expand the hours of service, including on weekends;
o expand coverage in the outer suburbs;
o improve frequency and travel time on certain routes; and
o improve reliability throughout the system

The project team also compared current service in this metro area to that of Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, and San Francisco. In fact, the Washington metro area provides more bus and rail service per person now, with a relatively higher share of rail rapid transit, and relatively less bus service. Both riders and non-riders were surveyed to find what improvements they most wanted on buses, and whether they preferred bus or rail:

In order of importance, bus riders picked:

o 49% on-time arrival;
o 31% more frequency service;
o 25% longer hours of service;
o 22% less crowding;
o 13% closer bus stops;
o 12% go more places;
o 10% faster services;
o 10% better shelters;
o 9% signage and schedule information;
o 8% better vehicle condition;
o 8% lower fares; and
o 7% better customer service.

By comparison, non-bus riders said they want:

o 30% better information on bus service (!);
o 21% better shelters;
o 18% more convenient stops;
o 16% faster service;
o 16% more frequent service;
o 13% service directly to desired destinations;
o 13% comfortable buses;
o 9% service directly to Metrorail: and
o 6% better reliability.

Perhaps of more direct interest, the study found that the suburbs themselves would be the beneficiaries of 83% of the population growth, and 71% of employment growth. Consistent with this, the study concluded that 62% of potential new bus riders would be in the suburbs, and only 25% in the urban area (9% would be seniors, and a small 4%, "reverse commuters". From an overall standpoint, this draft operating plan flows from a clearly delineated vision:

o Provide a seamless, easy to use transit system across the region, with coordinated fares, routes, schedules, and information and marketing among Metrobus, Metrorail, local bus operators, and commuter rail systems;

o Reflect a range of quality services, referred to as a "family of services" that are tailored to the needs of the different markets in this highly complex, cosmopolitan region;

o Improve access to and within regional activity centers, such as Tysons Corner, downtown DC, and Bethesda, for example

o provide more reliable service; and

o provide bus service to relieve rail system crowding.

The planners are in hopes that "new and better transit centers, park-and-ride lots, stations and stops will play an essential role in improving the image of the bus system and the experience of traveling by bus, ensuring convenient transfers between different lines, as well as between bus services and other means of travel". They expect that "significant improvements to the running ways used by buses will reduce trip times", including "several types of priority corridors where improvements would range from traffic signals that give priority to buses, and bus-only lanes with high-quality transfer centers". More articulated buses are planned to alleviate crowding on heavily utilized bus routes, primarily within DC. Within the scope of "new routes for new markets" the study forsees:

o new fixed route coverage and connections;
o new/improved feeder service;
o new "circulators" and demand-responsive services; and
o new "cross regional services" (such as between Bethesda and Silver Spring).

More creative is a new type (class?) of service called RapidBus for selected high-use routes that would "offer a quality of service comparable to rail service without the need for rail tracks", and use special buses often on separate rights of way. Trial runs on the Dulles Access Road have drawn significant increases in ridership. In a rather telling sentence, the plan states that "Just as a rail line has an identity that makes it stand out from the local bus network, this same type of (unique) identity is essential to the success of a RapidBus service". Such features can run the gamut from the vehicles themselves, their paint schemes and decor, to special street and lane markings, and unique shelters and signage. Clearly, this is what the Dallas Bus Rapid Transit System has achieved, and other cities such as Los Angeles have also succeeded in creating what amounts to a new transportation mode that does not bring with it the baggage from more 'old-fashioned' systems.

Typical routes being suggested for RapidBus include Wisconsin and Pennsylvania Avenues, Massachusetts and Martin Luther King Avenues, Georgia Ave in DC; East-West Highway, Viers Mill Road, Annapolis Road, and University Boulevard in Maryland; and Dulles Corridor, Shirley Highway, Columbia Pike, and Little River Turnpike in Virginia. Despite the enthusiasm for the RapidBus approach (which is shared by NARPAC), however, the total impact on total bus ridership by 2025 would be little more than 8%.

This extensive Regional Bus Study concludes that vehicle revenue hours could be doubled by 2025 for a capital expenditure of just about $2 billion (in today's dollars). It would result in an 88% increase in riders (average trips would be longer) and the majority of the increases would accrue more to the suburbs than the core. Core ridership (DC, Alexandria and Arlington) would be increased 53%, but the Maryland suburbs would increase 116%, and the Virginia suburbs a whopping 226%. The majority of that growth is also projected from 2010 to 2025, not in the nearer term.

By 2025, it is projected that Core ridership would decrease from 58% of the regional total to 47%, while the Maryland suburbs would rise from 34% to 39%, and Virginia suburbs from 8% to 14%. In the nearer term bus vehicle revenue hours would rise by 28% by 2010. Modifications to current routes, plus the introduction of RapidBus would account equally for 53% of the increase, while new routes would cause 33% of the increase, and circulators 14%. The core would benefit most from RapidBus and new routes; Maryland would benefit most from current route modifications; while Virginia suburbs would gain most from new routes.

These improvements involve literally thousands of individual changes in routes, equipments, and facilities. But to summarize, the capital improvements would involve about $750 million for additional vehicles, another $750M in "customer facilities" and maintenance/storage facilities, and $500M in running way improvements and "intelligent transportation systems" ranging from on- vehicle communications to traffic signal priority systems. Operating costs would double as well, from $600M annually for the present system to $1.2B for the enlarged 2025 system. The fleet composition would change as well. The standard bus inventory would increase 43% from 1700 to 2440, and the small bus fleet would grow from about 160 to some 720. Articulated buses would increase from 74 to 266, and the special "over-the-road coaches" would grow from the current 24 to 131. It would indeed provide a more robust bus system for the national capital metro area.

A Good Step -- but Not a Stride -- In the Right Direction


Metro's new 10-year plan is expected to be published in February of 2003, in time to contribute to the federal government's new transportation act. The following is an abridged version of its executive summary, perhaps clumsily edited down by NARPAC.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) was created in 1967 by interstate compact through legislation passed by the District of Columbia, the State of Maryland, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the U.S. Congress "to plan, finance, construct and operate a comprehensive mass transportation system in the National Capital Region". 35 years later, Metro has matured into the nation's second largest rail system and fifth largest bus system.

The Metro system now finds itself at a crossroads in its development. The system's infrastructure needs critical rehabilitation at a time when surging ridership is taxing the system's capacity and a rapidly growing metropolis seeks new service. Now is the time for the region to craft a vision for Metro's next phase of evolution.

With this document, WMATA is calling upon the area's jurisdictions and stakeholders to participate in articulating such a vision for the future of the transit system and the region, to ensure that the solid economic investment it represents will not be abandoned because of failure to maintain the infrastructure and plan for future needs. Many forces combined to spur WMATA to produce the 10-Year Capital Improvement Program at this time:

o Metro has completed its 31-year construction journey for the build-out of the 103-mile Adopted Regional System;
o The region's population and employment levels continue to grow at rates that are above national averages, and increasing congestion severely threatens the $240 billion regional economy, challenging business vitality and raising quality of life issues for our residents;
o At the same time, the region remains a non- attainment area for ozone and continues to have "Code Red" days where the region's air quality is unhealthy. EPA is poised to re-designate the region from a serious non-attainment area to a severe non-attainment area.
o The GAO, after a comprehensive study of WMATA's operations and management,
recommended that WMATA develop a strategic plan and a comprehensive and priority-based capital program. This 10-Year Capital Improvement Program fulfills the second of these recommendations, and a new WMATA Strategic Plan will be released soon.
o Congress will re-authorize federal surface transportation funding under the "ISTEA-21" in 2003;
o September 11 vividly demonstrated Metro's value to the region as a mover of people, and underscored the urgency of increasing the capacity of the Metro system, since in times of emergency, security depends on adequate capacity. In addition, WMATA ' s performance on September 11 was a reminder of its crucial role in the federal government's continuity of operations. This plan reflects the heightened relevance of these issues.

The New Vision

The CIP presents a new vision for improving mobility in the region while addressing the needs to: accommodate growing regional population and employment; address regional air quality issues; support the economic vitality of the $240-billion-per-year regional economy; and customer security and safety. It is designed to support ridership growth of approximately 38 percent for Metrorail, 46 percent for Metrobus and 42 percent for the combined system. When the expansion program (SEP) is added, it supports a rail ridership growth of 87 percent.

The CIP strategy proposed is to remain ahead of the growth curve. For example, the Metrorail system today uses only 58% of its design capacity with the combination of four- and six-car trains, but is using about 96% of all available passenger carrying capacity currently in service. The proposed program will bring the Metrorail system to 90% of its maximum design capacity by employing eight-car trains for 75% of peak service and will relieve customer overcrowding by using less than 90% of this expanded passenger capacity .These actions, coupled with a 30% growth in the Metrobus fleet, will accommodate projected ridership growth.

Metro was built to meet the vision of a different era, when people traveled according to uniform commuting schedules from "bedroom communities" in the suburbs to work in the downtown core and then home again. Since then, the region has experienced widely dispersed population and business growth unanticipated in the earlier vision. Today, large numbers of people travel from suburb to suburb, or within the central core, in ways that were not planned into the existing Metro system. The new vision for Metro's future, then, is a fully integrated regional system that brings high-quality, reliable service to the metro area wherever customers need access to transit by:

o maintaining the original Metro infrastructure in good working order and continuing reliable service to larger numbers of passengers;
o increasing service and system capacity to relieve overcrowding and better serve existing markets; as well as
o serving new markets for which there is little or no transit service today;
o enhancing feeder service to rail and express bus services; and
o providing new fixed-guideway services that connect with existing Metrorail lines and with each other to provide seamless service and travel choices.

The New 10-Yr Capital Improvement Program (CIP)

As all of these factors converged, WMATA already had on hand many of the building blocks necessary to construct a plan. WMATA commissioned a detailed study in 1999 that carefully examined its physical infrastructure, based on conditions assessment and asset useful life criteria. Based on that, WMATA developed an Infrastructure Renewal Program that identifies funding requirements necessary to adequately re-capitalize its physical plant. WMATA approved a Transit Service Expansion Plan (TSEP) that created a baseline blueprint for the fixed-guideway expansion component of the 10- year CIP . In late 2001, WMATA completed its Core Capacity Study, and in 2002 completed the Regional Bus Study, which defined how to better serve both existing markets and new markets that are lacking in bus transit service. These two studies also pointed to the need for an integrated Capital Improvement Program (CIP). This integrated CIP attempts to balance priorities against economic realities. The resulting document represents WMATA's vision of the most cost-effective path, and it contains three separate programs:

The Infrastructure Renewal Program (IRP) addresses the need to continue to maintain the physical plant in a state of good repair. This is done by replacing or upgrading all of the Metrorail and Metrobus physical assets according to normal replacement cycles as defined by industry standards. The IRP focuses on such essential behind-the-scenes areas as bus and rail vehicle rehabilitation and replacement; rehabilitation of bus and rail maintenance facilities and equipment; escalator and elevator rehabilitation; maintenance of tracks and wayside; fare collection system upgrades; and information technology improvements. The IRP with a projected 10-year cost of $3.3 billion, is a "MUST DO" program.

The System Access and Capacity Program (SAP) addresses the need to provide necessary bus and rail capacity and reduce crowding conditions while meeting future demand. For example, the SAP increases the length of trains from the current four- and six-car trains to eight-car trains (Metrorail's design maximum); it proposes widening platforms and station entrances to improve passenger throughput; and it adds capacity "just in time" to meet demand based on regional population and employment forecasts. The SAP's projected 10-year cost is $2.9 billion, reflecting only about 50% of the combined recommendations of the Core Capacity and Regional Bus studies. The SAP is a "NEED TO DO" program.

The System Expansion Program (SEP) addresses the need to expand fixed-guideway transit systems to economically penetrate new markets and complement the existing Metrorail infrastructure. The SEP promotes the vision of a truly regional system helping to integrate the entire region. This program addresses the need for travel choices including light rail transit, trolley, and bus rapid transit, in addition to traditional heavy rail. An array of specific expansion projects totaling 114 miles is identified in the SEP. The initial phase of the expansion program, at a projected cost of $6.0 billion, is a "SHOULD DO" program.

The total projected cost for the entire 10-Year CIP is $12.2 billion.

Funding Challenges

The issue of funding is the crucial area where the region needs most to come together, especially during this challenging time of limited resources for all levels of government. The total cost of $12.2 billion for the 10-year program represents several funding challenges. It must be emphasized that the balanced program of improvements presented here represents the minimum investment required in the region to meet basic re-capitalization, market, and expansion demands. Such a program is beyond existing funding capabilities using traditional sources.

The system has fulfilled its original mandate to provide transit service "worthy of the nation's capital". More than half of all Metrorail stations serve federal installations, and some 47 percent of WMATA 's peak-period rail ridership is made up of federal employees. Metro serves not only the residents of the National Capital Region, but also some 25 million others each year who visit our nation's capital and do business with the federal government. And finally, as shown on September 11,2001, WMATA serves as the federal government's evacuation mode of choice -- or necessity in times of crisis and emergency. Metro's special relationship with the federal government demands that it function as a key player in the government's continuity of operations plans.

Currently, the federal government provides approximately $150 million in capital funding under the federal surface transportation program. DC, Maryland and Virginia make a combined capital contribution of more than $90 million per year. This contribution exceeds the federal matching requirements by 40 percent. In addition to this capital contribution, the three major jurisdictions also combine to provide more than $400 million per year in total operating assistance. WMATA receives no federal operating funding. A 50/50 division of capital funding responsibilities between the federal government and WMATA's non-federal partners would be an appropriate reflection of Metro's unique relationship to the federal government. The National Capital Region's investment in Metro over the years exceeds $9 billion; to replace the system today would cost $22 billion. Continuing to reinvest in these assets is simply good business. The new CIP protects this investment by providing the infrastructure to accommodate ridership growth over the next 10 years. There is a pressing need for the region to reinvest in its world-class transit system that is such a vital element in the economy of our nation's capital region.

Pro-Metro Arguments

Metro's most obvious benefit to the region is in providing mobility to area residents who need to travel. Metrorail, Metrobus and Metro Access paratransit services carry more than 1.1 million passenger trips per day, including 18 percent of all peak-period trips in the WMATA service area and 41 percent of all trips to the region's core. Metro is the mode of choice to major special events including July 4 ceremonies, sports events, concerts, parades, festivals and historic uch as presidential inaugurations. Indeed, Metro has become a national tourist attraction in its own right.

Metro helps improve air quality by its very existence, removing 325,000 commuter trips per day from the region's roads and eliminating the need for some 1,400 lane-miles of highway construction. According to the American Public Transportation Association, Metrorail and Metrobus help keep approximately 1,400 tons of hydrocarbons, 9,000 tons of carbon monoxide, and 700 tons of nitrogen oxides out of the region's air. Metro riders save our region about 5,800 barrels of oil, or 250,000 gallons of gasoline, per day by not operating their automobiles for an annual savings of 1.74 million barrels of oil.

Metrorail supports economic development by providing tax revenues, development opportunities, and employment. Between 1994 and 2010 in Virginia alone, Metrorail will generate an estimated $2.1 billion in tax revenues and 91,000 permanent jobs and provide a 19 percent annual return on investment. Region-wide, Metro has already generated more than $15 billion in increased value at station sites, and the Urban Land Institute estimates the Metrorail system will have contributed $25 billion of commercial, office and retail growth by 2010.

NARPAC Commentary

Clearly, a great deal of thought has gone into the generation of this plan. Nevertheless, NARPAC believes that it falls short in several broad areas:

o Why should the plan strive so hard to present a "minimum investment required"? Why not instead present a full plan truly "worthy of the nation's capital?" Second-guessing the budget-cutters is seldom wise, and prevents the decision-makers from learning what a proper program should be.

o Why differentiate the three programs with implicit priorities like "must do", "need to do", and "should do"? The Washington area Metro System must be maintained, made more productive, and expanded. Period. None of the foregoing is optional our nation's capital.

o Why is there so little attention to the supposed "heightened relevance of emergency security"? The major contributions to security enhancement would be a) to enhance route redundancy and connectivity (of track, not pedestrian walks), and b) to assiduously avoid adding new sources of surface route blockage during panicky evacuations. Projects to interconnect underground rail lines to provide alternate routes through the core are not included. And the growing fascination with trolleys and light rail sharing current limited (and fixed) street space seems inappropriate.

o Why is there an equal and arbitrary allocation of system expansion funds to Virginia, Maryland and DC, when there is no correlation in demographics, socioeconomic capacity, employment, total Metro system usage, or in each jurisdiction's division between bus and rail? Surely the shares of neither jobs nor work force would justify equal spending:

o Why is there more interest in adding heavy rail further from downtown, where the residential and employment densities are lower, and no interest in adding heavy underground rail in the core area with its much higher day and nighttime population densities? Why, in fact, is DC allowed to totally abandon the continued expansion of Metrorail within the core area, particularly in currently under-served areas critical to DC's financial future?

o Why is there no "official" WMATA position on the relative quantitative advantages of heavy rail vs trolley/light rail, and between trolley/light rail and bus rapid transit/rapidbus? How much loss of equipment commonality (procurement, customer and system operation, and maintenance) will be tolerated to accommodate local jurisdictional preferences based on whim and fancy?

o Why is there (relatively) so much attention on accommodating a few thousand bicyclists and so little on getting several hundred thousand people out of their cars? Why isn't there a major WMATA program to develop and provide irresistible high-density automated parking facilities? Even the basic Core Capacity Study appears to underestimate the need for "park once" incentives. (NARPAC has recently added a separate chapter exploring the use of high-density automated parking facilities to save scarce urban space, encourage use of public transit, and provide incentives for switching to energy-efficient vehicles.)

o Why is there no consideration in either the 10-year CIP, or its predecessor studies, of innovative fare re-structuring policies to encourage the use of mass transit, and to level the funding playing field between jurisdictions? Modern "smart cards" for riders, and "easy-pass" devices for cars should make it relatively simple to devise very attractive jurisdictionally-sensitive incentives, largely sold on environmental imperatives.

o Why is there virtually no mention of new technologies that can help lower vehicle emissions?

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This page was updated on Aug 5, 2004



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