VISUALIZING A ROBUST URBAN METRORAIL SYSTEM
The latest update to the Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital, prepared by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) for the federal aspects of the nation's capital, virtually ignores the need for new and expanded transportation capabilities. Now the first for-comment draft for the city's vision for the national capital has been released and it devotes more space to bicycle trails than to major transportation elements.
Based on these documents, and others from DC's transportation agency itself, NARPAC can only conclude that DC, WMATA, the region, and the Congress have all made top-level decisions to let our world-class national capital subway system strangle on its own success, stagnate and obsolesce, become irrelevant to the city's future economic growth, and continue to provide a tempting terrorist target to cripple day-to-day city operations.
NARPAC believes this neglect of "America's transit system" will become a growing embarrassment to the nation's capital city and its image as the symbol of the world's most forward-looking and urbane nation. We have therefore put together our own incomplete vision of how DC's Metrorail system should be expanded over the next quarter-century inside DC together with the ballpark costs in capital investment for its attainment. This admittedly "robust" expansion plan could cost as much as $20 billion (in today's dollars) over the next 25 years and be instrumental in improving the economic outlook of the city. To put this in perspective, the current (2003 CAFR) assessed value of all DC property, government, commercial, and residential amounts to just under $100B and is growing at the recent rate of $5B annually. The estimated value of the Metro network as it exists in 2004 is $24B, based primarily on a $9B federal grant over 30 years ago.
We do not address the obvious need for continuing to offset the depreciation of the current system, and we do not believe that either sustaining costs or expansion costs should be neglected or swapped for one another. The metro area is on the brink of letting it world-class mass transit system enter a "death spiral", as Metro officials like to phrase it, worthy of a Third World nation.
Major sections beyond the background immediately below include:
o the development of the rationale behind NARPAC's vision;
o a detailed description of how the Potomac Avenue Station could become a major "destination station" along DC's new "Circle Line";
o development of a rough estimate of the needed capital investment to bring the vision to reality in the next 25 years; and
o discussion of the emergence of a revitalized 'Downtown South' , comprised of several separate development plans now underway, and presently proceeding with no framework of an expanded transportation infrastructure.
On several different occasions, NARPAC has tried to suggest additions to the current Metrorail system for different reasons.
In NARPAC's first extensive analysis of the possibilities for economic development East of the Anacostia (April, 1999), we proposed to eventually add four new metrorail 'infill' stations to the few lines traversing the area: an underground station between Anacostia and Congress Heights on the Green Line to serve the St. Elizabeth's campus and an above-ground station between Southern Avenue and Naylor Road to serve Douglass and Knox Hill, and perhaps provide a major transfer point for commuters coming into DC on Suitland Parkway. We suggested an underground infill station on the Blue Line(SE) between Benning Road and Capitol Heights to serve a new high-rise community overlooking the Eastern approaches to the capital, and a ground-level station between Minnesota Avenue and Deanwood on the Orange Line (SE) to encourage development in Mayfair Parkside, and along Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue, and a possible sports complex at Kennilworth Park. We also proposed extending a new radial metrorail line along Pennsylvania Ave SE starting at Potomac Avenue station and providing three new stations EoA within DC.
In July, 2001, NARPAC 'discovered' the abandoned CSX rail spur paralleling I295 and the Anacostia Freeway, and blithely recommended that it provide the right-of-way for an elevated metrorail line running from Minnesota Ave all the way down and across the new Wilson Bridge into Alexandria. We saw it not only as a way to develop the eastern banks of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, but as a potentially scenic alternate route to avoid passing through the congested downtown stations.
In December, 2001, we made known our feelings that the very major Anacostia Waterfront Initiative paid inadequate attention to the need for additional transportation elements both along both banks of the river, and across the rivers for vehicles and Metrorail. Those inadequacies persist in the final version of the plan. That plan appears to be based on two odd notions: one, that economic development and transportation growth are not related inside DC; and two, that DC's economic growth East of the Anacostia is not related to economic growth beyond in southeastern Maryland.
In October, 2002, when we proposed the full-blown redevelopment of St. Elizabeth's and its surrounds, we suggested another possible variant which would combine a new 'infill' station on the Green Line, and a new station on the "Anacostia Parallel" Line. This would provide direct public transit access to St. E's from all four compass directions.
In other studies, NARPAC has also suggested other potentially valuable "infill" stations along existing routes. These include: a new station in the middle of Alexandria's new 20-year development project for "Potomac Yard" (October, 1999) on the Blue/Yellow Lines; a new "Boat House Station" (June, 2002) between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom/GWU Stations on the Blue/Orange Lines to serve Georgetown East, Watergate, and the Kennedy Center; a "Fisherman's Wharf Station" (October, 2002) between the Smithsonian and Waterfront/SEU Stations on the Yellow Line to serve the new Southwest Waterfront complex, a new transmodal parking facility at Banneker Overlook, and a "right turn" connector tunnel to allow trains to go directly from Pentagon to Waterfront/SEU; and a new "Upper Wisconsin Station" (February, 2004) on the Red Line between the edge city of Friendship Heights and the NIMBYs of Tenleytown who are successfully thwarting the city's plans for smart-growth 'transit-oriented developments' in Upper Northwest DC.
In February, 2003, NARPAC caught up with the major WMATA studies projecting the looming constraints on Metrorail growth imposed by the downtown bottlenecks where major lines share the same tracks and stations. This led to NARPAC's interest in converting Metro's basic "hub-and-spoke" design to a multiple crossing grid system, much like an enlarged tick-tack-toe design. It has seemed to NARPAC that the new emphasis on Homeland Insecurity and the potential need for evacuating the entire city would reinforce the need to get away from downtown gridlock, but it does not reflect in any available subsequent long-range transportation plans.
In that same month, NARPAC reviewed in detail Metro's long-range plans for both rail and bus systems and found little satisfaction in the trivial expansions proposed. It was becoming clear that Metro was finally "coming of age" when the demands on replacing existing aging equipment was further depriving capital investment in new expansions. A ten-year upgrade plan requiring $12.2 billion appeared to fall way short of what would be needed to provide continued system expansion. Aside from the "new" infill station at New York Avenue, now almost completed, there are no plans whatsoever for new Metrorail stations or new trackage within DC.
In November, 2003, we expressed our growing concern for "trolleymania" which still seems to NARPAC to be an attempt to add public transit "on the cheap" by preempting limited space on existing surface roads. This approach fails to improve system redundancy and emergency evacuation potential, and appears to be a conscious effort to improve intracity connectivity at the expense of regional connectivity. NARPAC is convinced that any additional surface transportation system in DC should have the flexibility of bus rapid transit rather than the rigidity of a fixed- guideway, externally-powered "light rail" system. This seems particularly important along crowded major thoroughfares such as DC's K Street, NW. We remain puzzled by the apparent attempt of DC and Metro planners to develop some sort of "signature transportation system" in the form of a cutsie-wutsie, nostalgic trolley system suitable for an amusement park, when it already has a world-class signature transportation system in Metro, which it is failing to maintain or expand .
public transit is an integral part of a larger transportation system
Two other considerations need to be involved in the further development of public transportation in the national capital core city. One is the growing "insult" (in the medical terminology) of heavy truck traffic throughout the city for everything from construction and delivery, to trash removal and repair services. While city planners are proposing to turn some of these major thoroughfares back into bucolic boulevards a la Champs Elysees that better accommodate pedestrians and bicycles (and add trolley tracks as well), DC transportation officials have declared those same routes to be already "operating near or over capacity". At the same time, a recent US Department of Transportation DC Truck Traffic Study proposes that these same regional access arterials be designated primary, unrestricted truck routes 24/7 for vehicles up to 40 tons, as well as emergency evacuation routes. Add to this the realistic fear that large trucks can easily become Weapons of Mass Urban Destruction which need to be tagged, tracked, and inspected, and it is difficult to imagine adding high-density living, and entertainment value to these vulnerable arteries.
The other major consideration deals with the inescapable trends in rising automobile ownership (April, 2003) coupled with DC's failure to develop adequate high-density urban off- street parking systems (May, 2003) specifically designed to encourage the use of public transportation and energy-efficient vehicles. The need to develop both more remunerative and better-enforced curbside parking systems was also discussed in our analysis on the K Street redevelopment. NARPAC expanded on these parking themes in written testimony for the DC Council (February, 2004) pointing up the fundamental need to address traffic control, curbside and off-street parking, and revenue-generation as a single systems engineering problem that also incorporates the latest applicable technologies. It remains to be seen whether Council hearings on parking scheduled for the fall of 2004 will address this complex, but manageable, urban mobility challenge.
NARPAC clearly lacks the staff or array of consultants needed to develop a precise plan for the continuing evolution of DC's Metrorail system. We have, nevertheless, taken the bit in our teeth and sketched out an ambitious 25-year plan as shown on the basic click-up chart below. It combines some elements of WMATA's own, now forgotten, long-range plans; some of NARPAC's older suggestions, and some new innovations such as the potential for an inner city "Circle Line" (see below).
Our basic objectives are threefold: 1) increase mass transit access from the suburbs into the city; 2) increase the number of stations within and around the city to enhance the possibilities for economic growth away from downtown; and 3) eliminate some of the downtown bottlenecks that already threaten to prematurely choke off the future growth of the system and the city! Metro officials agree this embarrassing fate is well within a ten-year horizon on some branches.
NARPAC is not looking for the Best Hindsight of the Year Award, but it turns out to be easy to clog a hub-and-spoke system near the hub as the lines converge on fewer tracks. There are two inherent limits on the maximum flow on a given track: 1) how long each train can be, and still fit in each station; and 2) how close the trains can run to each other without colliding or backing up behind the slowest train.
Given all eight-car trains (the Metro platform maximum), with never more than three minutes between trains (very tight), and assuming every car is always a "highly-congested" with 110 passengers per car, then each track can "only" move 17, 600 riders (mostly commuters) per rush hour. Assuming the six tracks coming in from different sides of the city are all operating at peak capacity, with only minor density and timing vagaries, then a two and a half hour rush period can at best deliver 240,000 commuters downtown. Metro is very close to that now and will reach it if and when a new order for rail cars materializes.
Equally serious, few accidents shut down only one track rather than both tracks on a given platform. Any of thirteen of DC's 26 stations within the downtown area can disrupt two lines. If an 'incident' is station-wide rather than platform-wide, then the disruption grows rapidly. Two downtown stations support three lines, and the L'Enfant Plaza Station straddles four lines. This is shown on the primitive graphic below:
In NAPAC's view, it as important to add stations as trackage. When new junctions are proposed at existing stations, it would be wise to separate the platforms in a fashion that reduces the likelihood that one 'incident' can close both platforms. On this first chart of several, the red lines, dots, and stars refer to new track, new stations, and new "connections" which take metrorail to some 30 new communities, and increase the flexibility of operation of the current system. On this chart, how the stations are connected into practical lines (blue, orange, pink, whatever) is not shown. Rather it is the distribution of coverage that is considered more fundamental:
One can quibble over the particular alignment of new trackage, or which community most deserves the economic blessing of a new station, but many of the basic elements of such an expanded system are relatively obvious. Rather than present a station-by-station justification, then, let us simply present some of the basic objectives, and indicate how they would be achieved in this layout. The intent is to show how much more should be done, not how little. Feel free to doodle up better schemes, but keep these ten goals in mind:
1. to avoid near-term system "saturation", eliminate bottlenecks in the nine major downtown stations by providing alternative routes for those passengers not needing to pass through them (DuPont Circle; Farragut North and West; Gallery Place; L'Enfant Plaza; McPherson Square; Metro Center; Union Station; and Foggy Bottom;
2. to fulfill DC's role as the "hub of the metro area", improve service to the "inner suburbs" by providing additional "(DC) border crossings". There are currently eight "border crossings" than contract to five tracks on which rush hours can flow either in or out of the city.. We propose five more crossings: Rhode Island Ave (NE) towards Bladensburg; Pennsylvania Ave (SE) towards Forestville; MD Rte 210 towards Indian Head and passing the major coming attractions at National Harbor; and two new lines into Northern Virginia: one from the Pentagon out along Columbia Pike towards Bailey's Crossroads, and the other from the new Potomac Yard development in Alexandria, possibly out along Glebe Road or towards Annandale;
3. to avoid non-station bottlenecks, develop four new river crossings one over or under the Anacostia at Pennsylvania Ave, and three across the Potomac: one sharing the Wilson Bridge (some new "transit lanes" are mentioned, but not funded) ; a new tunnel linking the Naval Research Station and Potomac Yard; and a badly needed tunnel for access to Georgetown from Rosslyn. The major above-water Potomac River crossing is shown in the photo below (by Jarad Vary), right beside the primary CSX railroad bridge. Clearly, it was not positioned for maximum scenic appeal:
4. to better encourage a variety of city life and tourism away from downtown, we suggest the development of new "destination stations" to serve National Cathedral, Georgetown, Adams Morgan, the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative (at Potomac Avenue), Good Hope Road, Alabama Circle, and (outside DC) at National Harbor and Potomac Yard (see next chart down);
5. to facilitate cross-city travel from any one inner suburb to any other develop lines that permit coming into the city through any one "border crossing" and leaving through any other border crossing with at most two in-station heavy-rail train changes. In some cases, existing lines need to be modified to permit tracks to merge in the opposite directions as currently built. In other cases, existing stations will have to be modified to permit changing from one line to another. These are also noted on this next chart:
6. to avoid major service interruptions inner downtown, provide at least one emergency alternate route for every major line coming into the city.
Examples include the capability to: a) divert current Blue Line trains on the Virginia side either north through Georgetown or across the Yellow line bridge to L'Enfant Plaza , b) divert incoming Orange Line trains from Virginia south towards Pentagon and onto the Yellow Line; c) divert the current Red Line trains from northern Maryland east towards New York Ave, or west towards Georgetown; and d) divert the current Green Line from southern Maryland either east towards Potomac Avenue, or west towards Pentagon.
7. to facilitate approaching downtown from anywhere around its periphery, we suggest the equivalent of a "Circle Line" (as in London) within two miles of downtown which (very crudely) follows the outline of the original topographic bowl which delimited the original L'Enfant City plan. In the next quarter/half century, it would be much more productive than a "Purple Line" paralleling the Capital Beltway outside the District. It might also be noted that there are 48 'tube' stations within the seven square mile London Circle Line; a very much higher density of stations than would be achieved within NARPAC's eight square mile DC Circle Line. The comparison is shown, rather clumsily, below:
8. to better connect the northeast and northwest sides of the city, we propose two crossings of Rock Creek Park: from U Street to Woodley Park/Zoo on the way to Ward Circle; and from Georgia Ave/Petworth to Sheridan Circle (new station on Connecticut) on the way to Georgetown, both passing through an important new "destination station" in Adams Morgan;
9. to better serve the needed city high schools and the growing college population (with all their cars), we include new stations at Gallaudet University (at Gallaudet), American University (at Ward Circle), and near Georgetown University (at Reservoir Road). New stations would also be within student walking distance of Ballou High School (Alabama Circle), Phelps and Spingarn High Schools (Langston), and Ellington High School (at Reservoir Road).
10. to better encourage economic development away from downtown, we propose to add 19 stations in relatively depressed areas, primarily in near- and far-Southeast, and within large properties expected to become available for major developments, including St. Elizabeth's, the outdated military bases of Naval Station, Bolling AFB, and Naval Research Lab, and (outside DC) Potomac Yard. We have given names to each of the 28 new stations, as shown on the busy click-up chart below:
We also propose to rename the current Navy Yard station as the Southeast Federal Center station, and add a new station for Navy Yard and Maritime Plaza closer to the SE Freeway and 11th Street bridge approach. The first modern (but squat) Maritime Plaza office buildings are already in use at the eastern end of M Street, with views across the Anacostia to the South, as well as acres of (hopefully temporary?) surface parking, as shown in the photos below:
developing a "signature system"
NARPAC has taken a relatively strong position against the introduction of light rail systems that would share already-overcrowded surface roads, and somehow provide a cheap alternative to closing some of the current gaps in the Metro system with first-class heavy rail, even though it might result in multiple changes of travel mode within the city. We also object to the notion that the nation's capital city should be seeking some sort of "signature system" like an amusement park, or San Francisco's quaint cable car system. We strongly believe that DC's Metrorail system is that signature system, and deserves to be further expanded, and that federal funding is probably required to do so. We are not making government buildings out of logs or aluminum siding, or monuments out of cement block. Why make subways into trolleys?
One way to make DC's Metro system more symbolic, however, might be to build more of it above ground (not ground level) where its passengers can enjoy significant sights. While those who can still remember the "elevated" tracks in major cities like New York would not want therm back, new construction techniques can improve their appearance, and provide some of the same appeal as the 'double-decker' bus of earlier days. In this notional vision, NARPAC strongly suggests the use of elevated lines wherever "signature views" can be achieved. The lines east of the Anacostia and east of the capitol provide such opportunities for views of the nation's capital city. The photos below show an elevated section of the Blue/Yellow Lines just south of Reagan National Airport which adds interest not only for the passengers but to the modernity of the airport itself.
acknowledging under-utilized stations
NARPAC's earlier analysis of Metrorail usage came to the unexpected conclusion that most of the growth in metrorail ridership has come from the addition of more stations, and that the growth in ridership of existing stations has been spotty at best. A sample of five stations indicates that this continues to be true. The chart below shows two of Metro's most used stations, Metro Center and Rosslyn that have been open for over 25 years. The annual growth rate for the downtown station has been only 1.1% since 1990, and the growth for Virginia's 'edge city' station at Rosslyn has been 1.6%. The growth has been no better at low-utilization stations. The Potomac Avenue Station, has actually lost riders at a rate of 4.6% a year since 1990. Minnesota Avenue East of the Anacostia has grown at a relatively strong 1.6%,but still attracts just over 3000 riders on an average weekday. The Anacostia Station grew sharply after it opened in 1992 for almost a decade, but then dropped off again as the Green Line extended out into Southern Maryland.
In point of fact, there is little proof as yet within the District that transit-oriented development is more than a pipedream. On the other hand, Arlington has grown enormously, and now, according to WMATA and receptive Arlington officials, generates 46% of its total revenues from just 3% of its land area; the area immediately around its metro stations. Hopefully, DC development will eventually catch up, although it has a long way to go. Potomac Avenue, is a case in point.
The Potomac Avenue station is one of three around the edges of DC's planning cluster #26 which contains the relatively well-off neighborhoods of Capitol Hill and Langley Park. It is one of the few clusters in which the population is almost evenly split between black and white (and slowly becoming "whiter"), and it has the characteristics thereof. This includes higher education levels, more married couples, significantly higher household income, as well as fewer kids and a smaller share of them in poverty. It is also a mix in which activism (and its related NIMBYism) runs high, and may make urban development more difficult.
The Potomac Avenue Station, is about a mile and a quarter from the US Capitol Building, straight down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the Anacostia River crossing over on the John Phillip Sousa Bridge. It is on the first-opened Metro Blue and Orange Lines, which run beneath Pennsylvania Avenue for a few blocks from the Eastern Market Station (closer to the Capitol). In a giant "S" turn, the underground tracks turn 135 degrees to due north to go by the RFK Stadium and DC Armory. The tracks then emerge and become elevated, turning back about 110 degrees to the southwest to cross the upper reaches of the Anacostia over the Benning Road bridge, north of East Capitol Street. There is, however, no station on Benning Road until it crosses back under East Capitol Street well east of the Anacostia River. The map of the vicinity is shown below, with NARPAC's proposed additions dubbed in in red:
To the west of the Potomac Avenue Station, on the far side of the Southeast Freeway, the Green Line has turned South under the Southeast Federal Center (not the Navy Yard) and tunnels under the Anacostia River to the Anacostia Station (which is not near the center of historic Anacostia at Good Hope Road). There is no connection between the Green Line and the Potomac Avenue Station, though such a connection would provide a) an alternate subway route south of the downtown district; b) a site for a station actually adjacent to the Navy Yard and the new Maritime Plaza development to its east; c) a convenient way to reduce the north/south 'barrier effect' of the Southeast Freeway; and d) an important point of access to DC's major new Anacostia Waterfront Initiative now getting underway. The size of that freeway 'barrier' and the proximity of the Anacostia River (bottom left corner) are shown in the aerial photo below. In the very lower lefthand corner of the photo, the northeast corner of the Navy Yard is visible below M Street. At bottom center, east of the 11th Street bridge ramps, the 'empty lot' has now been replaced by the beginnings of the Maritime Plaza (see photo prior page).
Twenty-six years after the Potomac Avenue Station opened, it serves only 3000-odd riders per normal weekday. The majority of the neighborhood's taxpayers live in tidy one-family row houses with nice gardens (photo below left), and their value has doubled in the past five years, rising as fast as, if not faster than, those in the well-to-do sections of Northwest. The highest density residential asset is the Potomac Gardens public housing complex (below right) which could clearly be upgraded to a far higher density mixed income neighborhood.
The largest "industry" in the neighborhood is the road sign-painting shop for the DC's Department of Transportation Traffic Administration (photo below left) which could clearly be replaced with a much more productive commercial business enterprise. The largest surplus DC school facility is the former Buchanan Special Ed Center (below right), currently in uncertain transition to (partial?) use as a private vocational school. It should probably be replaced, at least in large part, by more upscale and affordable condos.
The largest community consumer attraction is a substantial Safeway (below). This could readily be supplanted by a larger, taller, office/condo and shopping center.
No building casts a shadow on the open plaza of the Potomac Avenue metro station itself, with its clear access from Pennsylvania Avenue. The open plaza with its three escalators is shown below, with the camera looking towards Pennsylvania Avenue with its few modest buildings in the background. Clearly, both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue should be developed consistent with 'transit-oriented development' principles all the way to Barney Circle (part of the approaches to the Sousa Bridge).
Based on the vison laid out above, it is possible to make ballpark estimates of the investment costs required to realize that plan. With the help of the judgment of seasoned metro planners, NARPAC has assigned nominal current costs for a mile of track either underground, at ground level, or elevated, and the equivalent costs for new and modified stations. We have also picked nominal values for a new rail car ($5M with associated support and power equipment), and for a typical vehicle parking space in a multi-level garage ($20K).
The total development project was divided into nine separate "segments" which might be separately contracted over a period of time, in the order specified by the segment number assigned.
Costs can then be assigned to the characteristics of each segment, allocating the full cost of any shared components (mainly stations) to the first segment constructed. These are shown on the table below:
Based on this analysis, NARPAC estimates that Metrorail (and the nation's capital city) could benefit greatly from the addition of some 33 new miles of double track within DC (plus five miles of re-routing 'turn-offs') serving 28 new stations and 11 modified stations. 300 new subway cars would be bought, using a planning factor of nine added cars per added mile. And 18,000 new parking spaces would also be added under DC or Metro control, hopefully using variable rates to encourage fuel economy and use of public transit. The total cost of $20B divided equally over 25 years would equate to $800M in needed annual capital (in 2004 dollars).
This $800M annual investment in expansion, above and beyond that needed to offset depreciation of current assets, is more than proposed by any existing Metro plan, and applies only to the in-town portion of the regional Metro system. If nothing else, it is indicative of the "sticker shock" eventually associated with having a relatively small-time, politically-impotent, local area agency (WMATA) with no regional revenue-generating authority, trying to sustain a regional asset of national importance.
We are indeed blessed as a nation that other symbols of American prowess and stature such as the Capitol, the White House, the Library of Congress, and the Supreme Court Buildings are not maintained by toothless regional agencies ignored by the Congress that created them.
Throughout 2004, the nation's capital city has been in the throes of trying to gain a baseball team through the time-consuming bidding processes of Major League Baseball. No subject has so captured the attention of both proponents and opponents throughout the District's varied communities and leadership. A blow-by-blow chronology of these endless negotiations, recriminations, and alterations is available among NARPAC's summary of Washington Post headlines.
The net upshot of all these machinations, (and over the dead bodies of most of DC's protagonists for devoting all municipal resources to the poor), it appears that a brand new stadium will soon be built near the west bank of the Anacostia River. It will be adjacent to South Capitol Street and the approaches to the aging Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge in one of DC's most decrepit erstwhile "industrial"areas. Surprisingly enough, it coincides with NARPAC's recommendation in its November 2002 critique of the city's original South Capitol Street Gateway Study:
"There was no mention of a potential stadium site at the intersection of Potomac Avenue and South Capitol Street. NARPAC prefers this site near the Navy Yard metro station to those near Union Station."
Two of the most valuable properties currently on the designated site for the stadium are shown below. One of the city's essential, but neighborhood-unfriendly, trash transfer stations (below left), should probably be re-located to some underground location. The Washington Sculpture Center (yellow building, below right), should be re-located closer to some other cluster of local DC artists. Neither belong in a revitalized 'Downtown South':
One of the most inflammatory interventions in the debate over the pros and cons of DC spending city-collected revenues on a ballpark came from the city's respected CFO. In typical conservative bookkeeper fashion, he listed various additional items that could raise the cost of the stadium to DC's taxpayers. The largest cost among these potential 'overrun' elements could be modifications to expand the Navy Yard metro station to accommodate ballpark crowds. It appears to be the first time that even a minor "system expansion program" has been suggested in association with the many major economic developments now being formalized south (and southeast) of DC's burgeoning "downtown". And then only to discourage a major development rather than to enable it!
At about the same time, the Washington Post ran a summary article (October 6th "A Revitalization for the District") showing various current development plans for which the new ballpark would be a significant drawing card. In essence, virtually all of the DC-owned blighted and lesser developed areas between the National Mall and the northern banks of the Anacostia River are part of a series of interrelated redevelopments. Together, they will create a new "Downtown South" of very substantial portions, with important revenue implications for the city, but very few social ramifications from dislocations of currently disadvantaged residents.
Signs of change are everywhere. The shamefully blighted Arthur T. Capper public housing units are being torn down in the fall of 2004 (below left), with the brand new office building providing office space for Navy Yard contractors in the background. A brand new Marine Corps barracks has already replaced other Capper high-rises already removed (See NARPAC Photo Album). NARPAC is pleased to have recommended such major Marine Corps involvement in a 1998 letter to the Marine Commandant A few blocks away, the foundations for a new hotel are taking shape on a derelict lot (below right) across from one of DC's outdated DPW sites (once an incinerator) which is surely to be re-located eventually.
As each of these smaller plans was developed, NARPAC has reported on them, and invariably commented on the failure to consider the need for a robust transportation infrastructure to support their proper development. Not one of these plans in isolation has considered the need to expand the national capital's world-class metro system. Similarly, none of these plans addresses the need to increase the ability to absorb significantly higher automobile traffic from residents, businesses, commuters, tourists and other visitors, or the associated commercial traffic to support their needs. It is a classic case of inadequate infrastructure planning about which NARPAC has railed for years. For instance, DC has not yet expressed a preference whether the replacement South Capital Street bridge will carry the same vehicular traffic, more vehicular traffic, or be accompanied by a companion new vehicular tunnel.
To make matters worse, no plans have yet been developed to keep the Metrorail system from strangling itself, even though WMATA studies have clearly shown that all three of Metro's downtown "choke points" will soon be saturated and unable to keep pace with anticipated regional growth (see "summary and background" above. In addition, it is clear that the new emphasis on terrorism raises the premium on developing more redundant metrorail routes outside and around the downtown area (also discussed above). Both of these long-term requirements speak to the need for a major alternate metrorail route south of the congested downtown area providing through travel from Virginia to both East and South Maryland.
Obviously, such a new line should be the major transit route through the new "Downtown South", and serve the new stadium as well. It would also provide the first two sides of the NARPAC-suggested "DC (inner) circle line". As shown on the chart above, it would also require very little new underground track, and only one new station. The snapshot below shows the existing Exxon Gas station on the corner of 11th and M Streets, SE, where such a new metro station could be placed. In the background, are the elevated ramps connecting the 11th Street Bridge and the Southeast Freeway, which is below grade, with typical Southeast housing developments beyond.
The failure of DC City Planners to give the necessary attention to the needed transportation infrastructure will surely come back to haunt them. The attempts to hang the costs of such infrastructure improvements on individual projects is thoroughly counter-productive. DC is at an important crossroads in the future development of the national capital city. It can ill-afford to do less than a first-class job. (See NARPAC's November, '04, editorial).
This page was updated on Nov 15, 2004
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