As a frequent visitor to the DC area, it is wonderful to see the tremendous improvements for the transportation infrastructure for bicycles in DC. In fact, getting around DC via bicycle is quicker, easier, cheaper, and healthier than any other means. What immediate plans are there to increase the connectively and safety for cycling as transportation in, out, and around DC?
The Washington region has an extensive and expanding system of bike trails and bike lanes. The region has been a leader in the development of Capital Bikeshare, a bikesharing system that began in the District, has expanded to Arlington and Alexandria, and is now expanding into several other jurisdictions. The TPB also manages the twice-annual "Street Smart" campaign focused on bicycle and pedestrian safety.
In Metro's listing of bus schedule changes, it seems that they want to totally eliminate the 5A bus to Dulles. If so, are they proposing substitute service from some point on the Silver Line to Dulles? Dulles is one of the few major airports where it is difficult for people to get to and I certainly wouldn't want it made worse.
From Dr. Gridlock: Yes, the idea is that there would be bus service from the Wiehle Avenue Metrorail station, the last stop on the first phase of the Silver Line.
I don't like this proposal, which is from the D.C. government, not the Metro planners. I think people should continue to have a one-seat ride to the airport. Keep the bus till the second phase of the Silver Line opens.
Dr. I saw the new Metro map in the Express last week. Am I the only one who notices several mistakes on the map? Hint, what do the different shaped dots mean? And where are they.
From Dr. Gridlock: When I looked at the new version of the map last week, I was focused mainly on the addition of the Silver Line, and thinking what impact it would have on travel through the center of the region.
I didn't notice any errors. Please share.
Dr, I was approaching a red light in Montgomery County recently, I was going a bit quick, but I did stop before the stop line. As I stopped, I noticed a flash from the red light camera (annoying as I HAD safely stopped), but never did receive a ticket. Do the cameras take one picture if they "think" you might run a red light, and then a second one if you actually do? That is the best explanation I could dream up for why I saw the flash even though I did stop. Thanx!
From Dr. Gridlock: I've had that experience too. You should not get a ticket.
I'm not a frequent Metrorail rider. My wife is, however, and thus I get a regular dose of early-evening rants when a train gets offloaded or single-tracking causes delays. I keep seeing proposals for continued outward expansion of the Metrorail system, whether that be the Silver Line, an Orange Line extension to Centreville, a Yellow Line extension to Fort Belvoir, a Green Line extension to BWI, whatever. It seems to me, though, that all those suggestions are short-sighted because they just exacerbate the fundamental problem of inadequate capacity at the system's core. Consider how adding the Silver Line to the Orange/Blue mix has already caused Blue Line service to suffer even before Silver trains begin to run. But I also understand why the suburban jurisdictions (I live in Fairfax County, BTW) aren't eager to help pony up massive amounts of money to add capacity in downtown DC, even though it might benefit suburban riders by increasing capacity. At what point do we have to draw the line and say "no more" with respect to funneling ever more people into the system's core without making improvements there?
The focus of the strategies in our Priorities Plan is on improving the operation of the existing system, and adding capacity to the core of the system before entertaining any new proposals for further extensions of the Metrorail system. This prioritization is consistent with the key components of Metro's recently released strategic plan, "Momentum."
In a few weeks I'll be driving on Friday evening to Milford, PA from Union Station in D.C. How is traffic leaving D.C. on Friday evening on I-270? Should I wait until after 7pm to start the drive to avoid it? Thanks.
From Dr. Gridlock: Though we've moved out of the summer vacation season, the outbound traffic from DC on Friday afternoons can still be pretty heavy. I'd wait till 7 p.m., but I'd also monitor news radio and check the online traffic maps for real-time updates.
Have you considered trying to encourage lawmakers to implement policies to get drivers off the road? Tax incentives for businesses who allow working from home, structuring local libraries to provide rental "offices" so people can work close to home, etc. transportation planning should be about more than just adding more roads.
The TPB's Commuter Connections program is focused on just that -- promoting alternatives to driving alone, like ridesharing, telecommuting, transit, and bicycling and walking. Over the longer term, the Priorities Plan envisions more concentrated development near transit hubs, providing opportunities for people to live closer to their jobs and other activities and reducing their need to drive.
I have been told that the first flash at a red light camera is triggered by speed, on the assumption that many speeding cars run the red light. You have to get both flashes before you worry about a ticket.
From Dr. Gridlock: Yep. When I've talked to traffic officials about how the cameras work, they note that you break the law when you go through a red light. A sequence of photos accompanying the ticket would show a driver entering the intersection on a red signal. The first flash would be the set-up shot.
As far as I am concerned, most of our transportation system needs to be updated to handle the number of people who moved to the area during the past 10 years. Roads need to be wider, turn lanes need to be improved, people in the further out suburbs need access to the Metro. But, all too often, I hear people say they don't want new lanes built or roads to be improved because that will only encourage more people to move to the area or people to move further out of DC. I think the roads need the work, now. Planning for future growth should be included, but doing nothing should not be an option.
The Priorities Plan recognizes the need for more capacity across all modes, including highways, but also focuses on making more efficient use of the system we have by promoting concentrated development around high-capacity transportation corridors throughout the region. This will allow the region to accommodate growth in a more sustainable, balanced, and cost-effective manner than we have in the past.
By chance, does Kawsaki make a 7000 series of escalators?
From Dr. Gridlock: One of the problems with the escalators is that there have been so many manufacturers over the years. Some have gone out of biz.
Repair crews get to the scene of a breakdown and sometimes don't know what manufacturer they're dealing with till they tear the thing apart and see.
Sometimes, they have to manufacture a replacement.
The camera has to take 2 pictures. One of you behind the stop line when the light is red and a second with you in the intersection with the light red. The camera uses a speed radar and if you're going above a certain speed, the programming takes the first picture (you behind the line) and then a second picture at a time where you would be in the intersection based on the speed you were going. In your instance, the camera has two pictures of your car behind the stop line so there was no violation and therefore no ticket in the mail.
From Dr. Gridlock: Thanks for the explanation. While Ron Kirby has been dealing with your big picture questions and comments, readers and I have been exchanging views on here-and-now concerns.
Hi, I'm a great supporter of public transportation and someone who depends on it on a regular basis in the DC area. It is therefore disappointing to see recurrent proposals for reductions of bus services -- especially for those connecting people in the neighborhood to the metro stations. We fought against one such proposal a year or so ago with the E6 bus -- which required written statements/petition and participation in public hearings. And now we hear of a new proposed reduction for that bus service. What is the take of the Transportation Planning Board on such changes -- especially since they will inevitably discourage use of public transportation?
The Priorities Plan is strongly supportive of improving transit service throughout the region, both rail and bus. The Plan does not, however, focus on specific routes or locations, recognizing that those decisions require a great deal of local input and analysis, and are the responsibility of the agencies that operate the services.
As hard as it is to perceive this while stalled in traffic, many studies show vehicle-miles-traveled per capita have peaked and are falling. I can attest in my own life this is not just because of tele-commuting, but tele-shopping, tele-banking, tele-chatting-with-friends, tele-billpaying, tele-rechecking-my-books-from the library (you get the idea). While mobility--and the multi-modal emphasis on "move people not cars"--is important, how we can we better encourage, and account, for the many ways our economy is changing due to the overwhelming role of the Internet and smart phones in our lives?
The landscape is definitely changing. Our data show that total vehicle-miles of travel in the region has not grown over the past few years, even though population has continued to increase. Teleworking and other changes related to electronic communications have played a significant role in this. How this will play out in the long-term is still uncertain, but we are continuing to monitor these trends on an ongoing basis, and adjusting our forecasts accordingly.
I tend to watch other people when I'm stopped at red lights or when I walk or bike somewhere. So much of what I see causing congestion in the DC area seems to come from bad or just plain dumb behavior by people. For example, some people are so eager to send their dumb text messages that they leave way too much space between cars at a red light and the people behind them can't access the turn lane to go left. Or pedestrians ignore the "Don't Walk" light and prevent drivers from turning, which then causes the drivers to run the red light because they'll never get around the corner if they don't (example: 18th & L NW, where a right turn is allowed only on a green arrow). Some of this goes to a point Dr. Gridlock often makes about how people will do whatever they think they can get away with regardless of whether it screws over other people, but I think a lot of it is also just flat-out ignorance. People simply don't pay any attention. I wonder to what extent the Transportation Planning Board might seek any input into things like driver education or driver's license renewal. When you think about it, it's probably not all that logical that you only have to take driver's ed and the knowledge exam one time and then you can renew your driver's license over and over with only a periodic vision test (if you learned to drive in the 1960s, for example, you didn't learn how to handle antilock brakes).
The Priorities Plan addresses the need to review and revise traffic laws to reflect changing travel trends such as the increased use of bicycles. The Plan emphasizes the use of public education campaigns (like "Street Smart") to promote better and more considerate behavior by drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists alike.
How have other major metro areas that cover three or more states (NYC, for example) handled the challenges of planning at a regional level? In devising your plans, do you guys examine successful models from other parts of the country/world?
We're always looking for good ideas from other metropolitan areas in the U.S. or abroad. Having a three-state region requires cooperative efforts to effectively pool resources from the three states and the local jurisdictions to support regional transportation strategies. The Metro system is a perfect example of this.
When oh when will another River Crossing be built ot connect Route 28 in Virginia with I-370 in Maryland?
Additional river crossings are proposed from time to time, but rarely receive the sustained and serious attention that would be needed to reach a consensus on moving forward.
I was somewhat alarmed to read in the Post an article about the infrastructure to support the Purple Line that will need to be built in the nearby neighborhoods, and apparently the people who live are a bit alarmed, too. The Purple Line and the new trolley car system that the District is spending so much money are just seem to me to be too expensive and too disruptive compared to BRT (bus rapid transit). Why are local jurisdiction yielding to the pressure to NOT use BRT, which tends to be both cheaper and quicker to implement than light rail or trolley cars?
BRT systems are receiving considerable attention in a number of corridors throughout the region. The pros and cons of BRT versus other strategies like light rail are very location- and/or corridor-specific and need to be weighed through local studies and input. This choice has been debated in Alexandria and Arlington for the corridor between Braddock Road and Pentagon City, for example. For the short-term, the decision has been made to proceed with BRT, recognizing that light rail will be an option in the future if conditions warrant.
I'd like to second Dr. Gridlock's point about keeping the 5A bus going. It sure sounds like some evil genius decided setting up a new route would give folks an incentive to take the Silver Line who might not otherwise do so, but please don't penalize those of us who live in D.C. and can't afford to spend $50-60 on a cab.
From Dr. Gridlock: Here's a link to my Commuter page feature on the proposed changes in Metrobus routes and schedules. There are six public hearings scheduled for this week.