Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Maps: Pub Trans Edition

DC has a really great Metro system. Measured in terms of density and usefulness, I would place it on the second tier of subway systems I've experienced, behind the London Tube or the NYC subway, but better than BART, CTA and everyone else. In terms of architecture and cleanliness, it really has no equal. It's easy to gripe about, but really, the Metro is quality.

But it could always be improved! Every time I look at the system map I mentally play connect-the-dots and create new and useful subway routes. Greater Greater Washington likes this game too and resurrects a map of proposed Metro additions from the early '90s. Click the image for the full-size version; the current system map is here.

This fantasy version has some nifty features (the Dulles connection and the outbound routes to Baltimore and Annapolis would be great, and the ring line would do miracles for Beltway traffic, I'm sure) but I have to take exception to the Georgetown-Chevy Chase-Wheaton route.

Granted, a Georgetown station would be super-popular and would help the kids who want to go drinking on the weekend not have to pile into taxis to get home. But there are so, so many places in DC more in need of a Metro stop than these. Not for nothing does ggwash dub this the "rich white people's line."

Instead, we really should head north from Georgetown up to Cathedral (drop off some tourists) and then turn east back to Woodley, cross the Rock Creek into Adams-Morgan (another hit with the bar and restaurant crowd) and connect to the Green Line at Columbia Heights. From there the line could turn north up 14th or 16th streets towards Takoma and north DC.

Or, alternately, the route could continue into Northeast towards the Washington Hospital Center (currently not served by Metro!), the Rhode Island Ave station, turn south through Trinidad and Capitol Hill and connect to the Orange/Blue Lines at Potomac Ave. It could even (gasp) jump the river and add some options for the folks in Anacostia.

Anyway, those are my fantasy picks. Granted, a tradeoff does exist between expanding service for suburban commuters (which would take a lot of cars of the road) and creating a truly usable public transportation service for city and inner-suburb people that need it most (i.e. those hardest hit by rising gas prices).

Realistically, the politics of expanding Metro revolve around getting either Maryland or Virginia to pony up some cash (hence the planned Silver Line to Dulles or the Purple Line proposal) whereas increasing transit density and usefulness for DC residents falls mainly on our already overstretched tax base. Still, these types of investments are bound to payoff in the long run.

(via transit pornographer Matt Yglesias. More Metro extension proposals found here.)


Doug Rudd said...

I hate that all the lines come into the center of the city, loop around the mall, then head back out. If you're at the outskirts of the city and need to go somewhere at the same radius but 45 degrees away, you have to go all the way to the city center, and back out again.
You end up transferring constantly at either Metro or L'Enfant and transfers kill the total travel time. When I lived in Chicago I took a train to a bus. The wait for the bus was usually 30-50% of the total commute time.

I'm not sure a big loop at large radius is the best way to solve that problem though.

t said...

Hey Doug - yeah, I agree, that is very much a bug in the system. I think what I was sketching in my fantasy route was a semi-cirlce (or circle) at a smaller radius that might get at some of those problems. The purple line plan I mentioned also tries to address this.

In the infinite resource approximation, you could have a series of concentric circles with spokes.

The point in general is that smart, purposeful expansion of Metro is needed as the population grows. We shouldn't have to content ourselves with what worked in the 1970s.

Doug Rudd said...

The problem with the circle/spoke system is it requires 3 trains to get anywhere (presuming you start/end on an arc of one of the circles).

If the trains are sufficiently frequent, like airport trains, then this isn't a huge issue.

As for what worked in the '70s, criminal republican administration, legal handguns, the 70's are back in DC.

Rob Monroe said...

I like the beltway route, really. Even if I sit in traffic it takes less time for me to get to the office by driving than diving into the city on the green and out the red to the office. Oh well.