Red Line: Shady Grove – Union Station
Blue Line: Springfield – Stadium/Armory
Orange Line: W. Falls Church – Stadium/Armory
Yellow Line: Gallery Place – National Airport
Green Line: Gallery Place – Navy Yard
Time ridden: You name it. I grew up here, so I can’t even begin to recapitulate it.
There aren’t a ton of places to go in D.C. and the surrounding area that you can’t get to via Metro, but it falls a bit short of the blanket coverage you see in New York. The vast majority of the service lies inside the Beltway (analogous to I-405) which has all kinds of benefits for preventing sprawl and allowing a car-free lifestyle.
Service is frequent except in the wee hours. Message boards tell you when the next train is coming, in pretty much every station.
The Red Line in Maryland follows some major arterials, rather than the nearby freeway. That isn’t the case along the Orange Line in Virginia, however. Inside the beltway, where most of the system lies, there really aren’t enough freeways to even tempt planners to route along them.
As with all third-rail systems, no pedestrian or auto is ever going to get anywhere near the track.
Revisiting this with a newly critical eye, the TOD is kind of disappointing. The city itself is really dense, which was the case before the Metro came. Although many stations are underground and therefore impossible to evaluate without stopping there, my limited experience in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs at the ends of the line is pretty disappointing. My read is that local authorities are really starting to get it, however.
For many suburbanites, driving to work is unthinkable. They’re certainly not deterred by park-and-ride fees approaching $5.00 a day, on top of a fare of as much as $4.50 each way. I don’t personally know any people that work in the city anymore, but what I gather from sources like Matt Yglesias is that in the core a car-free lifestyle is increasingly viable and popular as the city emerges from epic mismanagement a couple of decades ago.
If you are visiting DC for the traditional tourist itinerary, there’s no good reason to rent a car. Driving and parking are difficult in the main tourist areas. The Metro goes right to National Airport, and there is straightforward bus service if you must fly into Dulles or BWI.
I happened to be in town the very day the USDOT reversed itself and gave the go-ahead to Dulles Rail. Having spent most of that trip in the Dulles Corridor, I can say that there’s tons of high-rise office space surrounded by parking. That’s a good sign, as it indicates that there’s tons of available real estate with mild zoning restrictions. Furthermore, it’s certainly interesting to see how the attitude of federal bureaucrats can change when the system is in their direct experience, while it’s “let them take buses” out here in the stix. But let’s give Virginia’s leaders credit for persevering in the face of really negative feedback.
In terms of sheer beauty, little in the transit world really comparesto a DC Metro Station. The underground architecture, while composed mainly of concrete, is roomy and appealing. Interestingly, as far as I can tell, exactly 0.0% of the capital expenditure was devoted to public art. If it were up to me, I’d encourage all transit systems to build intrinsic beauty into their architecture, rather than add some art of controversial value to each station.
I’ll finish with a brief anecdote. I attended a game at Nationals Stadium downtown, which was built half a block from the Navy Yard station. I was impressed with WMATA’s event management, with the nearest gate to the stadium being exit-only before the game and entrance-only afterwards. Additionally, there were lots of WMATA personnel around to direct the crowds in the station and make sure that every last car was packed to the gills. It was an extremely well-organized operation, especially considering the stadium had only been open for a month.
At any rate, I soon was waiting for a transfer at L’Enfant Plaza, when I overheard this conversation:
“The next train comes in eight minutes.”
Think of the implications of that conversation:
(1) The agency is able to predict with precision the next arrival.
(2) They inform riders with a simple-to-use message board.
(3) The riders are conditioned to think that 8 minutes is an unreasonable time to wait at 10 pm.
Jealous, aren’t you?
Photo courtesy of washingtontravelcast.com