How We Roll, April 4: transit and traffic, rail crisis in nation’s capital

Art of Transit 1: 

Art of Transit 2:

Art of Transit 3: 

Um, maybe a little newspaper liner would be good…


To ease traffic, L.A. needs much more than trains (Citylab)

A cool take on L.A.-style traffic using software from Topaz. Photo by Jeff Turner, via Flickr creative commons.

A cool take on L.A.-style traffic using software from Topaz. Photo by Jeff Turner, via Flickr creative commons.

Writer Laura Bliss argues that Metro’s potential ballot measure could have a positive impact for millions of locals here who use transit by making it more convenient, more connected, more predictable and faster. But Laura argues that it probably won’t do much for traffic, citing the old devil of induced demand (i.e. new road capacity gets consumed quickly). Excerpt:

Which leads to a final point: Transit doesn’t have to reduce traffic to be successful. Indeed, its central aim probably shouldn’t be serving the people who don’t actually use it. Transit’s best selling point is that it offers mobility to those who, for any number of reasons, can’t or choose not to drive. It also underpins bustling economic activity, pushes people into job centers, and improves long-term sustainability.

Washington Metro, 40 and creaking, stares at a midlife crisis (NYT)

The Washington Metro in 1976.

The Washington Metro in 1976.

Good overview article on the ongoing issues facing the rail system serving the nation’s capital. Three key graphs:

“It had been this bright and shining way to get to work, and now it’s become kind of a ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ operation,” said Bob Deans, 61, who rides Metro each day from his home in Bethesda, Md., to his job at the Natural Resources Defense Council here. He sees tourists on the train, he says, and wants to “apologize and say, ‘No, we’re really better than this.’ ”

The story of Metro’s transformation from a point of pride to the subject of eye rolling among commuters (as well as a Twitter feed, UnsuckDCMetro, with more than 49,000 followers) is, experts say, traceable to a lack of basic maintenance, a history of inept management and an unwieldy governance structure in which three jurisdictions — Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia — share responsibility for the system.

The United States was at the height of its car craze when the idea for a subway system in Washington began percolating in the late 1950s and early ’60s. Many cities were carving themselves up with freeways, often destroying poor African-American neighborhoods, said Zachary M. Schrag, a George Mason University professor and the author of “The Great Society Subway,” a 2006 history of Metro.

One other point from the article: When the Washington Metro opened in 1976, it was quite a contrast to the New York Subway, which at that time was facing its own set of issues. Perhaps the lesson here is that heavily-used infrastructure is in need of constant maintenance and updates. Or it falls apart.

Seattle continues its quest to get greener as it opens ‘transformative’ light rail expansion (LAT)

Credit: Sound Transit.

Credit: Sound Transit.

Kudos to Sound Transit and belated recognition in HWR of the extension of the 3.15-mile Link light rail extension that opened last week, including two new underground stations — one serving the big University of Washington campus.

The project is part of a larger rail and transit expansion in the greater Seattle area. Sound Transit is also considering a potential sales tax ballot measure for this November’s ballot to raise about $50 billion to keep expanding their system. The funding mechanisms are different than what Metro is looking at (a half-cent sales tax increase and extension of a current half-cent tax). From Sound Transit:

With existing regional taxes committed to completing and operating regional transit projects that voters approved in 1996 and 2008, the majority of ST3 funding will come from the recently approved new sources:

Property tax of up to 25 cents for each $1,000 of assessed valuation ($75 annually for a $300,000 house). A property tax was identified as a way to establish a more progressive revenue source for regional transit investments that reduces reliance on the sales tax.

Sales tax of up to an additional 0.5 percent ($0.50 on a $100 purchase) in addition to the 0.9 percent currently collected.

Motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) of up to an additional 0.8 percent of vehicle value ($80 annually on a $10,000 vehicle) in addition to the 0.3 percent MVET Sound Transit is collecting through 2028.

Cycling etiquette on the subway (CiclaValley)

Excellent advice and a good reminder that the same matter cannot occupy the same space (to quote Van Damme).

Recent How We Rolls

March 31: things to listen to whilst transiting, tough times at Washington Metro.

March 30: transit agency versus complaints about transit agencies.

March 29: more reax to the ballot measure spending plan and why cars and cities can be a bad marriage.

March 21: the spending plan lands and reaction begins.

March 14: a skeptical look at the Gold Line extension to Azusa, housing woes in Santa Monica, recommended podcasts for riders who need a diversion.