More charts from my obsessive Metro trip tracking

After fiddling with my spreadsheet full of tracking the individual metro railcars I’ve ridden, I’ve got a few more charts to show my year-plus worth of Metro trips.

Part of the reason I didn’t have these charts before is that dealing with time as a field in Excel/Google sheets is kinda a pain. It’s not always a clear number, but I was nevertheless able to sort it out.

So, some charts:

Trip Distribution: What does my overall trip distribution look like? Surprise, surprise! It’s peak-heavy.

The red lines indicate the break points for WMATA’s fare changes. A few obvious trends emerge:

  • Most of my rides are during the peak, right around peak commuting times.
  • Most of my off-peak riders are mid-day, using Metro to attend out of office work meetings, etc.
  • My PM commute is bi-modal, often due to two separate trips as I usually do day-care pickup.
  • Very few evening trips (again, likely thanks to that day-care pickup)

Railcar Distribution: One of the other observations was the unequal distribution of railcars across the system, particularly for the 3000 series.

I made these distribution charts for each rail car series. For example, here is the 6000 series:

You can see I’ve ridden cars across the entire 6000 series fleet. I’ve ridden in two of those cars five times each. As of the creation of this chart, I’ve ridden in 97 of the 192 cars in the 6000 series.

The distribution of my rides in the 7000 series is different:

The pattern is different, due to the continual expansion of the 7000 series fleet. The lower number cars are older and have this been around longer, and with more chances for me to ride them. And the distribution reflects that (note that this chart goes up to the eventual size of the 7000 fleet, which is not yet in full service).

But if you look at the 3000 series, the pattern is different:

As you can see, I haven’t ridden many cars above number ~3150. The reason is that I seldom ride the Red Line, and most of those cars appear to be isolated on the Red Line:

(Apologies for the automatically adjusting vertical scale) Obviously, this is not a huge sample, but the only Red Line 3000-series trips I’ve taken are on the older half of the fleet.

The Red Line is the most isolated line on the system. Also, I ride it the least (and therefore am unlikely to pick up small changes to the fleet management practices).

The next big fleet milestone will be the arrival of the full set of 7000 series railcars, along with the retirement of the 5000 series. That will probably trigger the last round of shifting yard assignments for a given fleet until the arrival of the proposed 8000 series.

One year of tracking my Metro trips

Three months wasn’t enough for me, I needed to spend an entire year compulsively tracking my Metro rides. I know I’m an outlier on this, but it’s been a fun way to ‘gamify’ my commute.

Some fun facts from a year on the rails:

  • The newest car: 7547 (August 30, 2018)
  • The oldest car: 2000 (November 9, 2017)
  • Most frequent car: five trips on 5088, interestingly all of them Orange Line rides.
  • 882 total unlinked trips
  • 592 unique railcars; of which:
    • 373 I’ve ridden in once
    • 160 I’ve ridden in twice
    • 48 I’ve ridden in three times, etc…

Or, to put it in visual terms:

Screen Shot 2018-09-24 at 2.21.41 PM

Given the ever-shifting total size of the fleet (thanks to both new car deliveries and old car retirements), my best guess is that I’ve ridden at least once in 50.8% of the WMATA fleet over the past year.

Screen Shot 2018-09-24 at 2.22.00 PM

Some fun observations:

Lots of 5000 series cars are now out of service. Some reporting suggests only 62 out of the original 192 5000 series cars remain in service. I’ve recorded trips on 75 unique 5k cars, some of which are surely retired by now.

Screen Shot 2018-09-24 at 2.22.21 PM

Railcar types are not evenly distributed across the network: Of my total rides (opposed to unique rail cars), 41% are on 7000 series train, an increase from my trip share after 3 months. Some of that is surely due to 5k car retirements and ongoing 7k deliveries, but some might also be due to my changing commute and because the railcars are not evenly distributed across the entire network. 

For example, a large portion of the 3000-series fleet appears to mostly stay on the Red Line. I’ve recorded lots of trips on cars in the 3000-3150 range (none of them on the Red Line), and far fewer on 3150+.

I ride the Red Line the least often, and thus don’t often encounter those cars, and given that the Red Line is the most isolated in the network, I’m not sure how frequently those cars ‘migrate’ to other rail yards.

Midway through this year, my toddler started at a new daycare located on the Green/Yellow lines. My old commute, both to/from work as well as daycare, was located entirely along the Orange/Blue/Silver trunk. And while the 7k cars are used all over the system, riding the Green Line more often sure seems to mean more rides on 6k trains (only 9.2% of my rides in December; compared to 16% now).

Screen Shot 2018-09-24 at 2.28.35 PM

Unlinked trips by Line

Adding in more Green/Yellow trips subtly changes the fleet mix. My rides on the Green Line are almost exclusively on 6k or 7k trains. The only exception (for two trips) occurred during the concurrent Major Improvement Projects on both the Red Line and the BL/OR/SV between August 11-26 2018, which surely scrambled all sorts of fleet practices.

Screen Shot 2018-09-24 at 2.29.06 PM

Railcar share by Line; total trips by line at the top

I ride least frequently on the Red Line, but even that small sample shows a pattern of only riding 7k and 3k cars. Likewise, some of the 3000 series cars on the Red Line tend to stay there.

Screen Shot 2018-09-24 at 2.29.47 PM

The vast majority of my trips are weekday trips. My weekend use has dramatically declined. Part of that is certainly my lifestyle, pushing a stroller around. But poor weekend service with extensive track work doesn’t help.

Still, fare policy impacts my rides. Since obtaining the SelectPass, I find myself far more likely to take incremental short trips. For example, a two stop rail trip just to beat the heat instead of walking? No problem.

Methodology:

I use a simple Google form to collect the data. I only collect two bits of information via the form: the car number and line color (I do also have an open-ended text field for any notes). Submitting data via the form adds a timestamp. This helps minimize the data input.

I considered adding additional data fields, such as origin/destination station, but opted not to do so. As a result, I don’t have any information on fares, delays, most frequent stations, etc. 

I collect data on unlinked trips, so any single journey with a transfer is recorded as two unlinked trips. I’ve also (occasionally) moved cars on a single trip due to a hot car, and those trips are recorded as unlinked trips.

Also, my riding habits are not random. Aside from my regular commuting routes, I’m often riding to or from daycare with my toddler. Traveling with a stroller puts open space at a premium, which means I’m more likely to pick the 7th and 8th cars on the train when riding with the stroller. This might not matter much with the older railcars, but might skew the data a bit with the 7000 series and the A/B cars. 

693,972 – new DC population estimates

Happy New Year to the very few people who swing by this blog…

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Ah, the benefits of living in a city-state – the only American city-state. You get your city’s updated population estimates from the US Census Bureau as part of the state-level estimates. And DC’s growth has continued apace, now estimated at 693,972 residents within the District in 2017.

I moved to DC a decade ago, and since then the city’s population has increased by more than 100,000 residents.

While the pace of population growth is remarkably steady (netting about 10,000 people a year) even as the pace slows, the contributors to that growth have changed dramatically. Domestic migration substantially declined after the post-recession peak. International migration steadily increased.

Within the District, apartment growth continues at an impressive pace. The impact of the additional housing supply in the face of increased demand over the past decade has finally started to appear in the asking rents and other concessions from landlords.

On a personal note, these stats aren’t just abstractions for me. 2017 was a big year for me and my family; since February, we’re contributors to that natural increase in DC’s population. Parenting sure isn’t conducive to an increase in blogging. But, since I have a string of cheap, easy to bang out blog posts (going back to 2009) celebrating DC’s population increases, I figured why not add one more?

What I learned in 3 months of obsessively tracking my WMATA trips

A few months ago, I was curious how long it would take me to ride in the same Metro car. Turns out, the answer was about a week.

I’ve since continued to log each and every Metro trip, and after three months of doing so, I have a few observations.

First, some overall stats: in that time, I’ve taken 220 unlinked trips, riding in 195 different railcars. I’ve taken the same car for two trips 23 times. The most rides for a single car is 3 – I’ve somehow managed to ride in car 3245 three times.

Assuming the sequential numbering of cars is consistent with their actual time in service, the oldest car I’ve ridden is the oldest one still in service: 2000. The newest car I’ve ridden is 7438 (WMATA’s recently hinted that cars up to 7456 have been delivered).

All together, in three months I’ve ridden about 16% of the fleet.

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For the actual rides, about ⅓ have been on the newer 7000 series, ⅓ on the combined fleet of 2000 and 3000 series cars, and the remainder split among the 5000 and 6000 series.

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Some observations:

WMATA’s fleet isn’t evenly distributed across the system, nor are my trips.

My trips are concentrated along my regular commuting route, which mostly sticks to the DC trunk line shared by the Orange, Blue, and Silver line trains.

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Among just my trips on OR/SV/BL, however, the distribution of trains isn’t exactly even (even if that’s what the schedule suggests). The death of the Blue Line has been greatly exaggerated!

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Since these are my most heavily used lines, it helps to show how the trains are unevenly distributed through the system. I seldom rode in older, 2000 series trains on the Orange line, despite lots of those trains on the Blue line.

I’d hypothesize that the 2000-series are based in a particular rail yard (probably the Alexandria yard). Likewise, the relative lack of 6000 series trains on OR/SV/BL is probably because the 6000 series are based out of Greenbelt (it’s a small sample, but 4 out of 7 Green Line trips were on 6000 cars; the remainder were on 7000 series trains).

I still have a long way to go to catch Matt Johnson.

Getting my kicks on I-66

The Virginia Department of Transportation started tolling Interstate 66 this week, and boy, people are pissed.

A few thoughts after two weeks of dynamic tolling:

Lots of people were cheating the old HOV rules: The shock over paying the new tolls (which wouldn’t apply for those who were driving the road in compliance with the HOV rules) shows how many people had been cheating the system.

Some drivers feel wronged by changing policies, such as the increased HOV hours and the loss of the HOV exemption for hybrid vehicles, but those folks clearly don’t account for the huge portion of cars driving the tolls up.

Faster may not be the most efficient: VDOT was boasting that the average morning rush-hour speed was 57 mph. The speed limit is just 55 mph; and the old average was something like 37 mph.

The $40 toll isn’t the cost of reducing congestion; instead, it shows the marginal cost of keeping an urban expressway flowing at rural traffic densities, enabling free-flow conditions at the speed limit. It’s a useful reminder for all drivers of just how expensive it is to ensure the kind of speeds too many of them expect.

It’s not clear at all that this is the optimal policy for VDOT to set. They haven’t released any information about changes in traffic volume. The law requires maintaining average speeds of at least 45 mph; if VDOT were to accept lower speeds in the morning without introducing congestion, they might avoid some of the more exorbitant tolls and allow for more drivers to use the road.

There’s precedent for this: Minnesota experimented with a complete shutdown of their freeway ramp meters in 2000. The end result was a determination that they could dramatically improve the system’s user experience without sacrificing the main benefits. But, it took a legislatively mandated shutdown experiment to get MnDOT to make the changes in policy.

Clear communications matter: This isn’t Virginia’s first HOT lane project, nor is it the first time tolls have spiked (though most previous events could be traced to some kind of incident – poor weather, a bad crash, etc). So what explains the backlash?

A big part of the problem appears to be a misunderstanding about the toll rates. During the approval process, lots of folks had a $17 round-trip figure in their head. That’s obviously a lot less than $40 for one-way.

Fredrick Kunkle dug into this in the Washington Post:

“The bottom line is this is very different from what we briefed people it would be,” Del. John J. Bell (D-Loudoun), an opponent of tolling on I-66, told my colleague Luz Lazo.

Others have been blunter in saying the McAuliffe administration misled people. The Republican Party of Virginia accused McAuliffe’s administration of ensuring that the tolls would be switched on only after the gubernatorial election to choose his successor. Loudoun County Supervisor Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run), who is also a member of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC), urged the NVTC to pass a resolution demanding that the tolls be lowered or suspended.

The defense seems like an honest response, but it might as well be included in a reprinting of How to Lie with Statistics.

But Brian Coy, a spokesman for the governor, said the administration never misled anyone. He said that when transportation officials talked about a $17 average daily toll during peak hours, they meant what they said, an average — all short trips and long trips along that section of highway, and with peaks and valleys of demand.

So, that single number was averaging both the dynamic toll rates as well as the different potential routings. An average of an average. But most drives don’t take an average route, they take a specific one. And since the initial communications didn’t discuss a per-mile rate (or an estimated range of rates), it’s not hard to see why people might feel surprised.

Clear communications matter because policies like this have real promise. They depend on political support, and that will be harder and harder to find if people think they’ve been deceived. Tolling, particularly when perceived as a solution to congestion, can be a political winner. Whether the $17 expectation was intentionally misleading or not is beside the point; those expectations have to be managed or a program like this could lose support.

The challenges of adding housing in single family neighborhoods

Too often, news articles on housing prices fall into easy traps and cliché, whether in discussing gentrification or city vs. suburb tropes. But Conor Daugherty’s piece in the New York Times (The Great American Single Family Home Problem) hits all the right notes.

In it, he tells the tale of a modest redevelopment proposal to redevelop a single family home into three units on the same lot. The political opposition is fierce, leading to years of delay and legal proceedings. And this is for a parcel already zoned for additional density; this particular saga doesn’t even touch on the challenges of rezoning an area currently occupied by single-family homes.

A couple of things stand out to me:

The missing middle: The author frames the cost trade offs well. Lots of cities allow downtown and highrise development, but this requires expensive construction techniques, and thus requires pricey rents to pencil out. Smaller-scale development (low-rise apartments, duplexes, townhomes, etc) can pencil at much lower prices – the thorny issue is the politics of building in existing single-family neighborhoods.

The problem is that smaller and generally more affordable quarters like duplexes and small apartment buildings, where young families get their start, are being built at a slower rate. Such projects hold vast potential to provide lots of housing — and reduce sprawl — by adding density to the rings of neighborhoods that sit close to job centers but remain dominated by larger lots and single-family homes.

Neighborhoods in which single-family homes make up 90 percent of the housing stock account for a little over half the land mass in both the Bay Area and Los Angeles metropolitan areas, according to Issi Romem, BuildZoom’s chief economist. There are similar or higher percentages in virtually every American city, making these neighborhoods an obvious place to tackle the affordable-housing problem.

“Single-family neighborhoods are where the opportunity is, but building there is taboo,” Mr. Romem said. As long as single-family-homeowners are loath to add more housing on their blocks, he said, the economic logic will always be undone by local politics.

Capital-A Affordable, vs. affordable: The three units proposed for the lot wouldn’t be cheap, but (crucially) they’d be cheaper than a re-habbed SFH on the same lot – and there’d be more of them.

They are estimated to sell for around $1 million. But this is an illustration of the economist’s argument that more housing will lower prices. The cost of a rehabilitated single-family home in the area — which is what many of the neighbors preferred to see on the lot — runs to $1.4 million or more.

The “economist’s argument” might be sound, but it’s a hard sell for the neighbors.

This kind of evolutionary redevelopment would’ve been completely natural and non controversial before the advent of zoning.

It’s always worth remembering how different the Bay Area’s housing market dynamics are. Daniel Kay Hertz notes that many of the same issues are in play in weaker regional markets, though the way things play out is quite different:

Aaron Renn doesn’t think much of the Bay Area’s strategy of generating affordability through redevelopment of single-family housing:

First, it’s hard to say this is a cogent strategy; the vast majority of single family homes aren’t going to be rezoned anytime soon.

Second, Renn is correct, historically – at least since the advent of zoning. This was true for the Bay Area, too – suburban development offered a then-cheap and cost-effective way to add housing to the region’s supply. But that was decades ago (the NYT article includes maps showing the expansion of the suburbs over the recent decades), and the region has run out of room for new/expanded suburbs within a reasonable commuting distance.

Renn’s implied regional strategy isn’t going to work well in the Bay Area, either. Consider the recent articles on Bay Area super commuters. Relying on Stockton to be San Franscisco’s bedroom community has severe costs, after all.

WMATA’s Parking Concession

WMATA is facing a budget gap – not just for this year, but a systemic and growing fiscal deficit.

Last year. the agency tested the waters for a long-term concession contract for parking services.  In this concept, an outside partner would manage WMATA’s parking for a 50 year period, in exchange for either an up-front lump sum payment or recurring annual payments.

Despite the cancellation of the solicitation, the concept is worth digging into. I’ll have more on the concession concept (and other parking ideas) in a future post. First, some thoughts about park-and-rides generally:

In general, transit park and rides lose money.

The Transportation Research Board estimated the cost recovery of park and ride facilities for various transit agencies. Streetsblog’s summary shows most agencies lose money operating these facilities, and none come close to recovering the costs of building the facilities in the first place. TRB estimates that WMATA is among the best transit agencies in recovering costs, but still doesn’t break even. WMATA brings in about $45 million in annual parking revenue, enough to cover only 66% of the estimated parking costs for the agency.

Because the TRB did not have access to actual operating cost data, their cost recovery estimate is based on a series of assumptions about amortized capital costs (including construction) and ongoing operating costs. The author of Let’s Go LA did a similar exercise for park and ride economics, setting up a scenario to show  a revenue-positive park and ride requires a) charging parking fees, and b) filling the parking lot/garage every day with paid parkers (and fare-paying riders):

As one might expect, free parking loses money for the agency. Since the service cost is greater than the fare, the cost of building the parking is entirely a loss. If the agency can charge a modest amount for parking, in this example $3, the surface lot turns into a little bit of a money-maker. $298k/year is not a huge amount of money, but it’s something, and this option actually performs better financially than the single-family housing or townhouse options.

Due to high capital costs, a parking garage can be either a big winner or a big loser. If the agency can charge $5 for garage parking, the result is a loss of over $8m/year, but if it can charge $10, the result is almost $4m/year in profit, by far the best option. Note, however, that this is dependent on the ability to consistently fill a nearly 1100-space parking garage at $10/day. There are some locations where this will pencil out, towards the edges of the city and some commuter rail stops. (People might pay $10 to park downtown, but then they won’t even bother to ride transit, which is sort of self-defeating from a transportation and land use policy perspective.)

It’s worth noting that transit agencies have competing and conflicting priorities here. Often, the goals aren’t explicitly stated. If the goal is to maximize ridership, free parking could make sense. For a budget-constrained transit agency like WMATA, however, maximizing overall revenue means a different approach.

Parking isn’t the only option:

The main point of Let’s Go LA’s hypothetical is to tackle the opportunity cost of parking – what about the potential for other investments, such as housing? What potential does real estate development have for improving ridership and improving the transit operator’s bottom line? Let’s Go LA concludes (emphasis added):

[P]lease note that this is a very rudimentary analysis and does not account for benefits and impacts to other policy goals. For example, a 5445-space parking garage might be a winner for the agency, but if it’s not located close to a freeway, it may cause a lot of neighborhood congestion. Building housing creates the opportunity for more people to live in the city, while building parking only creates the opportunity to live somewhere else and drive. And of course, parking lots and garages create border vacuums and dead zones in the city fabric, which is undesirable.

Bottom line: park and ride lots may make sense in suburban and exurban areas if parking fees are enough to cover the cost of lot construction and help subsidize transit operations. Otherwise, build more housing.

While the specifics may vary depending on the variables, it’s hard to argue with the conclusion. One potential catch: the market must support building more housing at that particular location. Here, specific agency policies might discourage the redevelopment of surface parking lots. Requiring that any redevelopment replace the existing parking is

TRB’s survey of transit agencies found several (including WMATA) with a policy to replace all parking spaces lost to development on a 1-1 basis. While this may still be the official policy on the books, WMATA has been flexible recently and explicitly embraced the idea of additional real estate development at stations increasing overall revenue for the system.

For a large joint development project at the New Carrollton station, WMATA will waive their 1-1 replacement requirement, thanks to a large number of persistently vacant spaces. The staff report on the project contains analysis of the parking usage at the station. Of the 5,025 parking spaces, 18% are consistently vacant, and another 16% are used by non-transit users paying a higher daily rate.

WMATA’s parking payment uses the same SmarTrip card, and thus can tell if the same card was used for a transit trip at the station. Transit riders at New Carrollton pay $5.10 per day to park; non-riders pay $8.85 per day. It’s worth noting that even this scenario doesn’t hit the assumptions in Let’s Go LA’s garage scenario of a 100% full garage with riders paying $10/day to park.

WMATA’s current park-and-ride role: 

Across the system, approximately 26% of WMATA’s trips are park-and-rides. WMATA periodically conducts an extensive survey of riders. Thanks to the parking payment system, they can ground-proof the survey results to parking payment. This data is from the 2012 survey:

WMATA 2012 Ridership Survey; mode of station access for AM peak trips.

WMATA 2012 Ridership Survey; mode of station access for AM peak trips. Click to download a PDF.

That’s a significant part of Metro’s ridership. Overall, 75% of WMATA’s parking spaces are used on a daily basis.

Stations at the end of the line tend to be busier than parking garages at the penultimate station (indeed, one of the arguments for the New Carrollton joint development project is the plentiful parking available at Landover station). The end-of-line stations also tend to serve people driving from longer distances, while mid-line parking facilities tend to serve the local neighborhoods. Most terminal stations include large parking facilities.

The TRB paper includes a literature review of park-and-ride elasticity for price. Since so few transit agencies charge for parking, it’s hard to draw too many conclusions, but it does seem that many parkers are sensitive to price changes. A system-wide change in parking pricing might further reduce parking use at inner stations, making them more attractive for eventual redevelopment.

More train doors and wider doors will help WMATA capacity

It’s always fun to stumble across official analysis that mirrors your own – even if some of the conclusions differ.

With a hat tip to Kurt Raschke, I came across this document outlining WMATA’s challenges in providing capacity in the core of the system. Most of the white paper focuses on potential increases in rail capacity from changing WMATA’s signalling system from the current fixed-block system to a CBTC-based moving block system (they do not find a large practical boost in capacity from such a change).

The document is part of making the long-term case for additional rail tunnels through downtown. In order to justify that expense, they are addressing some of the preliminary alternatives to squeeze more capacity out of the existing system (organization before electronics before concrete). From the executive summary:

As train and station congestion worsens, a question logically posed by stakeholders and the public is” “Why can’t Metrorail add more trains to relieve the crowding?” The fundamental purpose of this White Paper is to present the root causes of Metrorail capacity constraints that limit service expansion in the core.

One thing that jumped out at me was the suggestion of procuring new rail cars with more doors and wider doors – a suggestion I’ve made before.  More doors can better handle boarding and alighting, reducing station dwell times, and thereby improving both capacity and reliability. The benefits are substantial (emphasis added):

[T]he benefits in terms of reduced dwell times for a 60 second dwell time would likely be in the range of 8-12 seconds (a 20-30% reduction in that portion of the dwell associated with passenger alighting/boarding with no effect on the base door cycle time dwell component of about 20 seconds). Assuming all cars of all trains have four doors per side, this is equivalent to a throughput gain of about 2 trains per hour.

The white paper also includes this table (which bears a striking resemblance to one I put together several years ago):

WMATA Capacity Analysis, comparison of ingress/egress for rail cars in peer systems.

WMATA Capacity Analysis, comparison of ingress/egress for rail cars in peer systems.

Despite the obvious benefits of this change, the white paper downplays the potential for increasing the system’s overall capacity. Addressing them one by one:

As shown in Table 9, relative to car length, the boarding and alighting capacity of Metrorail vehicles closely matches the capabilities of peer systems’’ vehicles. WMATA’s rolling stock matches the median of those sampled for both the number of doors per unit car length, and the total door width per unit car length, though both of these values are slightly below the mean. While procuring or modifying vehicles to increase the number and size of doors may conceivably increase the rate at which passengers could board and alight, it would be an unconventional method for increasing total passenger carrying capacity.

I wouldn’t agree with the statement that all of these railcars closely match. In the rightmost column (inches of door width per foot of car length), you’ll see that the busiest of WMATA’s peers have a door capacity 50% greater than WMATA, or more.  The difference between WMATA’s 2 in/foot and Toronto’s 3.2 in/foot is huge.

Second, the major benefit to adding more doors isn’t an increase in absolute capacity, but to improve reliability and the passenger experience. More doors means a smoother flow of passengers on and off trains. Faster station dwells, particularly at crowded transfer points, reduces the likelihood of passengers holding doors or missing a train because of a lack of time to board.

Next: the time required to make this change.

Although this rolling stock change could be implemented incrementally as each Metrorail fleet type is retired, full implementation would require over 40 years due to the life cycles of the multiple Metrorail fleets.

All the more reason to get started with a four-door design for the next rail car series! And another reason to consider the design of the 7000 series a missed opportunity.

What about lost seating?

Second, implementing a new railcar design with four doors per side would result in a net seat reduction of approximately 28 percent, requiring more customers to stand.

I’m not sure where this calculation comes from; a cab car (A-car) from WMATA’s 7000 series seats 64 with the current arrangement and 58 with a longitudinal-only seating array. Toronto’s Rocket cab cars feature a similar rail car size (75 feet long) and feature four wide doors per side; they still manage to provide 53 seats, representing a 17% decrease over the 7000 series seated capacity.

WMATA’s own actions show that seated capacity isn’t a primary consideration. WMATA has been slowly reducing the number of seats per rail car series and increasing standing room with each new version; the original 1000 series had seating for 82; the 2000 series sat 76 per car; the 5000 series seats 68, and the 6000 series seats 64.

Given the stated goal of this white paper to determine potential for long-term solutions to WMATA’s core capacity challenges, I hope they don’t discard the idea of adding more doors to the future railcar fleet. Combined with some other suggestions, there’s a great opportunity to improve both the system’s capacity and reliability.

681,170 – DC population growth continues, with more to come

The things you find when googling for 681,172 - like hex color values.

The things you find when googling for 681,172 – like hex color values.

One perk of living in the only true city-state in the US is getting new census data released as part of the state-level population estimates. Those estimates for 2016 show DC’s population continuing to grow, with the official estimate now standing at 681,170 residents – the highest mark in about 40 years.

Most of that growth came from migration, with most of the migrants arriving from other countries. The natural increase (net of births over deaths) accounted for 40% of the overall growth.

I’m a bit late in posting this news or any news (hence the New Year’s Eve post, getting one more in under the gun), in part because my wife and I have some personal news: we are getting ready to add to that ‘natural increase’ number for DC’s population in February, 2017. Look out, US Census Bureau. More babies coming to DC in the new year.

Here’s to 2017 – with less sleep for me.

DC after Trump

There’s no denying the mood swing in the District of Columbia following the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States. It’s been a somber week on the streets.

It certainly goes beyond the simple fact that Trump won just 4.1% of the city’s vote, or the fact that he represents the Republican party. His specific campaign of white grievance politics, xenophobia, and know-nothingness cut against the District’s civic values.

This is bad.  But that’s no reason to overreact.

The idea that this will send the city’s economy tumbling is without evidence. Previous changes in administration haven’t impacted housing prices one way or another. Despite the role as a capital city, the reality is that so much of what happens in this city extends well beyond the reach of the federal government. President Trump might be the best opportunity those seeking to ‘re-brand’ the DC region never wanted.

For ‘culture,’ starting from the premise that DC’s culture is solely defined by the handful of people working in the West Wing is never a good start for an article about city life in Washington. Likewise, asserting that the city was a rotting shell until the Obama family arrived is laughable.

Despite what anyone says, there’s absolutely no clear indication of what a Trump administration would mean for infrastructure or urban policy. The dog caught the car; nobody knows what will happen next. We’ll have lots of battles about the federal role in shaping our cities, but those battles will take place in a different, national context.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity here. There’s room for the District to step up and take the lead. If city leaders want to soothe concerns about the impact on the city’s economy or culture, then there’s no better time than now to take the reigns.