Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Rebellion Is Now!

The September 5, 2005, edition of the Bacon's Rebellion e-Zine is now available online. Click here to read it. Transportation-related columns include....

Carpool Comeback: Thanks to $3-per-gallon gasoline and NuRide's online, ride-sharing service, carpooling could stage a big rebound. by James A. Bacon

Baliles Weighs In: Former Gov. Jerry Baliles has altered the terms of the transportation debate with a bold new proposal: Raise $1 billion a year through tolls on Virginia Interstates. by Barnie Day

Feelings vs. Facts: The case for extending Metro rail to Dulles plays to the emotions. The case against it is based upon facts and logic. by Philip Rodokanakis


At 2:44 PM, Blogger Jim Wamsley said...

Philip Rodokanakis "In Fealings vs. Facts" said “Metro has been in operation for about 30 years now. And given the enormous sprawl we have experienced during the same years, we can safely conclude that Metro has contributed very little toward reducing sprawl.” June Metro ridership averaged 734,582 riders per weekday. This means that 300,000 cars didn’t make the trip. At 7500 cars per arterial lane per day, that’s 40 new lanes that we didn’t need to build.

Mr. Rodokanakis missed on his discussion of Metro Capacity. It is explained in the Metro Capacity Improvement Study which is available at:

Capacity in the Rosslyn tunnel is the capacity in the related stations because Metro rus a two track system. It is 120 passengers per car, 8 cars per train and 28 trains per hour. Any attempt by anyone to get a different number needs a little explanation. This was missing from the 40 trains per hour he presented. With a new line the capacity of the tunnel could be doubled because you can fit twice as many trains on the tracks as at the station platforms. When do we invest in added platforms?

Do we instead waste our money on more congested highways? Who gets to pull which facts out of thin air?

At 3:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Wamsley: I've lived in the D.C. area for more than 20 years and have taken Metro from VA to D.C. at least 95% of that time. I'm no big fan of building more and more highways because no jurisdiction has ever paved its way out of gridlock.

However, I have seen data from the "official" plan to expand Metro specifically stating that the number of Orange Line trains would be reduced in half if and when Metro is expanded to Tysons and beyond. Service on the Orange Line has become terrible. I hate to think what would happen in the event that the number of Orange Lines were halved.

Expansion of Metrorail to Tysons has nothing to do with improving transportation. It is designed only to permit the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to rezone Tysons Corner for more density for the exclusive benefit of a few big landowners (who also make big campaign contributions). If this rezoning could occur with the closing of all Metro stops in Fairfax County and the painting of I-66 purple, we see our leaders arguing that all of our traffic problems would be solved by stopping Metro at the Arlington County line and the Supervisors making a very large County appropriation for purple paint.

At 9:45 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

I think a lane mile carries more like 1800 to 2000 per hour. I don't think you can count all the downtown riders and attribute them to lanes saved. In any case a lane of highway is much less expensive than a lane of railroad, offers more convenience, better schedule, and connects to more places. You can listen to music and eat candy, too.

I don't see too many people riding the Metro who stop to pick up their groceries on the way home. Metro is lousy for carrying any kind of freight.

My point is it is not an apples to apples comparison and we make a mistake by thinking it is. I read somewhere the ICC was projected to cost $88,000 per daily vehicle and Dulles Rail $157,000 per passenger, but it is a bogus comparison: cars come out much farther ahead than that.

How is 28 trains per hour better than Phils number of 40? I don't understand your argument about the tunnel or a two track system. It seems to me that Metro (and VRE) is experiencing the same congestion and expansion difficulties roads have: too many vehicles going the same place.

Your figure of 120 passengers per car points out another advantage of autos: everyone gets a seat: I think there are only about 60 seats per car, and that may be reduced.

True, traffic congestion wastes a lot of time, but so does changing modes, and so does the fact that Metro is slower than driving. You can't even say that 300,000 cars didn't make the trip, because many of them just changed destinations: to the Metro station.

You can't even claim that Metro reduces congestion. It just causes more congestion, sometimes of different kinds and places, but it still amounts to a waste of time, which is what travelers value most.

It is not the goal of Metro to reduce highway congestion, and it is a good thing, because it fails utterly in that regard. The purpose is to allow still more trips on top of our already crowded conditions. So the question becomes whether that purpose has sufficient value to justify the costs.

I believe congestion is a prerequisite for Metro to work. If the roads were uncongested, who would ride metro? Since it is not the goal of Metro to reduce congestion, but to offer additional trips, the congestion issue is moot on either side.

How do we justify the costs? I believe it depends on whether the business transacted as a result of the trips generates enough taxes to pay the costs. That means someone is going to have to make an awful lot of money, and that's OK. What is not OK is if they make those profits on the backs of people who don't benefit. This gets sticky because some of the benefits are pretty diffuse, but a 50% capital cost infusion by the feds means that people in Idaho are paying for this.

I'm actually in favor of Dulles Rail, simply becuse I think it makes sense for major terminals to be co-located, however, I think the way it is being paid for is grossly unfair, and I think the way it is promoted is both wrong and meaningless.

The question remains as to whether the additional trips are worth the cost, and compared to what? Bulldozing enough houses to add more commuter arterials? Moving jobs to where people live? Eliminating the trips and the business they generate?

Metro carries 120 passengers per car under perfectly disgusting conditions (in my opinion). But there are an equal number of cars going the opposite direction traveling empty, so the starting point is no better than 50% efficient. A better number is an average of something well under 60 per car.

Highways suffer the same problem: the outbound lanes are empty, but there is an easy fix. Instead of building six lanes with a median designed for 70+mph, build two lane commuter roads designed for 35 or 40 mph that are reversible.
This would cut the highway costs by a factor of maybe eight.

Congestion is the pricing mechanism we use instead of imposing congestion zone tolls. I suppose we prefer it because it is more egalitarian and less clss discriminatory. But either method makes the city more expensive and contribute to people and businesses searching for lower cost alternatives: sprawl.

EMR says no one ever said workable cities were cheap. We are either going to figure out where the money comes from, or we won't have workable cities.

My observation is that if the people who stand to benefit had to pay for it, Metro wouldn't happen. That being the case we then have to decide if all the other diffuse benefits add enough to the picture to make it attractive. I don't think so.

So, even though I'm in favor of the idea of Dulles Metro on first principles, I can't see that it pays, or can be paid for fairly.

If we are going to have congested highways anyway, what's the difference between wasting our money on more roads or wasting our money on Metro?

At 9:59 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

What would Metro cost if it had to provide equivalent service, meaning equivalent speed, frequency, comfort, and locations?


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