$750K–You Make the Call!

So you think transportation funds are tight? According to this Washington Post story,

[Metro] wants to find out if trading seats for space will help people get on and off the subway quicker.

Board members are considering whether to approve a pilot study to redesign 16 cars. The proposed designs would remove between 8 and 24 seats, while adding bars to aid standing passengers.

Cost of the pilot study? $750,000. That’s chump change when you’re talking $4 billion for rail to Dulles, the project E. M. Risse discusses below.

Still–read the story and make the call. A project worthy of funding? (I guess no other rail system in the world has ever tested this brilliant idea.)

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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Metro trains are jammed to capacity going inbound in the morning at the same times trains are traveling empty outbound. Trains are piling up against each other in the stations because it takes longer than planned to empty and fill the overloaded cars. Even the escalators are unequal to the task.

    Metro is tapped out on peak direction capacity, just as the roads are, and yet some people propose more transit friendly development. It is a recipe for disaster.

    More and more metro exhibits the same problems as the highway system. Congestion will never go away as long as everyone is trying to go the same place at the same time.

    Taking seats out of the cars is completely wrong from a customer viewpoint, a safety viewpoint, and most important it is uncivilized, which is the whole point of having a city.

    And like every other transportation proposal, it won’t solve congestion. Faced with an aging population it makes no sense to propose transportation solutions that involve standing or walking.

    If the trains are overcrowded, the thing to do is raise the price.

    Ray Hyde
    Delaplane VA

  2. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    What’s $750K on a study? A couple of years ago they spent $270K on buidling a new law library and putting larger windows in the offices of their two Deputy General Counsels. I’m sure the new law library and the larger windows went a long way toward providing an improved commuting experience for the ridders of Metro…

  3. Ray:

    You couldn’t be more right. There isn’t any more room on Metro – even with one more car added onto the end of the train, it’s hardly going to help.

    Take the orange line inbound into the city, for example. With high rise after high rise going up in Rosslyn, Courthouse, Clarendon, and Virginia Square, it won’t be long until people in the inner suburbs start taking the bus instead of Metro – they won’t have any other option.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    What this means is that the starting efficiency for a train is near 50%, whereas the starting efficiency for a car is near 25%. But a car never travels empty, and the trains do.

    Roads and cars are more attractive at off-peak hours and trains are less attractive.

    The cost of conducting a car is absorbed by the driver at his full natural cost. He has a direct interest in his own safety and efficiency.

    The cost of conducting a train involves averaging the costs of all the (unionized) operating personnel who are either being paid sufficiently to live in the city or live (or will live) in subsidized housing. They get paid the same whether the car is full or empty, clean or dirty, in working and safe order or not.

    The cost of operating the car is absorbed at its full cost by the driver except for certain caveats:
    the car may be financed with a home equity loan which gets favorable tax benefits, the car is probably not assessed correctly for non-market costs, and the cost of fuel should probably be higher.

    The cost of operating a Metro car is twice the revenue it generates, but some of that cost is included in the labor charges above. The actual physical costs of operating the car per passenger seat are probably only somewhat lower than the costs in a car, I don’t have data I can believe from either side.

    The cost of constructing a lane mile of highway is less than the cost of constructing a lane mile of roadbed especially if you include the cost of terminals and parking facilities, but parking facilities are probably a wash since the cars would need them anyway, except the difference is, in that case, the parking would be located near to where it is needed.

    And we are building and rebuilding and expanding and subsidising Metro because?

    It starts to get sticky when you consider the relative property value increases between roads and Metro. Metro can clearly generate huge property value increases in some locations, whereas road property value increases are more disperse.

    How does it help me if the owner of the new Tysons development makes a few billion based on infrastructure provided with my tax money, whether I ride Metro or not? On the other hand if disperse property values are going up all over the place, I have a better chance of placing a minor bet and winning.

    I’m open to suggestions if someone wants to try to evaluate the “Public Benefit” of those two cases, I’m sure I don’t know how, offhand. Given that Metro exists, the absolute dollar value amounts might suggest that major Metro development is preferable. Except, based on the arguments above, Metro should never have existed. We can’t make an argument on what should be, just on what we have, and how to make it better. Metro development does not preclude road development as well, unless we are talking about the same dollar sources.

    If we do the only logical thing and raise prices to reduce congestion, what will happen? Some eople and some jobs will go someplace else, which implies we will need more roads.

    If we are really successful Metro will continue to be congested, roads will continue to be congested, and the “walkable” communities will be congested with Segways.

    That is a horrible thought, but compare it with the results if we fail to be successful.

    Ray Hyde
    Delaplane, VA

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