Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Are All Transit Investments Created Equal?

Like all policy decisions, transit investments are made based on an underlying set of values and objectives. The way those objectives are interpreted and addressed can mean vast differences between alternative solutions to perceived problems. Therefore, in order to assess the quality of a transit proposal, we must first assess the foundation upon which transit decisions are made.

As the population of America's cities continues to increase along with congestion and oil prices, an ever greater number of commuters and cities are choosing to make investments in transit. Cities like Washington face a dilemma about where to make transit investments and what kind of investments they should be. Should the primary purpose of rail planning continue to be an emphasis on suburb to central city commuting, primarily in the form of large park and ride facilities on radial rail lines? Or should precious federal dollars be spent on transit projects in an effort to rejuvenate older urban areas?

Recently, much emphasis has been placed on congestion relief as the primary goal of transit. Unfortunately, this goal is one which cannot be achieved. No matter how much additional transportation infrastructure is constructed--or even what mode--congestion will never be eliminated. This failure, however, is nothing to fret about. Congestion is merely an economic phenomenon that occurs when demand exceeds supply. It is neither practical nor feasible to construct enough highway lanes to handle rush-hour demand. In the face of this realization, planners are doing what they have been doing for many years; using freeway medians as a means of penetrating the urban core, attracting riders from their cars, and providing an alternative to sitting in traffic.

This strategy has certainly been successful in some regards. In Washington, where Interstate 66 is host to severe HOV restrictions and permanent width restrictions, the median-running Orange Line has proven extremely popular with commuters. Even so, it seems a bit dubious to site a transit line on “highway’s turf” as Paul Farmer, head of the American Planning Association, so aptly puts it. In November’s edition of Planning, Mr. Farmer outlines some of the problems with using freeways as a means of penetrating the urban core.

Freeways are not typically characterized by dense multi-use nodes. Northern Virginia’s Orange Line is no exception. Interstate 66’s stops are mostly places for commuters to park, rather than live, work, and play. This is in stark contrast to the dense urban neighborhoods which have sprung up around stops in Bethesda, Rosslyn, and Ballston. The transit oriented development at these nodes is not coincidental. Neither is the lack of transit oriented development where the car is king.

Of course, the tradeoff is that transit takes cars off the road—and leaves room for others. For every commuter that parks at Vienna, there is room for one more to fill a space in the traffic jam. The concept is called “induced demand,” and it illustrates one more fallacy of placing trains in freeway rights of way. The idea that transit or road building can reduce congestion is a myth. Only demand-side techniques can permanently reduce congestion. Demand-side techniques include congestion pricing, lane management, and transit oriented development.

Citizens in growing Tysons Corner are trying to harness for themselves transit’s power to reshape the urban—or in this case, suburban-fabric. The Washington Post reported today that activists there have filed a lawsuit against the federal government for foiling the Silver Line’s chances to be constructed underground. Whether subways are more likely to inspire transit oriented development than elevated ones is not clear, however, Tysons chances are greatly improved with transit than without. Of course, some areas are more likely than others to develop the dense nodes that the people of Tysons envision. If anything damages Tysons’ chances to become the Bethesda of Fairfax County, it will likely have more to do with the presence of two major freeways than elevated stations.

Another problem with freeway-running transit lines is that they enable further sprawl to accrue on the periphery of our metropolitan areas. Instead of incentivizing the redevelopment of the central city, auto-oriented transit just allows some commuters to bypass congestion and still lvie in the sprawling hinterlands. While suburban development is not necessarily bad, one must wonder if choosing an auto-oriented locale is the best place for a transit investment. A better strategy for transit would be to invest in communities where household car ownership is low and places which are ripe for redevelopment. Of course, parking and riding will continue to serve as a major source of transit users, but transit lines should still be routed away from freeways for maximum success.

In the Washington area, an example of good transit routing is the Red Line. The suburban terminus of the line is at Shady Grove. The Shady Grove station is close enough to Interstate 270 to allow convenient access for commuters from the suburbs. The line, however, is far enough from the freeway that dense, multi-use nodes can germinate along the line as it runs under Rockville Pike, Wisconsin Avenue, and Connecticut Avenue. These nodes create demand for transit by being centered around it and by providing a mix of uses. The Bethesda Station, for instance, has many jobs drawing Metro riders from the suburbs and from the city proper. It also has housing, which contributes commuters to the subway not only during rush hour, but also during off-peak times, due to the convenience of transit in this node.

If the car is harmful to the urban fabric, then the freeway is toxic. Transit investments can be and have been used to improve cities, but freeways make that extremely difficult. At least in Tysons, the proposed Silver Line has been routed away from the Dulles Toll Road and through the center of the burgeoning business district. Still, one can only hope that those in charge of transportation decisions begin to realize the impact that “congestion mitigation” is having on our cities.

Not all transit investments are created equal. If our policies have any hope for success, they’ll need to follow the advice of Paul Farmer and keep transit in areas where it has a better chance of working. In the face of the looming energy and environmental crisis, we must decide whether transit will serve as an enabler for auto-centric, suburban lifestyles or as an incentive for pedestrian and community friendly traditional neighborhood development. The decision is far from clear-cut, but more consideration must be given to the environs with which we choose to surround transit—these surroundings will either enhance or blunt the ability of transit to reshape our metropolitan regions. There is no better time to reassess the underlying assumptions of our transportation policies than now.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Now that the Thanksgiving Holiday is over, it's time to get back to the old grindstone. So I'll prolong the workweek just a bit longer whilst I remember my tryptophan trip.

This was my first Thanksgiving outside of Georgia, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. My parents flew up from Atlanta to spend several days with me here in Washington, and I enjoyed their company. I hadn't seen them since I moved to DC in August. Anyway, I treated them to Thanksgiving lunch at a restaurant since I don't have the requisite space or kitchen equipment to fix my own turkey dinner.

So with the reservations in the bag, we took the Metro down to Foggy Bottom on a warm, indian summer day. I have to say that my first non-home-cooked Thanksgiving meal was excellent. My parents and I dined at a fantastic restaurant near the GW Campus. The restaurant, Tonic, is located in historic Quigley's Pharmacy, and the food is to die for.

We had turkey, with dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and sweet potato mash. It was not quite as good as my usual Thanksgiving, but it was definitely worth the price. I'd recommend the restaurant if you're in the neighborhood, and I intend to go back soon.

I just can't wait for Christmas dinner.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Welcome to the Club, Charlotte

Well, Charlotte's LYNX Light Rail line opened at 10 a.m. this morning. I'm glad to see that Christmas has come early for citizens of the North Carolina city.

The first line, the Blue Line, travels 9.6 miles from Downtown Charlotte to the 485 Beltway. Future extensions will bring the system to a total of almost 20 miles by 2013 and will also add commuter rail, bus rapid transit, and streetcars to the city's transit system.

Good Luck, Charlotte.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The City of Brotherly Love*

*Some restrictions apply

Tensions have been rising for some time in Philadelphia between the City government and the Cradle of Liberty Council. Since 1928, the Boy Scouts of America-Cradle of Liberty Council has leased their Beaux-Arts headquarters from the City for $1 a year. Their rent will be increasing 200,000% next year, says the city council, unless they remove their ban on gays.

The Washington Post is reporting that Philadelphia has given CoL Council until December 3 to allow gays or it will have to pay up. This case is stirring up the embers of the drama which ensued in 2000 when the US Supreme Court allowed the Boy Scouts of America to continue its ban on gays.

I had been actively involved in Scouting for 14 years when I came out. At the time, I considered leaving Scouting the hardest moment of my life. I felt that it was harder even than coming out to my parents. Looking back, I still can't find a time in my life when I was in more emotional turmoil. I had grown up with Scouting, I had given my time to Scouting, I had friends in Scouting. Leaving America's largest youth movement meant being estranged from my second family.

Now, almost two years after my departure, I still long for the day when that estrangement will end. I do not intend a pun when I say that my Scouting uniforms still hang pressed in my closet. Yet the sting has gone. I no longer feel a hole in my chest when I think back on the organization which I love. I have filled my time with other activities, but I can't help wondering which fruits would have been produced from a further Scouting relationship.

Perhaps the greatest irony in my mind is that I don't know that I would have had the strength to come out had it not been for the skills I learned through Scouting. The National Council claims that homosexuals are banned from Scouting because being gay is "inconsistent with the obligations of the Scout Oath and Law." The Boy Scouts of America see their organization as one which teaches a rigid set of values, and they find that these values allow them to exclude certain members of society.

Robert Kennedy, I think, espoused the values of Scouting when he said that "Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence." Scouts are indeed disciples of a moral code which is rarely easy to uphold, but that is Scouting's message. Barry Goldwater tells us that "moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." This is also a Scouting principle. No Scout should be taught to stand by during times of injustice. We were taught by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Members of the Boy Scouts of America have an obligation to stand up in the name of justice. It is time that the Scouting organization rejoined its members in seeking to uphold the tenets of the Scout Oath and Law; in seeking to promote the high ideals of America.

It is a shame that the Cradle of Liberty Council is facing expulsion from its headquarters building, but there is also a sense of irony there. Perhaps the Cradle of Liberty Council will serve as the cradle for yet more liberty. Until that time, I will continue to hold the Scout Oath and Law in my heart silently awaiting my invitation to rejoin the brotherhood of Scouting.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Rainy Night In Georgia

Georgia is in the midst of one of the worst droughts on record. In late October, when I changed planes in Atlanta, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was reporting that Atlanta had 80 days of water left. This problem was foreseeable, yet no action was taken by state or local leaders. This city has had one of the fastest metropolitan growth rates in the country basically since air conditioning was invented. Projections call for almost 3 million people to move to the metropolitan area by 2030, an increase in population of 75%. If Atlanta doesn't have enough water now, though, how can it expect to survive once a population surge the size of Seattle moves in?

Well, the good news now is that Georgia's two term Governor, Sonny Purdue, has the answer.


Wow. I'm surprised that no other politician has thought of that one. Too much congestion? Pray about it. Poll numbers too low? Pray about that too. Jackets going into the annual Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry with a high ranking? Sure, might as well ask the Almighty to intervene in Football. At least divine intervention in sports doesn't violate the laws of nature that messing with the weather would.

From today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
After the prayers, the rain

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 11/14/07

When his hour-long prayer vigil for rain ended with the sun shining through Tuesday, Gov. Sonny Perdue made a bold proclamation.

"God can make it rain tomorrow," he said.

Just like Perdue — and the National Weather Service — said, it was a rainy night in Georgia on Wednesday.

The rain was triggered by a cold front coming through, and it was expected to last until the early hours of Thursday morning.

Did Purdue's pleas to the almighty make a difference? Probably just in his poll numbers. A more appropriate question would inquire whether Georgians are finally tired of Pandering Purdue. It's easy for the Governor to hold a 'successful' prayer vigil. He just looks at the 10 day forecast, calls a prayer vigil, and then celebrates a 20% chance of rain the next day.

Who lost weight as Governor?
Who set back transit in Georgia by at least 5 years?
Who created a pointless second ban on gay marriage?
Who did nothing about the water shortage except pray for rain?

Sonny did.

If Mr. Purdue is so keen on holding an office where he gets to pray about things whose processes are already set, maybe he should run for Deacon. Because it won't help in getting things done (only getting elected), because praying that the junior Senator from Indiana will co-sponsor your bill won't really change his mind.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Putting the 'anta' Back in Atlanta


Thank God that someone had the foresight to give my former home a beautiful name. I think that "Atlanta" seems to just roll off the tongue. It is a beautiful name for one of America's great cities. It is a name that Atlantans should cherish. After all, it could be much much worse. What if the name hadn't been changed? Terminus just doesn't sound like the name of a city with any sophistication. Marthasville brings to mind the picture of a little mountain hamlet with no more than a flashing red light.

But instead what do people do? Instead of using this beautiful name, the feminine form for the name of an ocean 250 miles away, they refer to their city with the blunt IATA code for the airport.

Of course, using abbreviations to refer to places is nothing new. Up here, we call Washington 'DC' all the time, but that does make it considerably shorter. Especially since just saying Washington results in a sentence explaining that we mean the National Capital and not the state, one of the 25 incorporated places, or one of the 31 counties of this name.

Pennsylvanians also have plenty of reason to shorten their references to just P-A. You'll find them driving on the P-A Turnpike and buying tickets for the P-A Lottery. Still, that's another one of our beautiful names that ought to be used in its entirety as much as possible.

At least the aforementioned places actually shorten their names, though. With 'The ATL,' users are actually making their nomenclature longer. Atlanta only has three syllables, 'The ATL' is four. If you include the space, they are the same length, so writing and typing also yield no benefit. Plus, with 'The ATL,' one has to hold down shift for three extra letters.

Let's stick to the name folks. After all, who refers to Chicago as 'The ORD?' What about New York? There it's NYC, not LGA. In lots of places, use of the IATA airport code refers specifically to the airport. Take Miami (MIA) and Denver (DIA), for example.

So let's stick to the full name. It's a nice one, and trust me, Atlanta needs all the help it can get.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Here's To Reading Anti-Glacier Books

"Von der Kuppel der Frauenkirche sah ich diese leidigen Trümmer zwischen die schöne städtische Ordnung hineingesät; da rühmte mir der Küster die Kunst des Baumeisters, welcher Kirche und Kuppel auf einen so unerwünschten Fall schon einferichetet und bombenfest erbaut hatte. Der gute Askristan deutete mir alsdann auf Ruinene nach allen Seiten und sagte bedenklich lakonisch: Das hat der Feind gethan!"
--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Two years ago, when I was in Dresden, I didn't have the opportunity, as Goethe did, to stand in the cupola of the Frauenkirche. It was still being rebuilt at the time. This city, the Elbflorenz, had long been considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. One night in February 1945 changed all that. Far from being the worst firebombing in the Second World War, it was perhaps the most unnecessary.

The late winter of 1945 had brought Germany to the edge of oblivion. While the war would stretch for another two months, the war was nearing its end. Thousands of refugees fleeing the Soviet advance had taken refuge in this city. The city had been spared so far because it had little war-making industry--it didn't even have a garrison.

Nonetheless, 35,000 burned to death in a firestorm which burned for two days and cleansed from the banks of the Elbe the greatest remaining example of the Baroque. Regarded by many for years as revenge for the bombing of Coventry, Dresden did little to end the war.

There's a reason that East Germany's national anthem started with the words "Auferstanden aus Ruinen" (risen from the ruins). It's the same reason that the symbol of Atlanta is the Phoenix. Which begs the question: does the scorched Earth have a place in warfare?

I recently finished reading Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five." His book, he says comically, is an anti-glacier book. "There would always be wars, that they were as easy to stop as glaciers. I believe that too," says Vonnegut. Even so, he was inspired to write this book about what he saw in Dresden first-hand.

Journalist Sydney J. Harris says that "'terrorism' is what we call the violence of the weak, and we condemn it, 'war' is what we call the violence of the strong, and we glorify it."

In this age of a "war on terror," one has to ask, then, whether "shocking and awing" the civilian population into submission is the best recipe for peace. Christian teaching says that the other cheek should be turned. Mr. Bush and his administration often claims to be on the same side as Christ, yet his answer to terrorism is to respond with terrorism. It seems unlikely that the fruits of this strategy will be success. As President Carter so eloquently put it, "We will not learn to live in peace by killing each others' children." Or to put it more bluntly, Gandhi admonishes us that "an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind."

Perhaps one day, we can realize one of Vonnegut's visions:
In Slaughterhouse Five, the main character, Billy Pilgrim, is unstuck in time. He sees a war film backwards on page 94. This is what he sees:
"When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so that they would never hurt anybody ever again."
Of course, the irony does seem to be lost about the glaciers. It's the Republicans these days who are on the warpath. In the sense that Vonnegut meant the quotation, they are very pro-glacier, but on climate policy, they are just as determined to destroy civilization as they allege the gays are. Let's hope that the next administration is anti-glacier on the war front and pro-glacier on the climate front.

It would be a shame if we all died out before we got to see Dresden's finally restored Frauenkirche. The church was reconsecrated on October 30, 2005--over 60 years after its destruction. Incidentally, the Goethe quote at the beginning of this post proved apt. It referred to the 1760 Prussian bombardment of Dresden in which the Frauenkirche was hit by over 100 cannonballs. The Allied bombing of Dresden on the nights of February 13 and 14, 1945 did not bring down the church, but the heat of the fire caused the sandstone columns to explode.

"From the dome of the Frauenkirche I saw this loathsome rubble amongst the beautiful urban orderliness; whilst the verger boasted to me about the art of the master builder who built this church and the dome to withstand such an undesired event by making it bomb-proof. The good verger then pointed to all the ruins around us and said, reflectively and laconically: 'It was the enemy who did that!'"
--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

'Arch'etypes: Part 1

I started my "Introducing Washington" series with a post on the Mall, the center of federal Washington. My next installment gives me a chance to spend some time introducing one of my favorite parts of the metropolitan region. Hundreds of thousands daily pass through the hallowed halls that are our Metro. The public spaces of our city's subway platforms are unique in the world, and are associated with Washington wherever one goes.

It is only fitting that Metro gets a post in the Introducing Washington series. This is the public space that links the rest of the region together. Here, similarity of design means that places as far flung as Alexandria and New Carrollton are linked by common architectural elements. There are certain design motifs that weave themselves throughout the Metro system. Many of these elements repeat themselves hundreds of times over within Metro's 86 stations.

This is the first post of several which will describe Washington's subway. In this installment, I focus on station types. There are 8 main station types, although many designs vary based on location. A few stations are unique and do not fit any of the station types. The stations can be divided into two main categories: underground and at grade/elevated.

Beneath the Streets: Underground Stations
Metro's architect was a Chicagoan named Harry Weese. His vision has shaped the experience of transit riders for over three decades, and will continue to do so for many more. His plans for stations mainly centered on creating an awe-inspiring space. Even though patrons may be well below the surface in many places, they will almost always find a cavernous train room. These vaulted stations echo the Great Hall of Daniel Burnham's Union Station and provide the perfect conditions for the light show that occurs with each train's arrival. I'll focus more on those details in a later post, first let's look at the major differences.

The "Waffle" design consists of the coffered vault that Weese originally envisioned for all of Washington's subterranean stations. The surface of the vault resembles that of a waffle, hence the name. These stations were constructed using cast-in-place concrete and proved to be more expensive than other methods. For that reason, designs were later changed. Nevertheless, the waffle architecture dominates in the downtown stations.

Waffle architecture is present in 32 stations:
  • Red Line: Union Station to Dupont Circle
  • Orange Line: Court House to Ballston
  • Green Line: U Street, Shaw, Archives, Waterfront, Navy Yard
  • Blue Line: Capitol Heights to Rosslyn, Pentagon to Crystal City

Waffle at
Crystal City

Arch I

The second major design in the Metro system, I am calling Arch I. The Arch types (there are three) are all created from precast concrete sections, making construction cheaper. For this reason, WMATA chose to use them on its later phases of subway construction. Arch I architecture is characterized by a series of arches rising from the tracks to the ceiling. Crossbeams connect each arch, running parallel to the tracks. These crossbeams divide the vault into sections, which is how the different Arch designs can be differentiated. Arch I vaults have three crossbeams running the length of the platform, dividing the ceiling into four parts.

Arch I architecture is present at 7 stations:
  • The Red Line from Woodley Park to Medical Center is the only section to include Arch I.

Arch I at
Cleveland Park

Arch II

The Arch II style became the preferred method of subway construction with later stations. These stations are very similar in design and appearance to the Arch I stations. They are also constructed using the same method--precast concrete sections. This design is defined by 5 crossbeams and 6 vault sections. This design is my personal favorite.

Arch II designs are found at 6 stations:
  • The Red Line: Glenmont
  • The Green Line: Congress Heights, Mount Vernon Square, Columbia Heights, Georgia Avenue, and the lower level of Fort Totten

Arch II at
Columbia Heights

Arch III
This design is a modified version of the Arch II design. It is found at only 2 stations, both on the Red Line, Forest Glen and Wheaton. This design was made necessary because these stations are very deep and each track is in its own single-bore tube. These vaults have 4 sections divided by 3 crossbeams.

Arch III at
Forest Glen

Above-ground Stations
The stations which are not underground cannot have the large vaults that characterize the rest of the system.

Gull Wing I
In order to maintain the connectivity of the architectural elements of the system, the surface and elevated stations had a vault-like roof consisting of sweeping concrete 'wings.' I refer to this design as the Gull Wing I design. It is characteristic of the older outdoor stations.

Gull Wing I designs can be found at 14 stations:
  • Red Line: Silver Spring, Fort Totten (upper level), Takoma, Brookland, Rhode Island Avenue, Shady Grove
  • Orange Line: New Carrollton to Minnesota Avenue
  • Yellow Line: Eisenhower Avenue
  • Blue Line: National Airport (half of platforms) , Van Dorn Street

Gull Wing I at

Peaked Roof I
The next design, Peaked Roof I, is found at 2 stations only. These stations, on the Blue and Yellow Lines, are at Braddock Road and King Street in Alexandria. The Peaked Roof I design consists of a steeply sloped roof with skylights in the center.

Peaked Roof I at
King Street

Peaked Roof II
A more common design, Peaked Roof II can be found at many surface stations. It consists of a flat roof over the platform with a section of clear skylights forming a peak in the center (along a line parallel to the tracks).

Peaked Roof II can be found at 16 stations:
  • Red Line: Grosvenor to Rockville
  • Orange Line: East Falls Church to Vienna
  • Green Line: Branch Avenue to Southern Avenue, College Park, Greenbelt
  • Blue Line: Franconia-Springfield, Addison Road

Peaked Roof II at

Gull Wing II

The newest design for the Metro includes this type of architecture. It differs greatly in many aspects from earlier designs. There are notable differences in color, materials, and motif elements. These stations are all of those constructed beyond the original system (which was completed in January of 2001). This design can be found at only 3 stations: New York Avenue on the Red Line and Morgan Boulevard and Largo Town Center on the Blue Line.

Gull Wing II at
Largo Town Center

Unique Designs

Several stations differ from these basic designs. They are worthy of mention because of their nonconformity. There are 5 unique stations in the system.
  • Yellow: Huntington
  • Green: Anacostia, Prince George's Plaza, West Hyattsville
  • Blue: Arlington Cemetery

Monday, November 5, 2007

Vive La Railvolution!

Well, I'm back from Miami and Railvolution was a blast! Miami-Dade Transit and the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority were excellent hosts. While the conference was held in South Beach, far from the nearest Metrorail Station, the Art Deco facades and sea breezes made Railvolution a nice way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Washington.

The conference was informative and full of great information. From talks on how transit can help save the environment to discussions on the use of rail to revitalize communities, Railvolution 2007 fostered a discussion on everything transit. The highlight of the conference for me was the tour of the Miami Metrorail. We even got a sneak-peek inside the Metrorail and Metromover Central Control Center. I can't wait for Railvolution 2008 in San Francsico! I hope I'm able to go, because I love the Bay Area. After all, I did leave my heart there.

Part of the conference focused on our host city's efforts to expand transit in the region. As we were told, South Florida is a region "ripe for rail." Squeezed in to a narrow corridor between the Everglades and the Atlantic, Tri-Rail offers a growing commuter rail service. The Metrorail has plans to construct major extensions, including a branch to the Miami Airport. Transit Oriented Development is also progressing nicely around such stations as Santa Clara and Dadeland South. Of course, as speakers at the Railvolution Conference reminded us, there are battles yet to be fought.

Soundly Voting for Transit
Tuesday marks a major day for transit, with two votes on the subject in vastly different regions. Seattle voters will be seeing transit on the ballot tomorrow. Sound Transit, which operates light rail in Tacoma and commuter rail in the Tacoma-Seattle-Everett corridor, faces a potential windfall with region voters deciding whether to appropriate $10.8 billion for 50 miles of light rail and an additional $7 billion for roads in the region. Sound Transit is currently constructing the Central Link Light Rail connecting SeaTac Airport to downtown Seattle's revamped Third Street Subway (formerly bus only). The next step, the University Link, serving U-Dub is in the planning stages. This proposal will extend the line north to Lynnwood, south to Tacoma, and east across Lake Washington to Overlake. It comes at the expense of also adding roads across the region, but the improvements are worth it. Let's hope that when the polls close tomorrow, Seattle will finally be getting the transit system that it has been planning since the early 1960s.

And in Charlotte, CATS might not be as afraid as a Lynx in a room full of rocking chairs (to mince euphemisms), but its funding source is under attack. Tuesday, voters will decide whether to confusingly vote no for transit or yes against transit. A yes vote will mean the repeal of the 1998 referendum which forked over a half-penny to transit. Let's hope that a no on Tuesday will mean a good opening for the first opening of Light Rail in North Carolina later this month. Charlotte will be starting service on its Blue Line, the first phase of the Lynx Light Rail System. If Charlotte decides to keep the transit tax, the region can look forward to 36 additional miles of light rail, 13.5 miles of bus rapid transit, and 16.5 miles of streetcar. Once again, we can only hope that the railvolution will continue as places like Charlotte keep up the good work.

And how the railvolution has indeed been progressing. Tri-Rail in South Florida recently completed double tracking its route, allowing for increased headways and capacities. Maryland's Governor, Martin O'Malley, has committed the state to funding a tripling of MARC service over the next 25 years. San Francisco's Muni opened its new T-Third Street Line serving along the western edge of the San Francisco Bay. In October, the FTA agreed to their commitment to partially fund the first phase of Norfolk's Tide Light Rail, which will open to passengers in 2010. On the whole, transit ridership is up and so is support for transit. The railvolution seems to be working, and I'm sure its successes will be televised.