Friday, March 27, 2009

MAJOR Red Line Delays Tonight

Metro just announced that the Red Line is facing major delays due to the derailment of two trains between Bethesda and Medical Center. The first train stopped due to a "mechanical difficulty" while inbound toward Bethesda. When the rescue train arrived, it was discovered that the last car of the first train had derailed. Somehow, the rescue train's first car also derailed.

Passengers are currently being taken off of the first train (the rescue train was empty). Red Line trains are single-tracking around the derailments, and are sharing the same track between Friendship Heights and Medical Center.

If you're traveling on the Red Line, you should consider alternative transportation.
  • Buses L7 and L8 run north on Connecticut Avenue from Friendship Heights.
  • Buses J2, J3, & J4 run from Silver Spring to Bethesda.
  • Buses C2 and C4 run from Wheaton to Twinbrook.

Make sure to check your options on Metro's website. A Maryland bus map can be found here.

Metro Tests New Seats

Late last year, Metro introduced new wool seat coverings in two of its railcars. Five fabric patterns are being tested on cars 6026 and 6027 and the outcome of this test will influence the look of Metro's next generation of railcars. While Metro currently uses the distinctive Naugahyde seats in two different schemes, the 7000 series railcars will use only one of the five fabrics currently undergoing testing.

When Metro opened in 1976, industrial colors were in high demand. As a result, the beige interiors were complimented with brown carpet and seats in three different colors.  Originally, railcars were outfitted with orange, brown, and yellow seats. In 2001, Metro introduced three new colors for its new and rehabilitated railcars. Dubbed Potomac blue, Chesapeake sand, and Colonial burgundy, the patriotic colors were matched by a brighter white interior and red carpeting. Both sets of seats are a plastic coated vinyl polymer which is becoming increasingly hard for Metro to obtain.

The current vinyl seats are cleaned every 60 days and are replaced after one to three years depending on their condition. Replacing seats costs about $20.

Because Metro needs to find a more reliable supply of seats, they're looking toward these wool seat covers to meet their needs in the next generation of railcars. Railcars 6026 and 6027 are about halfway through their 6-month testing period. Metro announced in December that two more railcars would be outfitted with wool seats around the beginning of March, but no announcements have been made since. 

I chanced upon cars 6026 and 6027 a few weeks ago, and captured pictures of the different fabrics. I've seen the cars a few times, always on the Green and Yellow Lines. Riders on the other lines may not see wool seats until new railcars are outfitted.

Blue Squares, my favorite

Blue Dots

Red Dots

Balls and Seals

Gray Rainbows

What do you think? Have a favorite?

Bike Improvements: 9th Ave Cycle Track

Yesterday, I talked about my visit to the remade Madison Square. Also during my visit to New York, I took time to view the bicycle improvements along Ninth Avenue. These improvements have made biking along the major north-south artery safer by separating bikes from auto traffic. This project was another great improvement made by the NYC DOT under the leadership of Janette Sadik-Kahn

The Ninth Avenue Cycle Track runs from 31st Street southbound to 16th Street. Along the way, it is along the left curb of the street. It is divided from traffic by parked cars, bollards, and, at intersections, concrete islands. 

Cyclists are protected from left turns by protected left arrows at intersections. Cyclists have their own signals, which are synced with southbound through signals on Ninth Avenue. When left-turning traffic has a green arrow, cyclists are faced with a red "cycle" signal. 

Again, it seems that New York City is taking the lead in providing the street as public space for all users. Here in DC, the District Department of Transportation plans to implement a cycle track on Fifteenth Street NW. Under the reconfiguration proposal, 15th Street will be reconfigured between Massachusetts Avenue and Florida Avenue to include three northbound car lanes, one northbound bike lane (between the right-most northbound lane and the parking lane), a parking lane on each side of the street, and a southbound cycle track between the left-side parking lane and the western sidewalk. It will be separated from parked cars by a raised curb and will include north-facing signals for southbound cyclists.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Reclaiming the Street

I recently spent a day in New York City and took the opportunity to visit Madison Square, where the NYC DOT has reclaimed portions of the roadway for pedestrians. These improvements are a part of a new set of policies implemented by Janette Sadik-Kahn which demonstrate the feasibility of remaking streets for people instead of cars.

The project at Madison Square is essentially a demonstration project. All of the work was done with temporary materials, but the effect is great nonetheless. I visited on a cold March morning so the expanded public space was not particularly busy, but folded umbrellas and stacked tables hinted at the activity one might see in warmer weather. 

The view looking south
along Broadway's former lanes

The public space at Madison Square was reclaimed by simplifying the intersection of Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 23rd Street. By eliminating the diversion of traffic from southbound Broadway onto southbound Fifth and the diversion of traffic from southbound Fifth onto southbound Broadway, some 37,000 square feet of public plazas was created.

You can view NYC's proposal for Madison Square here.

Looking north from the 
former Broadway roadbed

Additional benefits included shorter crosswalks, more direct pedestrian routings, fewer gaps in the bike network, and simplified bus routings. The new plazas help to repair the urban fabric by encouraging pedestrians to cross Fifth and Broadway. Another improvement is the excellent viewpoint for photographers wishing to capture the Flatiron Building. But most importantly, NYC DOT has shown that reclaiming territory formerly only open to automobiles won't cause the world to end. The project is now being expanded to include Herald Square and Times Square. 

New public space west of Madison Square

Hopefully New York's dedication to returning the public right-of-way to all of the public will catch on. Many places here in Washington could certainly use road diets. Personally, I think sections of Pennsylvania Avenue between Georgetown and the White House would be good candidates for this type of public plaza. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bus Driver Appreciation Day: Tomorrow

Posted automatically while I'm out of the country

Tomorrow, Wednesday, March 18 is Bus Driver Appreciation Day. This commemorates the start of the world's first bus service in Paris, March 18, 1662. Of course, the buses back then were nothing like today's. The first bus line was organized by Blaise Pascal, but all of Paris' bus lines had vanished by 1675. So while Pascal's "wager" failed to take initially, buses were back on Parisian streets by the beginning of the 1800s. Today, they're present just about everywhere.

So you've got plenty of opportunity to appreciate your local bus driver(s).

Thanks to STB for the reminder.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Light Posting Next Week

Expect light posting over the next few days. I'll be traveling to New York City and Berlin. I look forward to updating you on my trip when I return. Thanks for reading!

Since I'll be traveling, I'll leave you with my favorite poem. It's especially apt since this post will go up at the moment my train is scheduled to leave Union Station.

"Travel" by Edna St. Vincent Millay:

The railroad track is miles away,
And the day is loud with voices speaking,
Yet there isn't a train goes by all day
But I hear its whistle shrieking.

All night there isn't a train goes by,
Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming
But I see its cinders red on the sky,
And hear its engine steaming.

My heart is warm with the friends I make,
And better friends I'll not be knowing,
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,
No matter where it's going.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Next American City

If you get a chance to read The Next American City's current issue (Spring 09), you might see something you recognize. They have an article on fantasy transit maps and one of the ones featured is a streetcar plan I created for the District of Columbia. My map appears on page 29.

For other potential "Transportation Futures", make sure to check out the maps I have made for the Washington/Baltimore and Atlanta regions. And don't worry, more are in the works. Feel free to comment on the maps, after all, I'd love to have your input. It might just make it into the next version.

Washington/Baltimore: Here
Atlanta: Here

Tip: EC

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Amtrak & GDOT Back Down: Beltline Safe

I'm pleased to report that GDOT and Amtrak have withdrawn their objections to the abandonment of the Decatur Belt. This means that one huge obstacle to Atlanta's Beltline, a promising loop of Transit, Parks, and Redevelopment has been removed. It does nothing to ensure that the project will be built, but the recent quarrel threatened to put a stop to the line's northeast quadrant.

As I reported a few days ago in a three part series, Amtrak had plenty of alternatives to the Decatur Belt. I also pointed out the ridiculousness of an argument pitting intercity rail against inner city transit. The Beltline will compliment any Amtrak service to Atlanta not only by increasing mobility and accessibility but also by making the city more urban and rail friendly.

The Atlanta Journal reported on Friday that the parties had come to an agreement. While the specifics are still being worked out, it seems that Amtrak trains will be routed along the trunk lines west of Marietta Street.

The revised proposal keeps the Beltline intact.

Additionally, while Amtrak failed to respond to my questions about train backing within the time they said they would, I have received information that suggests that Amtrak does already back trains into some stations. According to readers, Amtrak backs trains into Chicago and New Orleans regularly. If this is the case, then this whole situation could have been avoided in the first place.

I'll keep you posted as details emerge, but today we should just be happy that a win-win situation has been agreed upon. Keep up the good work Atlanta!

Silver Line Officially Receives FFGA

After years of work, Northern Virginia will be getting a new Metro Line. The Silver Line officially received a Full Funding Grant Agreement worth $900 million this morning, when Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood signed it.

Construction on the project has already begun, but this agreement means that the project will be able to move forward. Phase I is expected to open in 2013 and will add 5 stations in the Tysons Corner and Reston Areas. The line should eventually be extended to Dulles Airport, but that is part of Phase II, which will still need to go through the FTA funding process.

Phase I of the Silver Line will run from Wiehle Avenue in Reston to Tysons Corner in the median of the Dulles Access Road. In Tysons Corner, it will travel along Routes 7 and 123, with four stops in Virginia's largest job center. It will return to the Dulles Access Road median and continue to I-66. It will join the Orange Line between East Falls Church and West Falls Church and will run with the Orange (and later the Blue) Line from East Falls Church to Stadium-Armory station in the District of Columbia.

For a look back on the ups and downs of the Silver Line see some of my previous posts:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Atlanta's Beltline/Amtrak Debate

I just to update you on the conflict in Atlanta between Amtrak and local transit advocates.

Firstly, I have fixed all the graphics in the earlier posts so that the large versions are download-able.

Secondly, the Atlanta Journal is reporting that tomorrow, Friday, March 6 is the last day for negotiations.

I'll continue to keep you posted as events unfold.

The picture above shows the site of the proposed MMPT and my Atlanta Terminal. It is taken from the Spring Street Viaduct facing East. The red brick building on the right is abandoned, and will be torn down to make way for GDOT's MMPT. The dual trenches at center are the MARTA West Line trackways, which vanish into the Five Points station in the center of the photo. You can see the through tracks (where my A and B sections are proposed) to the left.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Transit Alert: Rockville MARC to Remain Open

New information has come to light in regards to the Rockville MARC Station renovations. MTA clarified this morning that the station will remain open. Trains will continue to stop at Rockville, however tickets will not be able to be purchased at the station until after the renovations are complete.

These renovations do not have a timeline yet, but will result in the construction of a waiting room with seating for passengers and the installation of self-serve ticketing kiosks. Rockville will not have a ticket agent after March 6.

I apologize for any confusion that my earlier posting my have caused. I hope you'll continue to visit Track Twenty-Nine for the scoop on transit.

I strive to bring you the most accurate information possible here at Track Twenty-Nine. Part of that means sending out occasional updates for major changes in transit services in the region. When I got an email from MTA last week which referenced Rockville's impending closure, I emailed them to confirm. They responded, saying that the "Rockville Station" would be closed for the duration of the renovations.

It appears that they actually meant "ticket office." Today's email clarifed that the Rockville ticket office would remain closed through the end of the renovations.

In my opinion, MTA needs to work on its communications. This case in an excellent example. Please see the below emails I received from MTA.

MTA Broadcast Email to MARC Subscribers,
Friday, February 27, 3:03PM

Attention MARC Commuters; The following MARC stations will no longer be staffed after the close of business on Friday March 6, 2009: Aberdeen, Gaithersburg, Germantown, Laurel, Martin Airport, Perryville, Rockville and Savage. Rockville Station will be closed temporarily for renovations. The "Self Serve Ticketing Kiosk" installation is complete and operational. The availability to purchase tickets will increase to both morning and evening hours, during MARC’s hours of operation. You will still be able to purchase a one-way ticket onboard the train with cash and without a penalty fee. MARC regrets any inconvenience this may cause.
Above emphasis added.

MTA Email Response to my Inquiry,
Monday, March 1, 9:59AM

The station will close at the end of the business day on Friday March 6th 2009. It will remain closed for renovations to the station, adding a waiting area with seating and a ticket machine. It will remain shut for a short while but we can not give you a
deadline at this time. We will send out a notice as soon as we have updated information. Thank you for your inquiry.
Above emphasis added.

I hope you can understand my confusion. I am sorry if I confused any of you.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Track Twenty-Nine's Role in the Obama Administration

I was delighted to see a recent article in the Baltimore Sun. It talks about President Obama's recent journey from Philadelphia to Washington by train. As it so happens, Mr. Obama made his triumphal arrival in Washington on no other than Union Station's Track Twenty-Nine.

I, of course, had nothing to do with it. Track Twenty-Nine at Union Station is not used for regular passenger service, but is apparently available for important people like the President. As I've said before, this blog takes its name not from Washington's highest numbered track, but rather from the fictitous Track Twenty-Nine at New York Penn Station referenced in the song "Chattanooga Choo Choo." But this makes it into a nice double entendre, eh?

Transit Alert: Rockville MARC Closing

Rockville MARC Station to Close for Renovations
MTA Maryland has announced that they will be closing the Rockville MARC commuter rail station for renovations after the last outbound train this Friday, March 6. This closure is temporary and will add ammenities to the station. The project will add a waiting area with seating and ticket machine. The station will be closed during the duration of the construction, but MTA does not have a firm deadline for reopening at this time. I'll keep you posted.

Passengers wishing to board at Rockville can take Metro's Red Line downtown or can travel to other nearby stations, including Washington Grove and Garrett Park.

Some MARC Stations to be Unstaffed
MTA also announced on Friday that a number of stations will no longer be staffed with ticket agents after the end of rail service on Friday, March 6. Quicktrak ticket machines have been installed in all of these locations, and despite the loss of ticket agents, passengers will now be able to purchase tickets during increased hours. Apparently, at these locations, you will still be able to buy your ticket onboard without being assessed the surcharge.
These stations will no longer be staffed:

  • Aberdeen (Penn)
  • Gaithersburg (Brunswick)
  • Germantown (Brunswick)
  • Laurel Main Street (Camden)
  • Martin State Airport (Penn)
  • Perryville (Penn)
  • Rockville (Brunswick)
  • Savage (Camden)

UPDATE: 3/4, 12:30P
A revised email from MTA Maryland clarifies that when
they said "Station" in their earlier email, they really meant "Ticket

The Rockville MARC Station will remain open during the
duration of the construction, however, tickets will not be sold at the station
until completion of the renovation.