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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Will Columbia's turn ever come?


    The first section of the new silver line of the Washington Metro opened this past weekend.  This first new Metro line since 1991 will serve Northern Virginia including Tysons Corners and eventually Dulles Airport.  I remember the excitement when the first section of the Metro system opened in 1976 from Rhode Island Avenue to Union Station.  I first rode this section to the Carter Inauguration in January of 1977.  This was after a number of years of having major streets in DC torn up to build the Metro.  Moving to Columbia just as the Metro made travelling around DC tolerable seemed to be missing the reward after having put up with its inconveniences.
      At the time of our move to Columbia it was not hard to imagine that some day the Metro might reach out to our area or at least to Laurel.  Unfortunately all we have for proximity are the Greenbelt and Silver Spring stations.  Neither is that convenient with a trip down heavily traveled routes 95 or 29.   In 2006 the Maryland Department of Transportation did a million dollar study of the feasibility of having the Metro come to Columbia as part of an expansion to the subway to BWI.   Two routes were studied.  One extended the Red Line up the median of Route 29 to the Columbia Mall and another studied extending the Green Line from Greenbelt along the rail right of way up Route 1.  Nothing much has come from that study as the multi-billion dollar cost seemed prohibitive.  Can you imagine the economic benefit to both Columbia and BWI to be connected with the DC Metropolitan area?
     Remember the high speed Maglev line that was to be developed if Washington and Baltimore had been successful in getting the 2012 Olympics?  The plan would have allowed guests to the Olympics travel easily to venue sites in each city.  With the area not getting selected for the Olympics that plan also was a non-starter.
       It may only be a matter of time until the two cities are connected with some type subway or high speed rail system that goes beyond the Amtrak service that we presently have. With Columbia's geographic location between Baltimore and Washington we would probably see the next big change in development of Columbia with such a transportation resource as a subway line.  For now all the action in expanding the Washington Metro seems to be in Northern Virginia.



Chris Bachmann said...

This was a big topic in 2006. Evan Parker's blog at the time has a lot of detailed ideas.

I've also advocated for PRT systems in the past as well, which may be a better median and something that could translate into a more substantial system as Columbia's population increases and density increases.

Anonymous said...

It would be more realistic to aim for Bus Rapid Transit along Route 29.

duanestclair said...

Can you describe how bus rapid transit would differ from the regular bus service we have to the Red Line in Silver Spring?

Linda Wengel said...

Bus Rapid Transit would have a dedicated bus lane that could also control traffic signals. Montgomery County is exploring this for their segment of 29.

Unknown said...

Bus Rapid Transit is typically characterized by the buses having their own lanes, typically separated from the car flow. Traditional bus service must navigate and coexist with car traffic.

BRT on US 29 is very difficult. It seems to make a lot of sense here in Howard County, but a trip south shows a different reality in MoCo. The bridge over the rocky gorge reservoir is at capacity. There is no space for a dedicated BRT lane. A new bridge over the reservoir would have to be built. South of Briggs Cheney Road, there are stretches of US 29 where the median is either very small or just does not exist. It would be pretty hard to get BRT down there.

In the larger case, because HoCo splits is workforce (generally, 1/3 to DC, 1/3 to Balt, and 1/3 in HoCo) it would be difficult to get any rail service here. DC metro is a different regional council of governments. The Silver line is within their boundary. We are not. There is simply not enough demand from this area to justify the cost. As Dr. Gridlock said it recently (and his words, not mine): There does not exist enough density to extend the metro line any further north.

KirstyCat said...

This topic never fails to raise my blood pressure. This city was planned as if everyone would work where they lived. As that didn't happen, we are paying the price for the lack of viable options for public transportation. Add to that, the lack of upkeep on the existing lines of the Metro, which make commuting to an upcountry station for a trip to DC or Tysons unrealistic.