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Author: Veronica Miniello

Is Washington’s Notorious Traffic Congestion Worse Under SafeTrack?

Fears that Metro’s SafeTrack maintenance blitz would send rail riders piling into cars and further clogging downtown Washington streets may have been misplaced, at least according to early traffic volume data compiled in D.C. and Northern Virginia.

The anecdotal evidence differs. Some commuters are complaining of nightmarish gridlock turning short drives into slow crawls, even if it is not clear whether reduced service on the Orange and Silver Lines is to blame. After all, traffic is terrible in and around Washington on normal days for an array of reasons. But what is clear after just a few days of Metro’s historic reconstruction program is the District is not being paralyzed by epic amounts of new traffic.

More traffic? Maybe.

Traffic counts on major corridors entering the city were about the same on Tuesday, June 7, as the prior two Tuesdays in May, according to data released by the District Department of Transportation. At some locations, traffic was lighter.

On the I-395 bridge, volume was 196,000 vehicles on June 7, about 10,000 cars fewer than crossed the bridge on May 24. On May 17, the figure was 192,000.

On the Roosevelt Bridge, traffic volume reached close to 89,000 on June 7, about the same as it was on May 24. On the previous Tuesday — two weeks before SafeTrack — volume was higher: 93,000.

Fewer cars also were counted on K Street between 18th and 19th Streets and 13th Street between I and K Streets on June 7 than on the prior two dates, but not by much.

Overall, traffic in the four corridors is roughly flat, but DDOT reported longer travel times in the “downtown core.” During morning rush hour, the average trip took 21 minutes compared to the usual of 15 minutes, and in the afternoon rush hour it trip time expanded from 15 to 20 minutes.

In NoVa, accidents or SafeTrack?

Major roads in Northern Virginia saw small yet significant increases in traffic volume on Tuesday, although Virginia officials cautioned accidents and other factors may have caused congestion, not necessarily SafeTrack.

On Rt. 29 at Shreve Road traffic volume increased 13 percent in the 7 a.m. hour on June 7 compared to the same day the previous week (from 1548 cars to 1740), according to data released by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Volume was up five percent in the afternoon rush hour.

Rt. 50 at Graham Drive, Rt. 7 at Idylwood Road, I-66 at mile marker 72, Rt. 123 at George Washington Parkway, and Rt. 123 at Georgetown Pike all saw increases of between 3 and 6 percent in morning and afternoon rush hour.

“Since it has only been a few days, there are other factors to consider also, such as impacts from accidents,” said VDOT spokeswoman Jennifer McCord.

“An accident on I-66 at Route 50 around 6:30 am [Wednesday] resulted in additional delays west of 50. I-395 continued to experience heavy congestion this morning, similar to [Tuesday]. On both days, there were accidents on either the D.C. or Va. side.”

Blocking the box

On Twitter and the WAMU Metropocalypse Facebook group, motorists are complaining about what they believe is worsening gridlock.

One commuter, Nicole Kaeding, said traffic was so awful outside her downtown office building on Tuesday afternoon that it took her 15 minutes just to get out of the garage.

In an interview, she speculated that new car commuters unfamiliar with downtown streets could be the culprits.

“I noticed when I was in one of the traffic circles,” said the mom of two as she steered her SUV up 13th Street Northwest. “Most people who tend to drive every day know what lane they should be in when they enter the traffic circles for their exits, and I got cut off three or four times by people who were [in the wrong lane] trying to get out of the circle.”

Not all the anecdotal evidence is doom and gloom.

“We don’t see evidence of an increased amount of blocking of the box or gridlock,” said Neil Albert, the president of the DowntownDC Business Improvement District.

Gridlock often happens at intersections without DDOT’s traffic control officers (TCOs), and the agency concedes it does not have enough personnel for the typical rush hour, let alone the post-SafeTrack reality.

Months ago Mayor Muriel Bowser requested funding for 20 more TCOs for the fiscal year starting in October, but after Metro released the SafeTrack project schedule the administration decided to accelerate the hiring process.

“We commissioned a study with the Federal City Council and Accenture that revealed the need for additional TCOs,” said DDOT spokesman Terry Owens, referring to a report that was produced last year.

“We plan to have the people hired over the next several weeks, hopefully by the end of June. Training should take about a four weeks,” Owens said.

DDOT currently has about 35 TCOs on the payroll. They are deployed at 10 downtown locations, but each location covers multiple intersections.

“We’re definitely on board with getting more TCOs,” Albert said. “But we also want to make sure they are placed strategically. Not every intersection downtown needs TCOs. They are not the only solution. DDOT has done a fantastic job of using better timing on their traffic signals.”

The limits of driving

As traffic ebbs and flows over the next year of reduced Metrorail service, transit advocates say SafeTrack is providing the region a can’t-miss opportunity to make better use of the existing road space.

“What it is showing is a modern, great city can’t survive by car alone. You need a successful transit network to allow for a city to thrive,” said Stewart Schwartz, the head of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

The group has been calling on D.C. and its suburbs to at last install temporary, dedicated bus lanes to move commuters around Metro’s rail work zones. And it has been encouraging people to carpool, bike, or walk to work.

“Hopefully in the coming months we can drive some dedicated bus lanes. The city has been studying 16th Street Northwest for a while, and based upon our recommendations and their detailed analysis, they are finding they can do peak-hour bus lanes on 16th Street,” Schwartz said.

“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste, and we should use this to test out creating a redundant and effective transit network using buses,” he added.

At a news conference last week, Mayor Bowser downplayed the possibility of installing temporary bus lanes on short notice. Starting June 18, Metro will deploy dozens of buses to bridge commuters between Eastern Market and Minnesota Avenue/Benning Road rail stations during the first line segment shutdown of SafeTrack, but those “bus bridges” will have to share lanes with everyone else.

“We are still in the early rounds, but we would like to see more,” Schwartz said.

Photo courtesy of Martin Di Caro. Click here to read the original story.

Superstreets Would Eliminate Some Left-Hand Turns on Route 123

Route 123 in Tysons, Virginia, is considered one of the most congested roads in the area. Part of the problem is drivers who get stuck behind someone trying to make a left-hand turn.

Traffic officials are considering limiting left hand turns and eliminating cross traffic on Route 123, creating a superstreet, so traffic just keeps moving. The change could affect tens of thousands of commuters.

Opinions are split.

“Yeah, that’s going to jack some stuff up. I’m not in favor of that,” said commuter Darien May. “You have to make a left.”

“It could help, because then you wouldn’t have the people waiting for the left-hand turns,” said commuter Jeremy Hashiguchi.

Part of the plan being considered could completely eliminate the left-hand turns in the superstreet design from Route 123, only allowing them at key intersections. Those intersections haven’t been decided yet.

Also, at a superstreet intersection, traffic on a minor road — one crossing Route 123 in this case — is not permitted to proceed across the major road or highway.

Drivers on those minor roads who want to turn left or go straight must turn right onto the major road, then wait in a designated U-turn (or crossover) lane in the median a short distance away.

It is a traffic design that has a lot of rules, but it is expected to help keep traffic flowing.

Stewart Schwartz, with the Coalition for Smarter Growth, isn’t sold on the idea.

“It’s about movement of cars and not necessarily about pedestrians, and it could make it less safe for pedestrians and give them a much longer crossing time, further discouraging connection between the two sides of the road, rather than taming it down to a more urban boulevard. A K Street-like boulevard,” Schwartz said.

Fairfax County planners said with all the growth happening with more jobs and housing, Route 123 can’t stay in its current form.

“We think this concept is necessary in order for Route 123 to function at a reasonable level,” said Leonard Wolfenstein, with the county Department of Transportation. We don’t have an option other than this.”

More studies are underway.

Click here to read the original story.

Metro problems, smart growth or smart mess

Last week, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority General Manager/Chief Executive Officer Paul J. Wiedefeld released the final work plan for safety repair and renovation on Metro’s troubled subway system. The planned work will create service disruptions and additional delays for a full year on the rail centerpiece of the D.C. region’s public transportation network.
Public transportation forms one of the fabrics for smart growth, which D.C. and its surrounding jurisdictions have promoted since at least the 1990s. Smart growth encourages mixed residential-commercial use development in urban and other already-developed areas, particularly land near Metro stations and other public transportation. Smart growth, which seeks to deter suburban sprawl, protect natural land, reduce driving and revitalize existing communities, creates environmental and economic benefits.
Metro’s plan for its upcoming safety and maintenance work, which it calls SafeTrack, directly addresses recommendations provided by both the Federal Transit Administration and National Transportation Safety Board to make safety repairs Metro has delayed for years. But the work will cause track outages on major portions of the subway for long work periods, called “surge periods,” and disrupt normal public transportation for many people during the entire year.
Metro’s work plan condenses three years of safety-related track work into one. During the one-year work period, which commences June 4, 2016, in addition to track segment closures during surge periods, Metro will close the subway at midnight rather than 3:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Expanded maintenance and related single-tracking will begin at 8:00 p.m. instead of 10:00 p.m. Existing non rush hour maintenance work and related single tracking that begin last summer will continue.
Metro acknowledges the anticipated service disruption. “When a Surge is underway on a particular line, Metro riders who have the ability to do so may be asked to use alternate travel options and avoid Metro until the project is complete,” Metro said in its May 19, 2016, press release.
“Some Metro ‘surges’ will disrupt travel for tens of thousands of people,” said David Albert, president of the transportation blog Greater Greater Washington, and Aimee Custis, managing director of the smart growth advocacy group Coalition for Smarter Growth, in anarticle on the Greater Greater Washington blog last week. Metro provides rail service to over 700,000 riders every weekday. “If even a small proportion of these Metro riders drive alone, we could see major regional gridlock,” Albert and Custis said in their article.
Metro plans to mitigate the anticipated service disruption during surge periods with a variety of strategies that include more buses on existing routes, as well as buses to replace rail service not available between Metro stations served by closed rail segments. Metro also plans more eight car trains during surge periods. But Metro’s implementation of strategies to mitigate service disruption is still developing.
Moreover, the region’s response will require all departments of transportation and local transit agencies in D.C. and surrounding jurisdictions, and Metro to work together, a daunting task. Planning and coordination of these agencies within their jurisdictions and with Metro “is all a work in progress” a representative for the Virginia Department of Transportation said.
The Coalition for Smarter Growth sent an e-mail to supporters last week asking them to prioritize a handful of proposed mitigation actions the group had identified. The group’s e-mail urged local, regional, state and federal officials to take action, including dedicating priority lanes on major road arteries for express buses and carpoolers, before the June 4 work starts.
Is Metro’s planned response to mitigate service disruption sufficient? Will the transportation authorities in the District, Maryland and Virginia take steps to ensure adequate alternative public transportation service? Have any local, regional, state or federal elected officials exercised leadership to help mitigate the impending hardship to the millions of commuters who rely on public transportation?
One thing is clear, unless D.C. region governments implement real and effective strategies to address the anticipated SafeTrack service disruption, Metro commuters can expect a miserable year of subway service with significant and perhaps materially adverse impacts on their quality of life, not to mention their ability to get to work and travel for other reasons.
Smart growth promised reduced suburban sprawl with the related benefits that come from less driving and more walkable neighborhoods. But the idea of smart growth is built upon adequate public transportation, as well as other necessary public facilities, such as bike paths and adequate school classroom capacity.
Unless local, regional, state and federal officials take immediate and effective action to help mitigate the impending hardship on Metro riders during Metro’s upcoming safety and maintenance work, the question on everyone’s mind will be is the region’s long push towards greater reliance on public transportation and urban development really smart growth or just a smart mess.

Photo courtesy of Doug Canter. Click here to read the original story.


D.C. shift could make tiny houses more abundant

The popular tiny-house movement may get a big boost in the District this fall when significantly looser restrictions regarding “accessory dwelling units” — the technical name for the trendy residences — go into effect.

Under provisions in the city’s new zoning code, from Sept. 6, homeowners will have an easier time getting the necessary approval to build and rent out tiny houses. Given the lack of affordable housing in the District, advocates say they think they’ll see a dramatic increase in the number of rentable tiny homes, micro-homes or two-story carriage houses popping up alongside gardens, tree houses and swing sets behind homes all over the city.

Previously, owners seeking to rent out the units were required to argue their cases before the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) to receive an exception. Under the new rule, the structures will be permitted in some neighborhoods as a matter of right: Once homeowners acquire building permits from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), they will be free to build and then rent out the units.

The changes are not applicable citywide: They are largely limited to R-1, R-2 and R-3 zones, which cover outer neighborhoods such as Brookland, Chevy Chase and American University Park, where there are larger single-family homes.

Other regulations restrict size and alley access: The tiny houses cannot be more than 35 percent of the gross floor area of the primary home, which must be at minimum 1,200 square feet in most zones and 2,000 square feet in R-1 zones.They must be adjacent to either a 24-foot-wide alley, or a 15-foot-wide alley and at most 300 feet from a main road for fire safety. And the principal dwelling must be owner-occupied.

Still, advocates say they think that the rules are not overly restrictive and that many homeowners will jump at the opportunity to create rental units.

“We are really, really pleased,” said Cheryl Cort, policy director at the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “It’ll lead to the diversification of neighborhoods that are largely single-family homes. This provides an opportunity to provide rental housing and smaller-sized homes. Maybe a single mom and a kid would like to live in a neighborhood where they can walk to school, or empty-nesters could rent a home to young people who could mow the lawn and keep an eye on things.”

Between the height restriction and other physical limitations, the District has been struggling to add housing stock to accommodate a population that is growing by about 1,000 residents per month, with average home prices and rents rising steadily. In addition to accommodating in-laws, an au pair or a grown child, a backyard home could help to broaden rental options in the city.

“The changes open the door for D.C. to become more like Portland, [Ore.],” said Brian Levy, owner of a “micro-home” and a longtime lobbyist for less-restrictive zoning rules for accessory dwellings.

Portland and Seattle have some of the most liberal rules regarding detached accessory dwellings. Companies such as Hammer & Hand and Backyard Box have sprung up to capitalize on the consumer demand for ready-designed backyard accessory dwellings there.

In the District, some architects are preparing for a possible hot market here.

Michael Cross, founder of R. Michael Cross Design Group, says he hopes his team will be among the first local firms to prepare a D.C.-specific product. His team has been analyzing the zoning and building codes and the city’s housing stock, and plans to have a set of prototypes ready when potential clients start inquiring in the fall.

“What we’re trying to make is super functional and, hopefully, affordable,” Cross said. The prototypes can facilitate the affordability, he said, because clients will not have to pay for a custom design.

“We’ve seen these little tiny houses and little jewel boxes that get thrown up on blogs, but they are astronomically expensive compared to their tract-home peer,” Cross said. “The goal here is to be cost-effective by having a product that is low-frills and is likely not even all that sophisticated in the way that it’s manufactured.”

In looking at the details of the code, such as setback requirements, alley widths and average lot sizes, Cross found that his company could build cottages of 450 to 550 square feet, comparable to small apartments around the city.

Early prototypes include a two-bedroom cottage with a loft; a two-car garage with a one-bedroom apartment on top; and a one-car garage with a studio apartment on top.

For potential landlords, the costs are something to consider. Preparing a tiny house to rent could be more expensive than, say, renovating a basement into a legal apartment. A foundation has to be laid. The unit has to be hooked up to city utilities. And the unit has to be built or purchased.

Cross said he isn’t ready to put a price on the prototypes. But a 2013 survey of 200 owners of accessory dwellings conducted by Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality put the average cost of a tiny house in Portland at $78,000, with many hovering around $100,000 and a few reaching as high as $300,000.

In the District, it remains to be seen what the typical rental income on such a property will be.

Emily Bacher, an architect at Cross’s company who has taken the lead on accessory dwellings, says the designs will maximize privacy between primary home and tiny home; windows will be arranged to avoid direct views into the main house; and some kind of landscape block may be designed.

Although the code has become less restrictive and homeowners operating by matter-of-right don’t need community approval, Bacher says she’s still concerned that there will be a neighborhood backlash when construction of these dwellings begins.

“I’m a little surprised that they passed it,” Bacher said. “I wonder if it’s something people didn’t pay attention to, and then they’ll say, ‘What have we done?’”

Cort, however, says that naysayers were active during the code-revision process and that many of their concerns have been taken into account.

In the code, said Cort, “the secondary doorway has to be discreet, and you can’t have a balcony or a roof deck. The zoning regulations have been designed to address some of the concerns that were raised. I don’t think there will be a backlash.”

Cross and Bacher also say they hope that the new backyard structures will lead to a more vibrant alley life, adding more “eyes on the street,” Bacher said.

“One alley [accessory dwelling] on a block may be seen as a detriment to the community,” Cross said, “but if you have a couple of them, all of a sudden the alleys are activated and clean and thriving with activity.”

The city’s current carriage houses in alleys — many of which were built about 100 years ago and were grandfathered into the last zoning code — are often hot properties, and the changes could lead to a modern addition to alley life.

Cross and Bacher have also been examining “green living” possibilities for the cottages, such as installing rain barrels to mitigate runoff and putting in solar panels to lower the total electrical demand for the properties.The District is following nearby Montgomery and Arlington counties, in Maryland and Virginia, respectively, which loosened restrictions on accessory dwellings in recent years. The key to homeowners’ taking advantage of the zoning change, Cort said, is for the rules to suit the neighborhoods without being too restrictive. In Arlington, she said, the rules are so restrictive that few accessory dwellings have been built.

Portland and Seattle also have been tweaking their rules to encourage building; after Portland removed “development charges” amounting to about $11,000 per home in 2010, according to an article in the Seattle Times newspaper, the city began permitting, on average, one unit per day.

To Cort, the D.C. Office of Planning has struck the right balance.

“It does have a lot of restrictions, but it’s not nearly as restrictive as in other jurisdictions,” she said. “We think this is great for homeowners, for the diversification of neighborhoods and for housing affordability.”

 Photo courtesy of Linda Davidson. Click here to read the original story.

Pulse Has a Pulse after All

When last I blogged about Richmond Pulse, the Bus Rapid Transit plan for the city’s Broad Street corridor, the projected cost had leaped $11.5 million over its original $50 million estimate. While I support mass transit in the right circumstances, I saw little good coming from this project, in which state and federal authorities had helicoptered dollars upon the Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) and the city had done little to create the conditions — zoning for appropriate land use, funding streetscaping and planning for intermodal connectivity — needed to make the project a success.

I was worried that I might have offended my old buddies in the local Smart Growth community by my unsparing criticism of the transit project. As it turns out, I need not have worried. They shared the same concerns. Indeed, they have been working feverishly through the planning process to correct the obvious deficiencies.

“Typically plans for transit projects sit on the shelf for years while agencies try to find funding,”  says Trip Pollard, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, “but in this case, while some planning certainly had been done, the funding got ahead of the planning.”

The project, which runs 7.6 miles from Rocketts Landing at the east end of the city to the Willow Lawn mall at the west end, is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2017. Planners have moved into high gear trying to catch up. Two important studies should be complete this fall.

The Richmond Regional Transit Vision Plan will create a regional transit vision plan to stakeholders and the public that will guide transit development in the region through 2040. The idea is for Pulse to be part of a more comprehensive regional transit system.

The Broad and East Main Street Corridor Plan will focus on the Pulse corridor, identifying where development should occur, what development should look like and how it should happen.

Meanwhile, the Richmond Transit Network Plan will rethink the design of the city’s bus network in the context of Pulse. For example, will Pulse free up GRTC resources to improve service on other routes? How can regular bus routes interface with Pulse? Can GRTC optimize its bus service in other ways? Jarrett Walker + Associates, renowned for its re-engineering of the Houston bus system, will conduct the study. That should be complete next year.

As a bonus, the U.S Department of Transportation is providing technical assistance in the Ladders of Opportunity Transportation Empowerment Pilot Initiative to promote Transit-Oriented Development in the low-income Fulton community, whose residents are expected to use the BRT to reach jobs in the West End.

While implementation of the Pulse project has not exactly risen to a top-of-mind issue in Richmond’s highly competitive mayoral race, “there is a mobilized civic community,” says Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. Civic leaders are determined to make sure the project is done right.

The Smart Growth community has a lot riding on this project. If Pulse crashes and burns, it will undermine political support for more mass transit funding in the Richmond region. Conversely, if the project is successful, it could pave the way for a regional system.

Click here to read the original story.

Fairfax County engages the community on bus rapid transit

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Fairfax County is reaching out to the community in hopes of getting residents on board with a bus rapid transit system planned for a busy U.S. 1.

 A public meeting for the Embark Richmond Highway project drew residents to an auditorium at Walt Whitman Middle School in Alexandria to hear from project planners and local lawmakers about the project’s progress.
The project would be the county’s first BRT system, running down the median of Richmond Highway (U.S. 1), with plans of linking the Huntington Metro Station to Fort Belvoir by 2028. A longer-term plan would eventually extend the system to Woodbridge.
“We want to try and make improvements to the transit system in the corridor as quickly as we can, and we know that bus rapid transit has a lot of potential for this corridor,” said Tom Biesiadny, director of Fairfax County’s Department of Transportation.
 With any possible Metrorail extensions to areas past Huntington as far away as 2040, planners say the BRT will provide an option that will get more people moving more quickly through Fairfax County from destinations such as D.C.
“We have a way to build up the highway, invest in bus rapid transit, make this a transit corridor without having to wait on Metro to get its act together before future expansions can be put in place,” said Fairfax County Supervisor Jeffrey McKay, of the Lee District.
David Storck, county supervisor for the Mount Vernon District, says residents are on board with the plan, which he says will bring in more businesses and more housing to the area.
 “Really less expensive housing than what you might find in Washington D.C. or other places that are already further urbanized,” Storck said.
The plans are being worked on in coordination with the Virginia Department of Transportation, and also call for the road to be widened to three travel lanes in each direction. Bike and pedestrian lanes will also be installed on both sides of the street.
Stewart Schwartz, with the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said there is a big demand for walkable communities, and this plan answers that demand.
“To compete, counties like Fairfax, Montgomery and Prince George’s are seeking to invest in more transit and more walkable communities,” Schwartz said.
Studies are being conducted for the project and those will last through 2017. The county is planning several more community meetings before design plans are finalized.
Click here to read the original story.

LISTEN: Your Best Advice For Coming Metro Closures – Plan NOW

WASHINGTON – (WMAL) Now that Metro has announced its year-long rehabilitation effort involving long-term single tracking and closures, commuters are being advised to start searching sooner rather than later for alternative methods to get to work.

“We all certainly need to plan ahead,” Stewart Schwartz with the Coalition for Smarter Growth told WMAL. “There’s long been programs where employers get involved working with local agencies to get information out about other options.”

Stewart recommended the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government’s Commuter Connections as a start for employers.

“All of them will have to step up their outreach to employers, and employers have to step up to help employees find alternatives,” Schwartz said.

Metro’s SafeTrack track plan involves varying degrees of single tracking and closures, mostly in above-ground sections, which are concentrated in more suburban areas of the system. The first project is set to start June 4, which will impact the southern reaches of the Blue and Yellow lines.

“For the longer-distance commuters, I think carpooling, telecommuting, and much better express bus service will be very helpful,” Schwartz said. This may be an opportunity, he said, to implement more dedicated bus lanes throughout the region.

“For those who live closer to work, there’s the option for some to even walk to work, but there’s also bicycling and bikeshare options,” he said. “I think we’ll all get healthier through this whole process.”

Schwartz recommends commuters test out their new methods beforehand, but doesn’t foresee region-wide gridlock.

“I don’t think (we’ll see gridlock), if we all work together to work on alternatives.”

Click here to read the original story. Photo courtesy of WMATA.

Metro has a year-long plan to fix the system. Here’s what people are saying about it.

Metro’s year-long plan to fix the crumbling system was received Friday with mixed-feelings, many questions and lots of skepticism about how such a major undertaking could successfully work in a region where hundreds of thousands of people depend on the the system to get around.

Many of the region’s public officials are calling the “SafeTrack” plan a “bold” and “serious” move to address Metro’s serious safety and service problems, and are calling on local, state, and federal governments to rally behind Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld, acknowledging that the impact will be painful for all.  Riders and Metro critics, meanwhile took to the Twitterverse with their own ideas, calling for fare reductions, increases to bus service and a robust outreach campaign that leaves no one in the dark about service changes.

The plan will only work if Metro gives riders sufficient advance notice of shutdowns and provides travel alternatives, they say.

The repair plan to begin next month consists of 15 major projects, including five full shutdowns and extensive single-tracking.

Here’s what some of the region’s leaders and riders are saying.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth, a group that advocates for greater transit services called the plan “a major challenge” that will require the community, riders and Metro working together.

We’ll need expanded bus service, telecommuting, flex-time, and carpooling, especially for longer distance commuters. For those living closer to work, bicycling, bikeshare and walking will be important additional options.

The management and staff at WMATA owe the public a real turnaround in their performance in communications, maintenance, repair, operations and above all safety. And we should use this as a time to increase transit funding, expand our bus fleet, provide the dedicated bus lanes we have long needed, and expand the opportunities for bicycling and telecommuting.

“As a community and as Metro riders, we need to work together with the GM and the agency to get the job done,” Stewart Schwartz, the coalition’s executive director said. “We need the ‘roll up the sleeves attitude’ of Americans who’ve worked together after major natural disasters or mobilized for war.”

Some riders say they support the effort, but with some reservations.

Dawn Keeler, a nurse living in Falls Church, Va., said she stands behind Wiedefeld and the plan, provided Metrobuses can suitably replace the lost service.

“There has been so much neglect and abandon of this system for so long,” said Keeler, who rides Metro from East Falls Church to NoMa during the week. “I think this is a great idea. It’s necessary. We have to support this guy — even if it’s inconvenient — because it’s a safety issue.”

Members of the region’s Congressional delegation said regional unity is a must to face the challenge and are calling on riders to be patient while the work is done.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, urged the region to give Metro “the support and flexibility needed to get the work done.”

Make no mistake, the ‘Safe Track’ plan unveiled today is going to be painful, and the severity of the remedy to what ails Metro is directly attributable to years of neglectful decisions and a failure to confront problems earlier. The losses in time, money and output will underscore just how important Metrorail is to both the federal government and Washington region, and will illustrate why Metro’s culture of safety and physical infrastructure should never have been allowed to erode to the crisis point we have reached today.

But I believe that WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld understands the enormous impact that this plan will have on the daily lives of so many people, and would not be taking these steps unless he thought they were absolutely necessary to protect and properly serve Metro’s riders. I encourage WMATA leadership to continue working with federal experts on necessary improvements and upgrades, and to take every step possible to minimize the disruption to the daily lives of Washington-area commuters. I also encourage the state, local and federal government to give WMATA the support and flexibility needed to get the work done.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said the ambitious plan “is indeed painful medicine,” but underscores the severity of Metro’s problems.

Just last night service along a stretch of the Orange/Blue/Silver Lines was suspended during the evening rush hour due to another electrical arcing incident. Such scary events are becoming all too frequent. The frustration didn’t end there as today’s morning commute was once again fouled for thousands of riders due to train malfunctions and track signal problems.

This has been a decades-long march into mediocrity and dysfunction, and we must steady Metro from reeling from crisis to crisis and get it back on track.

I ask the region’s riders and businesses that rely on Metro each day for their patience in adjusting our daily lives and routines while these urgent repairs are made, but that goodwill must be rewarded. Metro and its partners must deliver. This will require the local, state, and federal governments to coordinate with Metro to mitigate the effects of this work and to provide commuter alternatives in the short term, and it will require the region to collectively consider how we adequately fund Metro for the long-term to prevent such challenges from arising again.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) said she plans to question Metro’s plan at a hearing this month, saying she wonders whether the one-year period will be enough “to reach acceptable safety standards” outlined by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Transit Administration.

The announcement today should lay to rest the dispute that emerged during the NTSB’s hearing on whether the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) or the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) should be tasked with conducting direct safety oversight over WMATA. Congress, through MAP-21 and the FAST Act, authorized FTA to assume direct safety oversight of a transit system if the State Safety Oversight Agency is unable to do so. Thus, FTA has a mandate from Congress, and as a practical matter is the only actor capable of quickly taking on safety oversight of WMATA while General Manager Wiedefeld embarks on the unprecedented rehabilitation of the system.

While the safety overhaul is being conducted, the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia must not lose focus on the separate issue of establishing an independent State Safety Oversight Agency. Apparently, the D.C. Department of Transportation is working with the Virginia and Maryland Departments of Transportation to submit the necessary legislation to the D.C. Council this fall. Maryland and Virginia authorities must be ready to submit legislation in January 2017 so that a State Safety Oversight Agency can be up and running by the middle of 2017, coinciding with the conclusion of the one-year safety campaign.

Sharon Bulova (D), chairmwoman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said the county is looking for ways to realign its bus service and communicate with Fairfax residents about the coming service disruptions.

It’s important that we do what we need to do to shore up our Metro system. Fairfax County is standing ready to assist in any way that we can,” Bulova said. “People take the Metro first of all because it may be convenient to them, but some take the Metro because they need to – because they don’t drive or can’t drive. Providing alternatives to those people is something we need to try to work out.

People take the Metro first of all because it may be convenient to them, but some take the Metro because they need to – because they don’t drive or can’t drive. Providing alternatives to those people is something we need to try to work out..

Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett (D) said the plan would add a great deal of hardship, especially in Bethesda, Rockville and Chevy Chase, where rush-hour congestion is already severe, and that it was vital that Metro’s plan solve the problems in the long run.

This is a great deal of inconvenience to go through. My only reaction is, once we’ve gone through this, will it do what’s necessary to get us back on track. It’s an awful lot to ask.

If the challenges of safety and maintenance overall were not resolved at the end of this process, that would be a huge blow. We would have a problem of credibility that would be very difficult to ever repair.

Leggett said Montgomery would add buses, make changes in traffic lanes and adjust signals to deal with the impact, but traffic congestion is so bad already that it’s difficult to make up for the reduced Metro service.

“You’ll be putting buses into traffic that already cannot move,” Leggett said. “In an area that is already congested, it will have only a limited effect.”

Malcolm Augustine, who represents Prince George’s County as an alternate member on Metro’s governing board, said he is particularly concerned about the total shutdown of the Orange Line between Eastern Market and Benning Road for more than two weeks from Aug. 20 to Sept. 6. That will disrupt service for people traveling between the District and six stations in Prince George’s.

The work of getting people around that is going to require obviously a significant amount of planning and consideration and coordination…It’s the right call to give people a significant amount of time to prepare for that.

It’s the type of bold move that’s needed after so much time of letting the system deteriorate. But it’s definitely going to be hard times that we’re going to have to work through.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments said it would work to add travel alternatives for commuters through its Commuter Connections program while portions of the Metro system undergo the intensive work. The site offers resources and information on carpooling, vanpooling, commuter rail, bus, telework, bicycling, and walking.

The COG’s chairman Roger Berliner, said Wiedefeld’s decision signals bold leadership to address Metro growing safety and reliability issues.

General Manager Wiedefeld’s draft plan to comprehensively address Metro’s core issues of safety and reliability over the course of the next 12 months is ‘tough medicine’ for tough times. The entire region has suffered because of the failure over many, many years to make the hard decisions necessary to maintain the system. The consequences of inaction are now crystal clear. As a result, our regional leaders have asked the new WMATA leadership team, led by the General Manager, to do what is necessary to fix it. Mr. Wiedefeld is answering that call with a 12 month plan to provide safe and reliable service.

“Executing this plan will not be easy. There is no question that single tracking will seriously inconvenience many already-frustrated riders. But stretching this work out over many years would create more serious impacts for riders and the region. The safety issues we are experiencing today would worsen while we wait. Our local governments and the federal government must work together to provide interim adjustments, such as additional buses, telecommuting, and other measures. The vitality of our region depends on our working together to support Metro’s efforts to provide safe and reliable service.

Still some riders and advocates for workers worry about the impact on commuters, particularly those who aren’t able to find alternative modes of transportation or can’t afford other options such as Uber or Lyft.

The plan would add a great deal of hardship on workers in the service industry, many who staff restaurants and hotels and clean office buildings and depend on Metro to get to shifts at odds hours, labor leaders say. They say they hope a robust outreach campaign would go beyond social media and reach segments of the region’s labor force, including Spanish-speaking workers, not in tune with Twitterverse.
“This is going to have a major negative impact on these workers,” said Jaime Contreras, head of the SEIU 32BJ, which represents 18,000 workers in the Metro region, including cleaners and security officers and is organizing airport employees.

The weeknight and weekend shutdowns are particularly troubling for the lower-wage workers who go home hours after most white-collar workers have settled in their homes. Many of them commute from the outer suburbs via Metro, can’t afford to drive or ride alternative modes of transit such as Uber or Lyft. In previous service disruptions, including the recent weather-related shutdowns of the system, many of these workers have been left stranded, unaware of the changes.

“My hope is that Metro will do an extra effort to reach out, and let people know what to expect early so they don’t find out about the service changes on the day of,” Contreras said, urging that extra efforts are made to reach out to the non-English speakers in the service industry. “As long as they do this, people should be able to plan ahead and how to get in and from work.”

“At the end of the day these problems need to get fixed so people don’t have to deal with these messes, but it’s important that Metro do the extra outreach,” he said. “It is going to be a little bit painful for a period of time, but I think people understand that we need to fix these problems once and for all.”

And if you missed it, SafeTrack even got some reaction from the White House. President Obama, answering questions from reporters on Friday, called the Washington Metro’s problems “one more example of the under investments that have been made.”

“The D.C. Metro historically has been a great strength of this region, but overtime we under-invested in maintenance and repair,” he said. “Obviously safety comes first and we want to make sure that if there are safety concerns that they are addressed.”

Faiz Siddiqui and Robert McCartney contributed to this report.

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