Tag: transportation

RELEASE: Coalition for Smarter Growth Responds to Failure of Regional Leaders to Address WMATA’s Ridership Challenges

Press Statement
For Immediate Release
October 3, 2018

Stewart Schwartz, 703-599-6437 (c)
Aimee Custis, 202-431-7185 (c)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Sun., Sept. 30, 2018, the Washington Post ran a story detailing the failure of the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority board members to commit to increasing Metrorail service.

In Sunday’s Post story, the elected and appointed officials charged with the stewardship of our region’s rail and bus system refused to say that they would unite as a body to run more trains, more often, in order to increase ridership. Such a move would follow the demands of riders, the recommendations of consultants, and well-known industry best practices.

National Transit Database data show that Metrorail ridership is down about 25 percent from a decade ago. Five of the past 12 months have set new record lows.

“We know this is primarily due to unreliable service and unreasonable wait times for trains,” says Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. Schwartz continues, “These long wait times, especially during nights and weekends, have made other modes of transportation, like biking and ride-hailing, more attractive and more realistic to use than Metrorail.”

Schwartz says, “WMATA’s own consultants, hired to study declining ridership, have made clear to WMATA what has been intuitive to its customers for years: while there is increased competition from ridesharing services, low gas prices, and telecommuting, the primary cause of Metro’s ridership slide is reduced frequency, and especially reduced off-peak frequency on evenings and weekends.”

In his comments to the Post, board member Christian Dorsey did identify the need for “more service generally,” and “less disruption in service through closings and maintenance activities,” including during off-peak hours. But advocates say that taken in total, the WMATA board’s comments to the Post show Metro’s board pursuing goals that do not align with the realities of how transit works for the people who use it. As has been shown time and again, frequent, reliable service is the most important factor in attracting and retaining people who ride transit.

Moreover, elected officials in local and state jurisdictions where WMATA operates have not committed to providing the necessary operating funding to make frequent, reliable service possible.

While the Post reported solely on Metrorail, urgent attention must also be paid to Metrobus and other area bus services. A lack of political will to install and enforce dedicated bus lanes or signals — so buses can avoid the congestion of personal cars and move more people — means that bus performance is slowing alongside Metrorail.

“We support frequent, reliable public transit that connects the region. We stand fully behind WMATA when it takes steps to realize that reality,” says Schwartz. “We have worked closely with the agency as it has taken steps toward reform, fought for dedicated bus lanes, and campaigned successfully for its first-ever dedicated capital funding as part of the MetroNow coalition. We fought hard for this with the understanding that reliable financial resources for capital spending would enable WMATA, and its board, to focus on not just restoring, but improving, Metrorail service.

“WMATA’s stewards and elected officials representing the jurisdictions it serves are falling short in protecting the freedom and accessibility that transit service is central to providing to area residents. Frequent and reliable service increases transit ridership. It provides freedom and greater access to jobs and services. We need the board and regional elected officials to commit emphatically to improving service and ridership.”


About the Coalition for Smarter Growth
The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington DC region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Its mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies and investments needed to make those communities flourish. Learn more at smartergrowth.net.

D.C. is spending $1 million on another study of the 16th Street NW corridor

The new 16th Street NW Transit Priority Planning Study will look in detail at a 2.7-mile stretch from Arkansas Avenue south to H Street NW, a section an earlier study noted as optimal for a dedicated bus lane. DDOT will hold a public meeting March 31 to hear from residents, transit users and other stakeholders. Once this latest study is completed, some riders and public transit advocates say they expect the city to move from planning to action.

Montgomery County’s Independent Transit Authority Proposal

Montgomery’s planned 81-mile Rapid Transit System offers incredible potential to transform the county’s aging commercial corridors into vibrant, sustainable, walkable, transit-oriented communities. With dedicated lanes, service every 5-10 minutes, weather-protected stations, Wi-Fi, and many other amenities, Rapid Transit will provide high quality transit service at a far lower cost than building new highways.

In state budget preview, Purple Line, Montgomery school funding still uncertain

While he campaigned for governor, Hogan made clear his concerns with the project’s price tag and emphasized his preference for road projects. Still, transit advocates were quick to praise the announcement of the money.

Hogan praised for retaining Purple Line funding

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan was only sworn into office on Wednesday, but he is already busy at work. Reports Thursday show Hogan has retained state funding for the Purple Line in his first state budget, Montgomery Community Media reports. The 16-mile route of the proposed light-rail Purple Line between Bethesda and New Carrollton received approval in March 2014 for state authorities to begin condemning property needed.

Coalition for Smarter Growth Director praises Hogan for keeping Purple Line on track

Reports today indicate that Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has initially retained state funding for the long-planned for Purple Line in his first state budget. Based on those reports, Coalition for Smarter Growth Executive Director Stewart Schwartz applauded the decision in the following statement:

Purple Line funding in Hogan’s budget, for now

Gov. Larry Hogan kept state funding for the Purple Line in a budget proposal he released Thursday, but said that could change.

According to reports, Hogan said he was still deciding whether to move forward with the 16-mile light rail and the related Red Line light rail project in Baltimore.
“We were pleased to see that both Purple Line and Red Line funding remaining in Governor Hogan’s first Maryland budget,” said Coalition for Smarter Growth Executive Director Stewart Schwartz in a statement. “The Purple Line is a good deal for Maryland, good for jobs, good for the economy and good for commuters.”

It was the Coalition for Smarter Growth that, on the day after the election, tried to calm fears Hogan would halt the estimated $2.45 billion project.

During the campaign, the Republican from Anne Arundel County said he favored building highways over transit and that he was skeptical the Purple Line’s cost would be worth it. Later he said he would still consider both projects.

The state could need to provide between $350 million to $750 million for the Purple Line, which would run from New Carrollton to Bethesda and could start construction late this year. The federal government, local governments and a yet-to-be-picked private concessionaire would provide another $1.7 to $2.1 billion to get the project off the ground.

The news wasn’t as good for the geographic cost of education index, or GCEI, which provides more school funding for Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and Baltimore, where the cost of living, transportation and other services are higher.

Hogan proposed cutting the GCEI by 50 percent, something Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett said could mean a $17 million reduction in school funding to the county.

During a Thursday press conference on a new human trafficking bill, Leggett said he was watching Hogan’s first budget proposal closely and that so far it “certainly indicates a very strong hit to Montgomery County.”

Hogan is trying to bridge an estimated $750 million state budget shortfall. The proposal on Thursday didn’t include all the specifics, but did include a 2 percent cut to every state agency’s budget.

There would be a 1.3 percent increase in spending for higher education and a record high of $6.1 billion on Kindergarten-Grade 12 spending. Hogan’s proposal also includes $290 million for school construction.

Leggett said he was happy to see funding for the Purple Line and Red Line “at least thus far has not been changed.”

Read the original article here.