Tuesday, November 15, 2005

YELLOW LINE: Searching for Clarity

THE RECENT COMMENT THREAD on DCist regarding the idea of extending the Yellow Line through the Green Line's Mid-City corridor has been an interesting study of people bellyaching and throwing out solutions that seem to have been partially developed on the fly. (There have been some good thought-out ideas too.) Just to sum up, there are vocal elements in the Columbia Heights area who think that Metrorail service to U Street and 14th Street is not adequate, especially later at night and on weekends when waits are considerably longer. Their proposed solution? Extend the Yellow Line from its terminus at Mount Vernon Square-7th Street-Convention Center and on through the Green Line's Mid-City corridor.

After Yellow Line activists inquired, Metro CEO Richard White responded, saying that can't be done in the near future because there aren't enough rail cars right now and the current priority is to eliminate four-car trains throughout the system.

BUT THE DISCUSSION HASN'T CEASED of course. On the thread, commenters went back and forth. Of the nonsense discussed, Hugo said:
The wait for yellow line trains on weekends is already as bad as the wait for green line trains on weekends is. You can't rob Peter to pay Paul here.
To which Green Line responded:
Hugo - what you said makes no sense. People are not proposing decreasing the frequency of the yellow line, they are proposing maintaining the current frequency (the one that allows both the yellow and green lines to run between Mt. Vernon and L'Enfant), however make the end of the Yellow line at Greenbelt. This would require more cars, as stated in the story, however nobody is proposing decreasing the frequency of the yellow line.
Then Michael declared:
I think if a new rail line can be planned and funded to dulles and tysons, it should not be to difficult to find a way to extend yellow line service north along green line tracks.
In an ideal world, Michael, but this is public transportation, not Sim City.

Then a commenter named cooperred jumped in quite frustrated:
Yes there is a "turn around system" in place at Mt. Vernon Sq. It is plainly obvious that most people have no grasp whatsoever of railway construction, and should simply try to learn it before spouting off.

Shunting yards are usually at the end of the line, on open ground with plenty of space. Mt. Vernon Square is almost unique in the system for its underground placement.

I have lived on the Green Line for many years, and if you think it's crowded now, you didn't see it back when the line first started running to Branch Ave. After the new cars arrived things abated considerably.

If Metro has learned anything, due to the two track limitation, it is that parallel lines (are you listening Blue and Orange line riders?) cause more problems than they solve. It doesn't matter if you have 56 freaking colored lines on the map, you can still not put more cars on the rails than there is space for, allowing for safety. So the extension is moot. If it were extended to say U St. and then "turned around" would add more delays because it would have to be shunted onto the track in the opposite direction, sit there while the driver walks to the other end, and then driven back the other way. That is, assuming the crossover track is exactly at the entrance into the tunnel. It might not be, it might be much farther away.

You want more trains on the Green Line, fine, bitch about that. Don't think making more parallel lines is a solution other than "ooh look at the pretty colors on the map." The lines are only a logical representation, the number of cars on the track is not tied to it.
Michael then responded:
I don't understand why Metro claims the Yellow can't go to U St because there's so turn-around track until Greenbelt. When I moved here there was no Green line (gasp!) - the Yellow line ended at U St, so there MUST be a way for it to turn around. And of course it doesn't turn around; it just goes backwards over an "x" track.
As was discussed, Mount Vernon Square is the station with the pocket track for Yellow Line trains to turn around. Michael says that "there MUST be a way" for Yellow Line trains to turn around at U Street. Yes, there is a way, but that would involve having trains go backwards over the crossover tracks under Vermont Avenue. You don't want to make it a habit for trains to regularly go backwards on an active rail line unless there is an emergency or construction situation of some sort. That's why Mount Vernon Square has the pocket track to conduct the Yellow Line turn-around away from the active Green Line.

Then Michael, the Robert Moses of underground rail construction, threw out his new vision for Metrorail.
For the long-term, we need to expand the number of lines. I support DDOT's surface-rail efforts, but it still makes sence to expand Metro. The Yellow line should go to U St then veer off the Green's track to a new stop under Adams Morgan - one entrance by the parking garage at 17th & U, and another under Marie Reed. It could keep heading west, hitting the Red line at Woodley or Kalorama... Metro claims tunnels cost $200 million per mile... It's better than just renaming the Woodley station Woodley/Zoo/Adams Morgan...!
Well yes, more lines would be wonderful, but even if there were an bottomless pot of gold at the end of the transit funding rainbow, WMATA would be hesitant to go about any sort of construction through Adams Morgan and into Woodley Park, or U Street for that matter. The Red Line section beneath Rock Creek was perhaps the most difficult to construct, as the deep-level line had to deal with challenging bedrock.

And what if Metro were to build a branch off from the current U Street station? Remember, that section of the Green Line was done with cut-and-cover construction, essentially ripping open the street and neighborhood. To build rail spurs that tunnel beneath the mainline track would require expanding the underground complex beneath U Street. The neighborhood probably wouldn't want to be dramatically torn up for a second time as it was when the Green Line originally went in.

My take on people's troubles getting to Adams Morgan: Don't wait for a Yellow Line extension of your wildest fantasies. Take any 90-series bus (90/92/93,96/97,98) on U Street. It's quite easy.

>> "WMATA on Wednesdays" [DCist]
>> "COLUMBIA HEIGHTS: All Ripped Up" [The Washington Oculus]


At 11:25 AM, Blogger Jason Bradfield said...

The places worth going to in Northwest DC are not as far away from one another as one might imagine.

Buses are a good option and frequently just good old fashioned walking is a pretty good option too. The metro is useful, but there is no need to use it to get everywhere especially when it costs so much to extend it.

Great post.

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