Metro Wants Your Opinion on the Future of Transit


Photo by PoPville flickr user thisisbossi

From WMATA:

Ready for a rail station in your neighborhood? Wishing for a bus-only lane on your commute to work? Want to make sure Metro’s improvement efforts continue to deliver results? Now is your chance to tell Metro what you think should be included in its strategic plan for the next decade and beyond.

Metro launched an online survey this week as another means of collecting input from customers and stakeholders about their ideas and views on the future of transit in the region.

The Metro Momentum online survey, available until Dec. 31, asks customers for their opinions on a range of topics including how to improve safety and service, how to make the system more accessible for people with disabilities, and how to fund Metro.

Metro will use the results of the survey to help prepare for and identify priorities, including how best to improve safety, deliver quality service, meet future needs and help create transit-connected communities.

35 Comment

  • Remember when the metro trains used to not pull all the way forward to the end of the station? Man, those were the glory days.

    • I love that they pull all the way forward – because that makes door placement predictable. I know exactly where to stand to get onto the car that will let me off right at the escalator at my destination.

      • When the trains don’t pull all the way up, it means ATC (Automatic Train Control) is working and the computers are doing all of the stopping. Door placement is more predictable when a computer is doing the stopping, no?

        • Not always – when the ATC was being used trains were stopped either more centrally on the length of the platform, or sometimes in a station-specific spot that made sense for the location of escalators, but it varied by the length of the train. You can still see the signs hung under the edge of the platform (if you look across the tracks to the opposite platform) maked 2, 4, or 6 – they’re there to tell the operator where to stop depending on the size of the train they’re running. The ‘pull to the end of the platform’ started not because of the ATC issues, but because operators were forgetting how many cars were in their train (really) and they were stopping in the wrong spot. So even once ATC is restored, if ever, Metro may still choose to continue pulling all trains to the end of the platform.

  • I just took the survey and like most surveys there is no place to add a comment of what you think would improve metro. I wish all surveys would allow a comment section.

  • anon. gardener

    yes, there needs to be a comments section. Because one option for additional revenue was not listed – a commuter tax on people living in MD and VA who work in the District. I had to pay when I lived in NJ and worked in NYC – I benefitted from the city’s infrastructure, so it was only fair. Commuters are already paying – the cost to ride from the end of the line into DC is ridiculously high. I figure they are subsidizing the relatively low cost of bus fare. I would be interested to see the feasibility of having a flat fare for bus and rail, a la NYC, with an income tax on non-resident DC workers.

    • DC has tried half a dozen times in the past 25 years to levy a commuter tax. They can’t do it because Congress have overiding authority on the District budget and all legislation that the Council passes. Since a commuter tax would most negatively affect the tax revenue collected on MD, and VA residents, congressmen from those respetive states always get the issue dropped long before it has a chance to go anywhere.

    • There will never be a commuter tax. MD/VA will fight it every step of the way and the Feds would never allow it.

      Metro doesn’t even pay for Metro, so I doubt it is subsidizing bus service. I would like it if bus service was removed from WMATA altogether – let WMATA run the Metro. Let DC, MD and VA run the bus services.

      As for a DC tax on parking lots (below), WMATA owns the lots, not DC. DC could not tax the majority of lots if if they could as the majority are in MD/VA.

      • anon. gardener

        The bus fares are very low compared to metrorail fares. personally I’d pay more bus fare if it would improve service. when i lived in Shady Grove, it was cheaper for me to drive into the city and pay to park than take the metro. People in the far suburbs need more incentives to leave the car at home.

        • Buses cost less to operate than metro so that is one reason fares are cheaper. And the financial abilities of the customers is completely different as well (middle class, working class, poor and the Fedceral office workers).

          If you took total cost of operating your car (paying tolls on roads to pay for road maintenance) it would not be as cheap as it is now.

          If Metro ever got back to running a system that worked, increasing the cost of parking downtown/congestion pricing (ala London) would go along way toward incetivizing public transport instead of cars.

          But that’s la la land thinking as well. Feds wouldn’t allow that either. If the Feds stopped subsidizing parking fees and only subsidized public transportation (parking fees included if Metro lot is used), that would incentivize public transport.

          If Feds didn’t give away parking spots to employees as bonuses, that would incentivize public transport.

          Metro fares have gotten crazy… but if we could ever get a permanent revenue stream from the federal govt. and each jurisdiction, WMATA would have a stable budget to work with, instead of being held hostage by the govts of DC, VA and MD.

          But that is crazy talk – why would the feds pay a stable revenue stream for a metro system that was built to bring workers from the suburbs into DC to work for the feds? Imagine.

      • Now that’s an interesting idea: separate the bus operations completely from the rail operations. Only issue there is that if buses are only operated by local jurisdictions then do you have to switch buses every time you cross the border?

        • Yea, that would be an issue that would have to be worked out – the transfering when jurisdictions are crossed.

          And I heard this idea couple years ago when WMATA did a different survey. There are alot of regions that interlink intercity trasnport (Twin Cities do this with the Metro Trasnit Agency) and others that don’t.

          It would probably never fly, but …. I’d prefer it.

          • They could never seperate it. Buses may cost less to run, but they are currently the bottomless hole in WMATA’s budget.

            Metrorail currently gets a ~63% farebox recovery, meaning of the total cost to operate it, 63% is captured in the fares.

            Metro bus is something down around ~30% farebox recovery.

            Metro really needs to increase bus fares, and get rid of the ridiculous 2 hr transfers. I can ride a bus to Gallery Place, go to dinner, buy some stuff and get back on the bus and ride home for free. Metro in general is a money hole, but metro bus is a money pit

          • Yea, they need to a) get better fare boxes on buses – way to many free rides and b) Reduce the 2 hour transfer to 1 hour.

            But they can also stop running WMATA buses all the way to Laurel and into Anne Arundel county, and Accokeek and Olney and Gaithersburg – those should be run by MD bus service or to Herndon or Reston – all of these should ahve express buses into DC, but shouldn’t be runnign huge lines all over MD and VA or DC.

            I mean WMATA runs bus systems so the States/Counties/DC don’t have to. It’s ridiculous that WMATA manages all of those transport needs.

            Metro was built to bring commuters into DC / Federal offices. That is all the bus lines should do as well. If local communities want bus infrastructure to bring people to Gaithersburg or Herndon, the States/Counties should be paying/running it.

          • Be careful what you ask for — I don’t want the buses to BWI or Dulles going away!

    • Wait was the congestion pricing not the commuter tax? At first I thought that meant Metro congestion pricing, but then the second clause said some of that money would be used for transit, so that made me think that it was car congestion pricing…But it wasn’t clear so I didn’t make it one of my top three choices.

  • **Spoiler alert: the “black seat option” was not on the survey.

  • Where is the part of the survey where I say that metro should make its employees contribute to their own retirement and use the savings to improve the system?

  • I also agree there should be a comments section, but disagree that pursuing a commuter tax would be effective. We would need to get commuters in MD and VA to agree to this, and it is very unlikely. One alternative that I have never heard discussed before is a DC tax on lot parking for monthly rates and on daily rates for periods longer than six hours. MD and VA commuters would have no say in this, so there opinion would not matter. A parking lot tax at 10% to 15% would both raise revenues for public transportation and encourage its use.

    • Are you talking about a tax on metro parking lots, or regular commercial lots in DC?

      I don’t think Metro has car parking lots inside the District, and if they did you could never get away with charging a dc specfic tax on a regional metro system that is funded by MD and VA too.

      Commercial parking lots in DC already charge a 12% parking tax.

      • I was talking about commercial lots, and, well, you’re right, there has been a 12% tax since the ’70s. But you know that the lot operators roll the tax into their posted fees, so many commuters are unaware of this. Interesting to note, this has come up before in the media, and one point that gets made is that at 12%, DC’s rate is considerably lower than NYC (18%) or San Francisco (25%). I stand by the gist of my original arguement, a hike in this rate would be more effective than pursuing a commuter tax.

        • Ok, now you lost me.

          First you want a 10-15% parking tax.
          You are informed that DC already does that, and in fact it is 12%.

          You then go back and say, you want more.

          And who cares if it is in the base rate so it isn’t immediately obvious to people that they are paying it. It is still being collected and it is still going to the District treasury. What difference does it make.

          Places like NYC and SF have higher parking taxes because parking is more of an issue there. It isn’t here.

          Lastly, willy nilly raising taxes just to give to the DC council is just throwing good money after bad. How you can trust that clown circus to do anything responsible with your money after they do things like pass legislation to add a fee to everyones electric bill to pay for a solar panel subsidy, then cancel the subsidy all the while continuing to collect the electric fee, or come into 40 million in unanticipated windfall money in speed camera fines, only to have that part of the base budget 3 months later for the next fiscal year, rather than spending it filling gaps in other existing programs.

          My 5 year old nephew has more fiscal sense then the entire council, and simply “giving” them more money isn’t going to do anything for your cause, regardless of what it is.

  • I love how they use 5 as being most important on one question and then least important on the next.
    I’d love to know how much they paid Mind Mixer to come up with another useless survey.

  • Future of transit? I’d be perfectly fine with working escalators for starters.

  • Allison

    Yeah, this was definitely not designed by a professional surveyor. For example, for the question about improving safety, the ranking answers are:

    Circulate more police officers in the transit system, Relieve crowding on trains and buses, Repair and modernize the system, Relieve crowding in Metrorail stations (e.g. on platforms, escalators, and mezzanines), Improve information delivery during incidents and emergencies

    Those are five DIFFERENT types of safety. Yes, I don’t want to get shanked, and yes, I would also not like to get shoved off a platform because it’s too crowded during an incident, but those are two different types of safety that don’t belong in the same question.

  • I want to know why metro cannot build lines that connect east to west instead of just going north to south. For example, it would be so much easier if you could get on at Silver Spring and go straight over to Bethesda without doing the full loop around the entire system. It’s never made any sense.

    • The Purple Line will connect Bethesda and Silver Spring as you described. Otherwise, the city and region were very different in the early 1960s when Metro was designed, and the concern was mostly bringing people into the central city, thereby keeping jobs there. Building the original 101 mile system was such an struggle – there were plenty of points in history when it seemed as though construction would be halted before it was completed, so there wasn’t much chance of changing the agreed-upon design in the 70s or 80s. And now, any transit construction is so expensive that once again it’s a struggle to get the Silver Line completed, but at least it has the MWAA to supply most of the land (in the median of the Dulles Access Road) and Dulles Toll Road tolls to pay a large proportion of the construction. Meanwhile, Maryland has yet to find the money to build the Purple Line, even though as light rail (with minimal tunnels) it will be somewhat cheaper (per mile) than the typical Metro style facility. Right now there is no political will to even seriously discuss an east-west line through DC, much less plan and design it.

    • That’s actually what the survey is about. Metro is saying it doesn’t have money for the Purple Line and wants to know how to get it, so it’s using the survey to see what people will pay for the Purple Line.

    • The “sense” of it is that metro was built solely to get commuters downtown and back home again.

      There were no ideas of transit oriented development. At the time, Bethesda and silver spring weren’t worth going to. Our region was vastly smaller then.

  • Surprised no one brought up how bad an idea it would be to build a tunnel between Farragut North and West. Oh my, are we really that flush with cash and do we need to build that so people don’t have to walk a block the week it’s cold here?

    If anything, create a system transfer that, if your card reads you exited one farragut you get 30 minutes to enter the other without paying.

    • I thought that was how it worked now? Aren’t they calling it a virtual tunnel or something like that?
      They should do the same thing for Metro Center and Gallery Place.

      • I hear all the time that there are plans to do the virtual tunnel thing for Metro Center and Gallery Place. It seems clear that it’ll happen eventually; I’m not sure what’s taking so long.

        Regarding Farragut North and West, back when the system was designed they were supposed to be one station, but the National Park Service wouldn’t let Metro excavate under Farragut Square, so we ended up with the current two-station arrangement. I doubt there’ll ever be a physical tunnel between them, because from everything I’ve heard the Park Service has no plans on ever changing its mind about it.

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