Sunday, June 9, 2013

Looking Into the Future: Washington D.C.

Transportation is a means to access, service, jobs, recreation, social interactions, community events and more. In order to keep up with the needs of an increasing population and leverage the economic potential that is intrinsically tied to centers of transit; Washington D.C.'s transportation must expand in the coming decades.

Consider these projections from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) assistant general manager of planning and joint development, Nat Bottigheimer: “D.C. will, from 2010 to 2040, grow by 25%, to the tune of 1.5 million people. In a quarter century, Metro faces a future in which every day would be as busy as President Obama's presidential Inauguration Day, the busiest the system has ever known in history with more than 1.5 million trips.”

Such a mass of people has consequences. How can a city plan, wisely, for how to move people from one place to the next? It is this question that continues to motivate elected officials and planners alike. Therefore, in 2012, Metro embarked on an ambitious 6-year, $5 billion improvement program designed to enhance the transit experience for passengers. The program, known as Metro Forward, includes renovation and rebuilding of infrastructure and track, new railcars and buses, and upgraded technology. The result will be a modernized Metro system to provide riders with safe, reliable, and comfortable transit, and return the system to a state of good repair.

The addition of the D.C. bike share program was also designed to help move people short distances and further alleviate reliance on automobile transit within the central business district and beyond.

The federal government plays a large part in D.C.’s transit system with thirty-five Metrorail stations that serve federal facilities and nearly half of Metro’s peak period commuters are federal employees. The federal government contributes roughly 56 percent of the capital costs. Fares and other revenue currently fund 55 percent of the daily operations, while state and local governments fund the remaining 45 percent. Customers receive a discount on their fare when using SmarTrip cards instead of cash (on Metrobus) and paper faircards on Metrorail.

The first phase of Metrorail began operation in 1976. Today, Metrorail serves 86 stations and has 106 miles of track.

Serving the nation's capital 24 hours a day, seven days a week and operating more than 1,500 buses. Metrobus helps transport a population of 3.4 million within a 1,500-square mile jurisdiction.

Metro began its paratransit service, MetroAccess, in 1994; it provides roughly 1.5 million trips per year.

Capital Bikeshare:
Capital Bikeshare has more than 1800 bicycles dispersed throughout Washington D.C., Arlington, VA, and Alexandria, VA. These bicycles are intended to be utilized for trips to work, errands, shopping, or simply a short trip to visit friends or family. Access to the fleet of bicycles is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The future of transportation in Washington D.C. looks to be moving in a positive direction. Along with the continued expansion of the Metrorail system there are planned investments in bicycling infrastructure, transit oriented developments, parking requirement changes, expanding the bike share program, improvements to bus lines and buses, and enhancements aimed at improving pedestrian mobility through streetscape redesign programs and sidewalk reconstruction. With a multi-modal transportation investment plan it looks as though Washington D.C. is preparing for their impending population increase; whether the response is quick enough, only time will tell.

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