Metro strategic plan 2013-2025

PZ sends me to The Washington Post which discusses the WMATA/Metro strategic plan
Source document here: Momentum: Metro strategic plan 2013-2025

Several comments from a preliminary reading:

  1. Metro benefits are presented in terms of reduced car use (p.10). This is the wrong way of looking at the benefits. The main benefits of Metro are the service to riders (more trips, faster trips, higher quality trips), not the reduction in congestion for non-riders. Who knows how many auto trips there would be instead? If Metro were closed for a day, everyone would work from home. If it were a month, people would carpool. If it were a few years, jobs would relocate. The ridiculous assumption that everyone would drive instead, and need to park in garages filling all of the central area are self-negating.
  2. The region expect to keep growing, to 8.6 million people in 2040 (including an outer ring that includes many of Baltimore’s suburbs). If it continues to grow, it will need more service. Will it continue to grow? I would much prefer a scenarios approach (e.g. high growth/low growth/decline) and consideration of alternative strategies for alternative futures. I bet if we looked at Detroit’s plans from 1950 or 1960 or 1970 or 1980, they anticipated growth too (amusingly Google classifies that link as “fiction”, unfortunately it is not downloadable, so I can only speculate). Maybe DC will become the east coast’s primate city, displacing New York, analogous to London or Paris or Tokyo.
  3. It looks like Fleet expansion solves most problems (Table 4), begging the question of why there needs to be new tunnels. (Not that there need not be tunnels, but high crowding is the price to be paid for dense cities, and Washingtonians should become better acquainted with their neighbors, just like Londoners and Tokyo residents). Further, why can’t more streets just be converted to bus-only transitways to satisfy the demand? This should require some paint and little else at the margin. (And of course can be as expensive as you want to make it).
  4. p. 11 “The Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) added 275,000 households and 295,000 jobs between 2004 and 2010. Of that growth, 6.4 percent of new households and 13.8 percent of new jobs located within one-half mile of suburban and one quarter-mile of urban Metro stations. The land area around these Metro stations comprised only 0.5 percent of the MSA land area, which suggests that Metro-adjacent locations are capturing far more than a simple share of growth” (6.4% of HH is only 17,600 HH, or 2514 per year over 7 years. Metro should do better than that. And a half mile is a pretty long area, most people within 1/2 mile in suburban Washington will not be using transit)
  5. p. 12 “The land around Metrorail stations generates $3.1 billion annually in property tax revenues to the jurisdictions. Of these revenues, $224 million of incremental property value is from land near Metrorail stations – extra value that would not exist without Metro. ” $224 million in incremental property value revenues (I assume this means taxes) is great. This should be captured to pay for the system improvements. Over 30 years this is $6.6 billion in additional revenue (assuming no additional development and 0% interest rates). Ballpark, this is oneway of capitalizing the value of the system. A value capture district around all the stations would be a good idea.
  6. Figure 6 shows that Washington has more vehicle-miles per capita of transit service, and it is claimed this means more competitiveness. I am unconvinced of the causality here:Do Agglomerating benefitting industries create density and demand public transit,
    Or does transit create population density attracting agglomeration-benefitting industries?

    I am all for mutual co-location as a theory and explanation, but there are reasons some industries (government and its courtiers, e.g.) likes to agglomerate, which are independent of transportation. Transportation serves and reinforces (and maybe attracts) that industry of course. A city without government (or finance, or one of the few other strongly agglomerating sectors) would see far less demand for central city development and commensurate transit. Since Washington has this industry, it should have more transit than a fast-growing metropolis without such industries (e.g. Phoenix)

    More Vehicle-miles per capita without accompanying mode share indicates an inefficient land use pattern. I would think if people were closer together, fewer vehicle-miles of transit needed to be provided to serve the same trips. (The data I think comes from this 2004 study, which perhaps surprisingly has Minneapolis in third place for Economic Competitiveness, Figure 7, despite its relatively poor public transit showing).