Metro Momentum Offers Expansive Plans for System's Future

The new strategic plan aims to take Metro through 2040.

A $26 billion strategic plan released by Metro last week gave a glimpse at the agency's vision — which includes several substantial recommendations like new Potomac River crossings and new metro stations — for taking the transit agency into 2025, 2040 and beyond.

Called Metro Momentum, the plan acknowledged piecemeal fixes to an aging system are barely scraping the surface of the transit agency's needs and a growing DC region, whose population is expected grow 30 percent over the next three decades. 

"Our customers know that many trains, stations and buses are already crowded and we need to begin planning now to prevent that from worsening and prepare for more riders,” Metro General Manager and CEO Richard Sarles said in a press release. 

As Metro explains, when the system was first built in the 1970s it served 100,000 customers a day. Today, an expanded system serves 750,000 customers a day — 20 million trips each year.

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Metro's Momentum proposes bringing the current system up to speed in station safety and function, coordinating proposed transportation expansion projects with regional partners and developing an expansion plan for the Metro system with a sustainable, reliable source of income, among other goals.

But how the agency will achieve that last goal has emerged as the plan's largest uncertainty. 

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority governs Metro with a board of representatives from the District, Maryland, Virginia and the federal government. Funding Momentum's projects could mean a higher bill for those jurisdictions, more expensive fares, or both.

Close to 58 percent of Metro's funding comes from fare revenue, while participating jurisdictions make annual contributions to cover the rest of Metro's daily operations and capital costs. The federal government has funded nearly two-thirds of the system's capital costs over the years through grants.

Opponents of the system's $5.5 billion Silver Line, which will run through Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, often point to the unknown cost of capital needs for Metro, and responsibility for those costs.

A quarter of the cost of the first phase of the line, which will open in December, is being paid for by user tolls. Seventy-five percent of the second phase through Reston and Loudoun County may be funded the same way, in addition to proposed tax districts localities will use to fund their shares.

The federal government committed $900 million to phase one, but nothing to phase two.

In releasing Momentum, Metro issued a "challenge" to regional leaders to help develop a funding strategy to support the expansion. Metro says it wants regional governments to help develop multi-year budgets to provide a more reliable source of income for metro projects.

For Momentum, Metro says it will need $1 billion per year to maintain the current system, an additional $500 million a year to maximize the capacity of the existing system core and to coordinate with planned projects in other jurisdictions.

It also says it needs $740 million additional per year to put toward long-term growth.

The system's projects are divided between several tiers of goals: Projects maximizing the existing system, to be completed by 2025, and long-term goals to help expand it by 2040 or 2050.

For instance, by 2025, Metro recommends using eight-car trains system-wide. Meeting that recommendation would cost $6 billion.

Metro believes it should also create underground pedestrian tunnels for transfers between core stations like Metro Center and Gallery Place-Chinatown to reduce the congestion on platforms and escalators as customers transfer.

In the long-term 2040 plan, Metro envisions adding stations, including a second stop at the Pentagon. The agency also suggests creating new train tunnels to separate out trains that share lines, like building a new Blue Line tunnel under the Potomac River and M Street in Georgetown to reduce congestion at the Rosslyn station, the parting point for the Blue and Orange lines.

What else is on tap? Patch will provide a more detailed account of both the 2025 and 2040 plans in the days to come.

You can read the entire plan on Metro's Momentum webpage.

What do you think of Metro's plans? What changes and improvements would like to see?

Bob Bruhns February 01, 2013 at 06:23 PM
Who makes up these numbers, anyway? Up until now, we were told that WMATA needed $13.3 Billion of funds that we couldn't figure out how to supply - and now, they suddenly got smart, and doubled the number. The news media hesitated and took a breath, but I didn't hear a PEEP out of our so-called 'leaders', and the public seems to be sound asleep as usual - and now the news media is talking up these unaffordable, skyrocketing costs as though they are a good thing, while our so-called 'leaders' hide nervously behind the curtains. And doubtless our trusty team of crooks will double the number a few more times - maybe to $100 Billion or so - before people begin to protest. Unfortunately for us, we really couldn't even afford the original $13.3 Billion - witness that it had built up for years, and it was never funded. What, were we waiting for it to hit $100 Billion before we decided to fund it, or something? It will... unless the People have had enough and they rise up and put a STOP to it! Are you up to it, people? Will you stand up and say NO??? Or will you be dragged down by double priced, multi-Billion dollar nonsense that you can't afford and that does not solve your problems? You tell me. People - if 2013 doesn't wake you up, then you have a fatal case of sleeping sickness.
No Toll Increase February 01, 2013 at 06:55 PM
Chairman Scott York and the rest of the Loudoun County Supervisors "Blank check boys" were warned about this, but recklessly plunged ahead and mired our county in this mess. Much of the sudden doubling from $13B to $26B is due to the new tunnels needed (including at Rosslyn)- Supervisor Higgins tried multiple times to warn the blank check boys about the Rosslyn tunnel problem, but they ignored him. WMATA (Metro) can't force anyone to fund this $26B shortage, so expect the system to continue to deteriorate, while our taxes, tolls, and traffic get worse since we jumped on the train. There is a way out- the funding agreement says Loudoun's contribution is subject to annual appropriation decisions by the BOS- we could cut our losses and get out.
Bob Bruhns February 02, 2013 at 01:06 AM
Also, who actually wrote this article? It struck me as an extremely Rah-Rah-Metro article when I first saw it on Ashburn Patch and Leesburg Patch credited to Dusty Smith - but then I found it, word for word the same article as far as I can see, credited to Shaun Courtney and Drew Hansen in Oakton Patch and Georgetown Patch, and maybe others. My guess is that this was a press-kit article from WMATA, and it was improperly credited, wasn't it. It's listed as news - is it paid advertisement? I know news reporters are busy, but this really should have been attributed to WMATA, or whoever released it, shouldn't it? Where did it actually come from, anyway? Where else have our rather questionable quasi-government operations been ghost-writing their own praises in the news media? I think people should see and understand how they are being influenced and manipulated by this sort of uncredited politicking by organizations that are massively overcharging us.
Daniel Davies February 02, 2013 at 03:30 PM
Metro is a dangerous mess, and it is only getting worse. Read this article about a recent incident: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2013/02/one-worst-mass-transit-commute-horror-stories-you-will-ever-read Their is no funding source for these serious safety needs. The federal government is losing a trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000) every year, and a brand new study shows the failure of federal transit funding: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/01/transit-policy-in-an-era-of-the-shrinking-federal-dollar Our tolls are currently being diverted to expand this mess out towards our communities. Metro expects to lose money on the Silver Line, making their funding shortage even worse.
David A. LaRock February 02, 2013 at 03:37 PM
Dusty Smith, Bob Bruhns has posed a fair question. "Who wrote this article" It is attributed to several different people. You owe your readers an answer. If this was not composed by you, please disclose where it came from. "Metro Momentum Offers Expansive Plans for System's Future" Patch, February 1, 2013 http://ashburn.patch.com/articles/metro-momentum-offers-expansive-plans-for-systems-future http://leesburg.patch.com/articles/metro-momentum-offers-expansive-plans-for-systems-future http://oakton.patch.com/articles/metro-momentum-offers-expansive-plans-for-system-s-future http://georgetown.patch.com/articles/metro-momentum-offers-expansive-plans-for-system-s-future
David A. LaRock February 02, 2013 at 03:59 PM
Dusty, thanks for the answer above. No thanks for the wise crack, it disrespects the readers who ID'd YOUR mistake. Your comment, "Sorry to drive the conspiracy theory." As Metro was being sold to the public with lies and misinformation, it was not uncommon to see articles that read like promo press releases. It looked like and was a conspiracy.
Dusty Smith (Editor) February 02, 2013 at 04:02 PM
I did respond. See above. I did not write it. We share regional stories and when I upload a story, my name is automatically added as the author. I failed to switch the author's name to Shaun's and Drew's. Shaun and Drew are both editors and this is their work, not WMATA's. I did help pull the numbers together. If any other version has a name other than Shaun's or Drew's it's because the editor of that site made the same mistake I did in failing to switch the author's name. I hope that clears it up for you.
Dusty Smith (Editor) February 02, 2013 at 04:06 PM
When we upload stories, our names are automatically added to the story. The failure to change the byline back to Shaun and Drew was my mistake.
Dusty Smith (Editor) February 02, 2013 at 04:09 PM
I won't disagree with you. I've removed the comment.
Dusty Smith (Editor) February 02, 2013 at 04:43 PM
Bob, I just want to apologize for my comment Mr. LaRock refers to below. After re-reading it, it certainly came off as insulting, which was not the intent. We appreciate all of our readers and the comments they leave on our website. All opinions are welcome.
Bob Bruhns February 02, 2013 at 05:44 PM
Hi Dusty. Yeah, I see how it happened, and we're only human. Sorry I got the wrong impression and I'll correct it where I posted about it. The prices are still unacceptable. Six Billion dollars, to upgrade SOME of the system to 8 cars from 6? That's right up there with the Rt 28 station, built for 8-car trains and having half-length canopy on its single platform, costing 2.4 times as much as the Fairfield, Connecticut Metrorail station (completed 12/2011), built for 12-car trains and having FULL-length canopies over BOTH of its platforms. Its side-platform design should also have made it MORE expensive than the Rt 28 station's island platform design. Yet there has been NO explanation for, or correction of, the wildly excessive price of our Rt 28 Metro station! We need line-item cost review on these jobs. WMATA seems to charge way too much for its parking garages too. Fairfax County Dulles Rail Project Manager Mark Canale said that WMATA charged an amount similar to the earlier Dulles Rail / Silver Line estimate of $26,383 per space for parking garages (that is about 55% high), and then MWAA hiked the overcharge bar to $34,014 per space (100% high). The $26 Billion number suggests that WMATA is following suit, and history suggests that the $26 Billion number will skyrocket. Even people who are Rah-Rah-Metro should agree that we need to call out the cost estimators this time, and take a long, hard look at the line item prices that we will be paying for generations.
Bob Bruhns February 02, 2013 at 06:22 PM
I was mistaken - the multiple attribution was the result of a small technical error on the part of one editor who did not mean to take improper credit for the article or to conceal its source, but who meant only to carry the article, with proper attribution, on his local Patch site. The article was written by two editors from Patch, and was not simply lifted from 'press kit' propaganda material from anybody as I had thought. It sure looked like it to me, but I was wrong. My apologies to these editors and to all readers for my error. (No, I wasn't sued or threatened, I just wanted to correct MY mistake.)
Bob Bruhns February 03, 2013 at 09:57 AM
Back to WMATA's $26 Billion Dollar Surprise - who made up these numbers? Did WMATA do an actual cost estimate, or were these numbers simply made up and typed into a spreadsheet somewhere? If there was an actual cost estimate, who made it? Where can the public examine any estimates, and the basis for them? These numbers are staggering, and experience argues that they will now proceed to grow larger and larger. They should be considered very carefully, and this time they should be considered in the full light of day. So, is this financial information going to be available to the people who will be expected to pay for it all?
Rob Whitfield February 04, 2013 at 02:04 PM
Bob and Others: The $13.3 billion capital replacement cost by 2020 is the WMATA 2011 estimate to replace existing Metrorail cars, electrical, mechanical systems and other equipment for the original 103 mile system mostly built 30+ years ago. The upgrading of Metrorail traction power stations, replacement and new elevators and escalators in DC and Arlington County plus maybe elsewhere in the original system was estimated by Richard Sarles in October 2012 to cost $1.5 billion. I don't know if that figure is part of the $13.3 billion. Sarles told the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission two years ago that the goal was to upgrade the Orange Line to allow 50% 8 car trains by 2013 and 100% by 2020. In his October 2012 presentation, Sarles did not provide a schedule for 8 car train upgrades. I only scanned the Metro Momentum report. I read in news reports that it calls for a second Potomac River tunnel with stations in Georgetown and elsewhere in DC. As I have noted before, a far more cost effective option exists to link the Orange and Silver Lines east of Arlington Courthouse station to the Blue Line north of Arlington National Cemetery station. That would allow one train service between the Silver Line stations on the Dulles Corridor to the Pentagon, Crystal City, Reagan National Airport and Alexandria and vice versa. It would cost less than $2 billion to build, far less than a Potomac River tunnel and mostly benefit Virginians rather than Washington, DC.
Bob Bruhns February 04, 2013 at 03:10 PM
I see that WMATA has expanded from the $13.3 Billion estimate for its needs by 2020, to $26 billion for its needs by 2040. But I no longer believe the numbers that our quasi-governmental agencies hand us. First, it is not clear whether WMATA is saying that the $13.3 billion 2020 need is, or is not, included in the $26 billion figure for 2040. Second, transportation has exploded in price over the past ten years, and these prices do not withstand the light of day. I need only point to the example of the Rt 28 Metrorail station, at 2.4 times the cost of a more sophisticated station in Fairfield Connecticut (completed in December 2011). (There are more examples too.) 1) Fairfield's Metro station can accommodate 12-car trains (our Rt 28 Metro station can only accommodate 8-car trains), 2) Fairfield's Metro station -should- be more expensive, because it is the 'dual side-platform' design (our Rt 28 Metro station is the less costly 'island platform' design), 3) Fairfield's Metro station has full-length canopies on both of their twelve-car platforms (our Rt 28 Metro station has a half-length canopy on its single 8-car platform). Yet, the Fairfield Metrorail station cost less that HALF of what our Rt 28 station costs! And, there are five more stations just like our Rt 28 station in the Dulles Rail / Silver Line project. Are they ALL $55 million overpriced? Our elected 'leaders' and our news media have been whistling and looking the other way for over a year. Why?
Bob Bruhns February 07, 2013 at 01:31 PM
Daniel's link must have updated - try this one: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2013/02/one-worst-mass-transit-commute-horror-stories-you-will-ever-read/4576/


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