By Charles Marohn. www.StrongTowns.org. This podcast features an interview with Steve Hiniker, Executive Director of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, the plaintiff that prevailed in a recent lawsuit against the USDOT, WisDOT and others.
The post StongTowns Podcast – 1000 Friends v. United States DOT appeared first on 1000 Friends of Wisconsin.
This article was originally featured on streetsblog.net. By Angie Schmitt. State departments of transportation all over the country use specious traffic projections to justify hugely expensive road widening projects. That’s how you end up with the graph on the right — showing how DOTs continued to forecast traffic growth year after year, even as driving stagnated.
The post Federal Court: Wisconsin Uses Bogus Traffic Data to Justify Highways appeared first on 1000 Friends of Wisconsin.
This article was originally featured on the front page of the Atlantic’s CityLab. By ERIC JAFFE. A federal district court ruled against a highway expansion on the grounds of flawed traffic predictions.
The post How Wisconsin Highway Opponents Cried ‘Peak Car’ (and Won) appeared first on 1000 Friends of Wisconsin.
On Tuesday, we featured the fifty-second issue of our "whichWMATA" series. This week, all five photos were guest submissions from reader Peter K.
We got 27 guesses this week. Ten of you got all five. Great work, Sand Box John, Andy L, Eric, Aman, Mike Plumb, MZEBE, Justin...., JamesDCane, FN, and Mr. Johnson!
Image 1: Cheverly
The first image shows the underside of the entrance to Cheverly station. At Cheverly, the Orange Line is sandwiched between the CSX freight line and the Amtrak Northeast Corridor. To enter the station, passengers first have to ascend to a bridge over the CSX tracks, which is home to the fare array. The bridge is somewhat distinctive, and we featured the station entrance in week 38. Seventeen of you figured it out.
Image 2: Pentagon
The second image was clearly the easiest, as all 27 of you got it right. It shows a train on the lower level of Pentagon station. This station has a split-level arrangement, which you can tell because of the wall on the right and the sign that indicates trains in the other direction are on a different level. And since there's signage for the Yellow Line, it can't be Rosslyn, so it's obviously Pentagon.
Image 3: Greenbelt
The third image shows the mezzanine skylights at Greenbelt station. They're located between the tracks and the offramp from the Beltway and provide natural light into the interior part of the station. We actually used this same feature, though from a very different angle, in week 1. Twenty-one of you guessed correctly.
Image 4: Vienna
The fourth image shows the south bus loop at Vienna. You should have been able to narrow this down to one of about ten stations because of the Fairfax Connector bus that's visible. This must be Vienna because of the new awning visible at bottom and the townhouses under construction in the distance. The awning is similar to one at West Falls Church, but that bus loop is not adjacent to a parking garage and is in a freeway median. We featured it in week 29. Twenty-two of you got this one right.
Image 5: Dupont Circle
The final image shows one of the elevators in the north (Q Street) mezzanine at Dupont Circle. Even if you've never seen this sign, you could figure this one out from the process of elimination. The sign indicates that this is a station on the Red Line and you can see a waffle vault. That narrows this to the six stations between Union Station and Dupont Circle.
The sign also says the elevator goes only to the Glenmont platform. That means this can't be an island platform station, which eliminates Union Station and Farragut North. And the arrangement of Gallery Place and Metro Center means that the elevators to the Red Line platforms aren't set into the vault in the mezzanine like this. That leaves Judiciary Square and Dupont Circle.
This can't be Judiciary Square because the elevators there don't stop in the mezzanine. They go straight from the street to the platform and each has a faregate on the platform. So this must be Dupont Circle. Sixteen of you did the math and got the right answer.
Thanks to everyone for playing! Great work. Stay tuned. We'll have five more images for you next Tuesday.
Thanks again to Peter K for submitting photos. If you think you have what it takes, email your photos to email@example.com.
HUD’s Jobs-Plus Pilot Program Connects Public Housing Residents with Employment and Educational Opportunities
Last month, HUD announced a $24 million investment for the next four years to nine public housing authorities and their partners to help residents increase their earned income and become self-sufficient.
HUD’s Jobs-Plus Pilot Program supports work readiness and connects public housing residents with employment, education and financial empowerment services—and it’s a model proven to help public housing residents find and keep jobs.
With energy and enthusiasm, representatives from HUD’s new Jobs Plus grantees—Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cuyahoga, Houston, Memphis, Roanoke, St. Louis, and Syracuse—recently gathered with existing grantees in New York City to attend the 2015 Jobs-Plus Learning Network Convening.
HUD’s new grantees benefitted from candid advice on a variety of program details, from tips on outreach and sustaining contact with residents (called “members”), to engaging local employers, maximizing rent incentives, and creating an environment that leads to innovation and results. The group was also able to hear from a panel of employers who have employed many Jobs Plus members and have pro-actively committed to making their work culture welcoming to Jobs-Plus employees.
“We are excited about the Jobs-Plus program and the convening in New York was eye-opening. It was very helpful to learn from programs that are already on the ground doing this work,” said David Paccone, Assistant Executive Director and Director of Development at Syracuse Housing Authority. He continued by saying, “Jobs Plus provides an opportunity to design innovative, local opportunities, and to be flexible with ideas that prove successful, and to move past those that may not work in our community.”
The Convening was hosted by the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO), the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC, the NYC Human Resources Administration (HRA), the NYC Young Men’s Initiative (YMI), the NYC Office of Consumer Affairs and the NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA). CEO administers Social Innovation Fund dollars granted through the Center for National and Community Service (CNCS) that funds Jobs-Plus sites in the Bronx and San Antonio. The organization also partners with YMI to manage Jobs-Plus sites in eight other New York boroughs.
HUD’s new grantees also had an opportunity to meet each other and exchange ideas about the programs they’re about to begin. It was a chance to start the cohort of learning that HUD will support throughout the four years of the pilot grants.
The HUD grantees will be gathering again in June 2015 for a three-day start-up conference and will begin recruiting participants by this fall.
Jobs-Plus is just one of many resident opportunity programs offered by HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing. For information about this and other related programs, contact Ron Ashford, at Ronald.T.Ashford@hud.gov or 202-402-4258.
Lourdes Castro Ramírez is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Public and Indian Housing.
DC's two-bar, three-star flag recently got some props for being distinguishable while also having a classic, simple look. A well-designed flag can serve as a rallying point for civic engagement. Our region bears some great flags, along with some that leave something to be desired.
You don't need to look hard to spot DC's flag around town. The flag is on display in lots of storefronts, and it has been a clear symbol of city campaigns for statehood. And for how many cities would a misrepresentation of its banner be a scandal, as was the case this fall when the cover of DC's voter registration guide displayed the flag upside down?
Many might question whether a flag misprint truly compares with all the other problems facing America's cities. The point, though, is that if people are taking pride in their city's flag, it's more likely that they'll engage meaningfully with issues like transit, green space and signage.
Here's what makes a great flag
So what makes DC's flag so great?
There's a whole group of flag enthusiasts ready to explain flag design. According to flag expert Ted Kaye, there are five general ingredients for designing a great flag:
- Keep it simple: The flag should be so simple that a child can draw it from memory.
- Use meaningful symbolism: "The flag's images, colors, or patterns should relate to what it symbolizes.
- Use two or three basic colors: Limit the number of colors on the flag to three, which contrast well and come from the standard color set.
- No lettering or seals: Never use writing of any kind or an organization's seal.
- Be distinctive or be related: Avoid duplicating other flags, but use similarities to show connections.
Some of our region's flags meet the bar. Others, not so much
Given those principles, it's easy to see why Washingtonians love their flag. (As far as the symbolism part is concerned, DCers might be interested to know that the red stars and bars are borrowed directly from George Washington's family coat of arms.)
The same ideas also explain why Marylanders love to flash their state flag, a pattern pulled from the coat of arms surrounding Cecilius Calvert, Maryland's founder. The flag is a popular pattern on local clothing, and can often be seen waving from the hands of fans at Orioles games. In fact, a 2001 survey by the National American Vexillological (i.e. flag) Association ranked Maryland's flag 4th best of all state and provincial flags on the continent. (DC ranked 8th.)
Unfortunately flag experts can't offer the same praise for Virginia's flag, which ranked 54 out of 72 on the Vexillological Association's list. Check VA's flag against Ted Kaye's principles, and it's clear why the flag ranked so low: the complicated seal, no focused choice of colors, and the fact that the flag bypasses all symbolism by literally writing out "Virginia."
How do other city flags in the region fare? Chalk Annandale's and Rockville's flags in the thumbs-up category. For flags that could use some love, consider Fairfax and Bowie. And while many county flags in the region settle for complicated seals slapped onto a rectangle, the Montgomery County flag sticks out nicely.
In case you're wondering if only governments with coats of arms can claim great flags, check out Chicago's, the lead example in Mars' TED Talk. The blue bars represent the local bodies of water such as Lake Michigan, while the red stars and their points symbolize different aspects of the city's history.
And for cities whose flags miss the design principles, Mars encourages you to show your love for your city anyway and brandish its flag. Or better yet, start a movement to design a new one.
You can search for your city or county flag here.
Governor Larry Hogan says Maryland can't afford the Purple Line. But as this chart shows, canceling the line would throw away billions of dollars, and save only a few million.
The chart illustrates where the money to build the Purple Line comes from. Purple boxes correspond to federal funding, green boxes are the private sector, and yellow boxes are from Montgomery and Prince George's counties. The blue boxes are the only money coming from the State of Maryland.
There are a total of 245.5 boxes on the chart, representing the Purple Line's total cost of $2.45 billion. Out of those 245.5 boxes, only 74 are state-funded blue. And out of those 74 blue boxes, 16 of them are in the far-right column, indicating money that's already spent. Another 22 boxes are half yellow, representing the requested county contribution. That leaves only 33 boxes, representing $333 million in remaining funding that is solely the state's responsibility.
In other words, Governor Hogan is holding Purple Line hostage over 13% of its cost.
And it may be even less than that. If Transportation Secretary Rahn's proposal to cut costs by 10% can become a reality, that would eliminate 23 of the remaining 33 blue state boxes, leaving only 10.
If that happens, Maryland's state cost to build the Purple Line could drop to as low as $100 million.
This is why cancelling a project would be a radical move. It would sacrifice billions of dollars in investment as well as spite both local opinion and the business community just to scavenge less than 23% of its total value.
This graphic breakdown comes from two primary sources: the Federal Transit Administration's November 2014 Profile and the Maryland Transit Administration's (MTA) Capital Program Summary.
The leftmost column shows the upfront costs to the state and counties. This is money that could theoretically go to other state or county transportation projects.
The second column covers the non-transferable TIFIA loan that a private-sector partner is undertaking with federal assistance. Maryland doesn't get the benefit of this money unless it goes toward the Purple Line.
The last column shows other money Governor Hogan would be walking away from if he cancels the line. That includes a $900 million grant from the federal government, $81 million from the private partner, and $184.7 million already spent in planning and design. It doesn't include the billions in new economic activity that the line would spur. None of this money is transferable to other Maryland project.
In addition, the sunk costs include $26.6 that the federal government has already spent on the Purple Line. The state may be liable for that if Hogan cancels the line.
Metro recently released data showing where Metrorail riders go from each station, and as one of our commenters noted, the most-frequented destination for people traveling from Anacostia is... Anacostia. That's because Coast Guard employees and contractors use the Anacostia Metro as a pedestrian tunnel.
As commenter Andy pointed out, when a passenger enters at Anacostia during midday, afternoon peak, and evenings on weekdays, they're most likely to exit from the same station. Not only that, but as the chart above shows, entering and exiting at the same station is more common at Anacostia than at any other station in the system. Why?
At St. Elizabeths, where the Coast Guard's headquarters moved in 2013, the National Capital Planning Commission's parking policy allows one parking space for every four employees. That means the Coast Guard is limited to only 931 parking spaces for its 4000 federal employees and numerous additional contractor employees.
Unlike at NIH, the St. Elizabeths campus is over a mile walk from the closest Metro, there are no nearby parking lots, and street parking is limited.
The A4 bus, which leaves from the Anacostia Metro bus bay, runs directly to the campus. So many people who work at St. Elizabeths park in the 800-space garage at the Anacostia Metro, tap into the system at the garage entrance so they can walk through the station, and tap out at the exit closer to the bus bay. From there, they take the A4 to work.
It's not hard to understand why commuters might opt to use the Metro station as a pedestrian walkway. While the walk down Howard Road from the parking garage to the bus bay is less than a quarter of a mile, it requires commuters to walk an empty stretch of road, under I-295 and across a highway on and off ramp.
The accidental pedestrian tunnel won't be around for much longer. In the 2014 Coast Guard Transportation Act, Congress overrode the NCPC. Between now and 2017, the Coast Guard will be required to allocate an additional 1,000 parking spaces at St. Elizabeths.
Photo by Paul Falardeau on Flickr.Stamp of approval: The DC Council unanimously approved Mayor Bowser's $13 million billion budget. The largest success of the approved budget is the substantial amount of funding for homelessness and affordable housing programs. (WAMU)
Almost free: The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismissed the case against the Budget Autonomy Act. The act separates DC's budget review from the federal appropriations process. (Roll Call)
Safety first: Infrastructure, emergency response, and organizational culture, is on the agenda for the NTSB's June meeting about the Metro smoke incident. The board will also look at federal safety oversight of the transit agency. (Post)
Outside consult: Metro is considering hiring a private consultant to review the entirety of the agency's finances and management. The Board hopes such a study would guide the path to fixing Metro's financial and managerial problems. (Post)
How to pay: Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker has backed off of his plan to raise property taxes by 15%. Instead, he is now seeking $65 million in additional funding to improve schools. (Post)
People for parks: Deanwood's residents spent years transforming Watts Branch Park, a drug haven, into Marvin Gaye Park, a community hub with a farm, and playgrounds. They modeled their efforts on the lessons from Malcolm X Park. (City Paper)
Unfairly fired: A local union representing Metro and Streetcar workers has filed a complaint against DC Streetcar, arguing that workers were fired for unionizing. The union is also fighting for a transparent timeline for the streetcar's opening. (DCist)
Floating: Planners have long been aware of the leapfrog-esque problem facing cyclists when buses make stops in bike lanes. Floating bus stops, which redirect bike traffic around the bus, have proved to be a successful solution across the globe. (CityLab)
Walk this way: Distracted walking killed injured 11,000 people between 2000 and 2011 acccording to the National Safety Council. Half of the cases happened at home. Though most were under age 40, 20 percent of the people injured were over age 71. (Post)
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Between 2006 and 2012, incomes for DC residents born in another US state increased by approximately 12%. But for people born in DC, they decreased by more than 16%. A rising tide, it turns out, will not necessarily lift all boats.
These numbers come via the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey.
Some argue that the construction and service sector jobs brought on by the city's economic development will help compensate for the increased cost of living. But depressingly, the data below show that District residents who were born in DC are actually bringing in less income than in the past, despite a general upward trend in income for other groups.
On the surface, it's easy to say that life is good for the District: Families have earlier access to public education for their children and DC's schools are getting better, there are more transportation options and full-service grocery stores, crime is falling, and city's new recreational and civic amenities are amazing.
In the face of the rising housing costs stemming from all this increased desirability, the truth remains: if you don't make enough money, it's hard to get by in DC.
Cross-posted at R.U. Seriousing Me?
Seeks Halt of All Highway Expansions Until Audit on Traffic Projections is Complete. 1000 Friends of Wisconsin today called for an immediate halt to all new highway widening projects until the state conducts an audit of the traffic projections used to justify those projects. The moratorium and audit request comes on the heels of a federal court decision last week that halted the widening of Highway 23 near Fond du Lac because of unjustified and likely erroneous traffic counts predicted for the highway.
The post Press Release: 1000 Friends Calls For Road Audit and Moratorium appeared first on 1000 Friends of Wisconsin.
Students have been leaving DC Public Schools in droves after the elementary grades because of a dearth of appealing middle school options. A series of graphs from DC's Office of Revenue Analysis shows what's been happening and suggests that things could change in the future.
Looking at the DCPS cohort that entered kindergarten in 2006 and is now in 8th grade, there's been a dramatic drop: from about 4,000 in kindergarten to a little over half that number in 6th grade. Much of that decline occurred between 5th and 6th grade, the first year of middle school.
While a number of DCPS elementary schools have improved in recent years, parents have complained that the system's middle schools suffer from low achievement, discipline and safety issues, and a limited range of academic and extracurricular offerings.
Only one DCPS middle school, Alice Deal in Ward 3, has proved widely attractive. And with an enrollment of 1,300, Deal is overcrowded.
Drop in elementary enrollments after 4th grade
At some elementary schools, parents begin leaving after 4th grade for private schools, other DCPS elementary schools that feed into Deal, or charter schools, many of which start their middle schools at 5th grade. Some leave the District altogether.
At Ross Elementary School in Dupont Circle last year, for example, the number of students fell from 19 in 4th grade to nine in 5th. In the previous three years, only one of the 47 students graduating from 5th grade went on to the middle school that Ross feeds into.
On Capitol Hill, where some parents have made a concerted effort to retain students in neighborhood schools, enrollment can drop as much as 50% between preschool and 5th grade.
And a Washington Post poll last year found that only 24% of District residents would choose to send their children to a DCPS middle school. Among white and college-educated parents, only 20% would make that choice.
During last year's mayoral campaign, both leading candidates made improving middle schools a key issue, with Muriel Bowser adopting (at least for a while) the slogan, Deal for All.
And DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson has focused on middle schools this school year, ensuring a standard baseline of academic offerings that includes algebra, foreign language, art, music, and physical education. She pledged more of an emphasis on students' social and emotional needs as well.
Henderson also promised more field trips, and recently she and Bowser unveiled a plan to offer middle school students who are taking a foreign language the opportunity to travel abroad.
Will DCPS's efforts result in more middle school students?
It's too soon to know if any of those efforts will bear fruit. The current DCPS 6th grade cohort started out smaller than the 8th grade one, but its decline has been less precipitous. So the number of students remaining in DCPS at 6th grade is about the same in both cohorts.
The DCPS cohort now in 4th grade shows the least attrition of all. Although it started out smaller than the cohort of current 8th graders, it's now about the same size that cohort was in 4th grade.
It's hard to say how many of these students DCPS can hold onto. A wider array of courses and more field trips, even international ones, may not be enough to do the trick.
Mixed results on middle school improvements
There have been some bright spots. One middle school east of the Anacostia River, Kelly Miller, has made dramatic improvements under a dynamic principal.
And the new Brookland Middle School, which opens this fall with an arts focus and a project-based learning approach, drew more applicants than expected in the school lottery. That may be a vote of confidence in the school's incoming principal, who is transferring from the well-respected Janney Elementary School in Ward 3.
The interest in Brookland is particularly encouraging because DCPS delayed the school's opening by a year, partly out of concern that it wouldn't attract enough students.
But Hardy Middle School north of Georgetown is still struggling to draw neighborhood students, even after DCPS installed a school leader who seems to inspire confidence.
And Ward 6 families are disappointed that long-promised renovations at two of the neighborhood's middle schools, Eliot-Hine and Jefferson, won't be happening for several more years. Those schools have also been slow to implement a plan to adopt an International Baccalaureate curriculum that could draw neighborhood students.
It can be hard to turn a struggling school around, and even harder to change public perceptions. The experience at Brookland suggests that DCPS might have more success with brand new middle schools, and the plan for new school boundaries and feeder patterns calls for the construction of several.
But DCPS has been spending hundreds of millions building and renovating buildings, particularly high schools, and it's not clear how much more money will be available for such projects.
Some DC parents who have taken the plunge into what seems like a less desirable middle school have been pleasantly surprised. One Capitol Hill mother who passed up a well-regarded charter school for her daughter in favor of Eliot-Hine told the Post that her concerns about safety were unfounded and that she and her daughter are happy with the school.
"I feel like we wasted a lot of time and effort fretting for a year on the pros and cons of the school we considered," she wrote in an e-mail. "We could've focused that energy on [Eliot-Hine]!"
If more parents were willing to give their neighborhood middle schools a chance, the pace of change might well speed up. And then we could turn our attention to an even thornier problem: improving the quality of DCPS high schools.
Cross-posted at DC Eduphile.
On Tuesday, HUD announced $29 million in grants to help approximately 1,200 extremely low-income persons and families living with HIV/AIDS through the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program. The Salvation Army Alegria in Los Angeles, California was one of the 25 grantees receiving a renewal grant to continue their permanent supportive housing program.
HOPWA Grantee – Salvation Army Alegria, Los Angeles, California
The Salvation Army Alegria has a unique facility that provides residential care and permanent housing for families with at least one family member living with HIV. Their services include much more than housing. With the support of HOPWA funding, Alegria provides comprehensive case management, mental health counseling, nutritious meals, life skills training, day care/afterschool care, and other services that support families to maintain healthy, stable, and self-sufficient lives. The management staff in residential care meets regularly with the residents to review and revise individual service plans that help residents work towards maintaining a stable housing situation.
Alegria staff who work directly with the residents have seen the transformation of families as they are able to focus on their housing stability and health with their supportive services.
The Torres-Ortez family is just one family that has been able to benefit from housing and support services at Alegria supported with HOPWA funding.
Meet the Torres-Ortez Family
The Torres-Ortez family entered the Alegria transitional housing program in 2006 through a referral by LA Family Housing. Jose Miguel, the father, was extremely ill and unable to address his health issues as the family did not have stable housing. At the time, Jose Miguel found himself sleeping on the floor in a very crowded home alongside others needing a place to stay.
Alegria was able to provide Jose Miguel and his wife, Lesley, with an apartment where they could begin to address their special needs. They were both brought to tears when seeing their apartment, expressing gratitude. A home to call their own was exactly the foundation both Jose Miguel and Lesley needed to improve their health and find stability that allowed them both to find employment.
Jose Miguel and Lesley’s son, Sebastian, was less than a year old when they entered the housing program at Alegria. Sebastian was looked after by Jose Miguel’s aunt until he was able to enroll in the Alegria Child Care Center. Their eight-year-old daughter, Germaine, was also able to rejoin the family as they found housing stability. Additionally, Jose Miguel and Lesley welcomed another child, Andre, into their family in 2011.
Today, the children are 18 (Germaine), 10 (Sebastian), and four years old (Andre), and they continue to live as a family unit at Alegria, with their parents. As a family with English as a second language, each has been able to use the on-site day care and after-school programs to improve their English skills. Even as the Torres-Ortez family overcame challenges at Alegria, Germaine has said, “Everyone here is treated the same, and we are loved.” The entire family has been able to thrive at Alegria as they were able to achieve stable housing with the support of HOPWA funds.
The HOPWA program is both a formula-based and a competitive grant program. Ninety percent of HOPWA funds are distributed by formula to cities and states based on the number of AIDS cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HUD’s formula grants are managed by 137 local and state jurisdictions, which coordinate AIDS housing efforts with other HUD and community resources. Overall, these resources assist more than 52,000 households annually to provide stable housing and reduced risks of homelessness for those living with HIV and other challenges. Ten percent of HOPWA funds are set aside to fund competitively awarded grants.
Lisa Steinhauer is a Management Analyst in the Office of HIV/AIDS Housing.
Maryland's Mass Transit Administration is planning upgrades to the Amtrak/MARC station at BWI Airport along with several other projects along the Washington-Boston Northeast Corridor within the state. The projects will make Amtrak and MARC trains in the area more reliable as well as allow more trains to pass through the overcrowded rail corridor.
Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.
The project will reconfigure the station to have four mainline tracks, each with access to a platform. It will also include a nine-mile fourth track that will run alongside the existing ones, and a new station building with a larger waiting room.
The proposal is currently undergoing an assessment to determine how it would affect the environment. If MTA can get the funds and further environmental review isn't necessary, the final design process could start next year. Even then, though, construction probably wouldn't start until 2017 or 2018 at the earliest.
A lot of people use the BWI station, which isn't built to handle them all
The current BWI Airport rail station is served by Amtrak and MARC trains on the busy Northeast Corridor. On top of being a popular way to get to the airport, the station also gets heavy use from commuters because it has two parking garages with over 3,000 parking spaces.
The problem is that the station's layout is inefficient, and it's operating above its designed capacity. The station has two platforms on either side of the three-track Amtrak main line. In order to service the station, trains must be on one of the outside tracks, which reduces operational flexibility.
It can be problematic because even the limited-stop Acela Express trains occasionally stop at BWI. Also, the location of interlockings, where trains can change tracks, means any train serving the BWI station has to run on the outside track for 9 miles, from Odenton to Halethorpe.
Fast trains, like the Acela, share the railroad corridor with slower Northeast Regionals and commuter trains making local stops. If an Acela or Regional needs to stop at BWI, it has to be on the local track, and that can mean getting stuck behind a slower MARC train (or having dispatchers hold the MARC train so the higher-priority Amtrak train can pass it before getting on the local track).
With a four-track station, fast trains on the center tracks won't have to slow down to switch to the local track or mix with commuter trains. That will make it easier for Amtrak to schedule stops for the faster trains. And with fewer conflicts, will allow more MARC trains.
Ridership at the BWI rail station has dwarfed its capacity to handle the crowds. When the station opened in 1980, it was primarily designed to serve the two MARC trains in each direction that operated between Baltimore and Washington. The waiting room only seats 40 people. Today, more than 32,000 passengers use the station each day. Just under 60% of those are MARC riders; the rest are Amtrak customers.
Correction: It appears the 32,000 number, which comes from the Environmental Assessment documentation, was part of a poorly phrased paragraph. The 32,000 passengers referred to count those who use the station and also counts anyone who passes through on a train without boarding or alighting. Sorry for the confusion.
Another constraint is the track arrangement. Right now, the section of track sees 92 Amtrak trains and 56 MARC trains each day. But by 2030, expected service levels will rise to 110 Amtrak trains and 135 MARC trains, an increase of 66% from 148 to 235 trains.
Building a new station
The new station will have four tracks, each with access to a platform. The existing southbound side platform will remain in its current location. The current northbound side platform will be enlarged into a center platform, and a new northbound side platform will be constructed alongside the new fourth track.
When completed, the new four-track segment will tie into an existing four-track segment that runs between Halethorpe and West Baltimore. That will mean the corridor will have a 14.5-mile segment of four tracks, greatly increasing operational flexibility and redundancy.
The project's status
The Federal Railroad Administration is leading an environmental assessment (EA) to determine whether the likely impact of the project will require a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or if it can go to design and engineering without that step. The EA is scheduled to be finish this summer.
If the result of the EA is a "Finding of No Significant Impact" (FONSI), the project will be able to proceed directly to engineering and design if funding is available. If an EIS is required, however, that process will probably take about two years to complete. The design phase and the process of selecting a contractor will probably take another two years.
During construction, at least two tracks need to be open to traffic, each with access to a platform. That means it will take three and a half years to complete the project. Certain parts of the project, including the new station building and larger waiting room, should be finished in about two and a half years.
The estimated costs for the project, including nine miles of new track, two new platforms at BWI, and a new station building is approximately $540 million. Funding sources haven't been identified, but will likely be a combination of funding from the federal government, Amtrak, and the state of Maryland.
Other projects are in the works
In addition to the BWI improvements, Maryland, Amtrak, and the Federal Railroad Administration are working on
', '26789')" href="http://www.nec-commission.com/
">several other projects that will help rehabilitate and expand infrastructure on the Northeast Corridor. Some of these projects have been on Maryland's wish list for several years.
Between West Baltimore and Baltimore Penn Station, the corridor runs through the B&P Tunnels, which were built in 1873 and are badly in need of repair and replacement. The tunnels have a speed limit of 30 miles per hour and the four-track segment has to narrow down to two tracks, creating a bottleneck.
The replacement of these tunnels is currently undergoing the environmental review process and doesn't have funding. If that changes, the project will construct a new two-track tunnel to replace the B&P Tunnels. Once it's complete, the older tunnels will be shuttered for an overhaul and then later returned to service.
Amtrak is also studying the replacement of the Susquehanna River Bridge, which carries trains across the wide river just above its mouth. It was built in 1906 and is also badly in need of repair. The current proposals will replace the two-track span with two two-track spans, enlarging the corridor to four tracks here.
The replacement is not currently funded beyond the study phases, but getting through the environmental process is a necessary step for getting the project to "shovel-ready" status and making it eligible for federal funding.
Two more much-wanted projects do not have funding, even for environmental studies. Amtrak also needs to replace long bridges over the Bush and Gunpowder Rivers north of Baltimore. Maryland applied for federal funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act several years ago for studies of these bridges, but the request was unsuccessful.
These infrastructure projects are a huge part of ensuring the economic vitality of the Boston-Washington corridor. Currently, Amtrak carries three quarters of the Washington—New York air/rail market, and that share is only growing. Much of the infrastructure in the corridor is now over a century old, and suffers from deferred maintenance.
Amtrak and the commuter railroads, like MARC, that ply the corridor want to increase capacity by running trains more frequently. But without investments in infrastructure, that won't be possible. And in fact, if certain projects, like the Gateway Project in New York and New Jersey, are not completed, capacity may actually be lower than it is now.
Redeveloping urban areas is a task that cannot be tackled alone. To succeed, you need the cooperation and partnership of local governments, the business community and philanthropy among others. In 2012, the White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities partnered with the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) to manage the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Fellowship Program, providing opportunities for young and mid-career professionals to examine critical policy issues and challenges common to metropolitan regions. The SC2 Fellowship Program served as a strong example of the importance of place-based fellowship to build local capacity for change.
Yesterday the White House Council on SC2 and GMF hosted a virtual briefing to celebrate the official release of the SC2 Fellowship Report at the White House Conference Center.
The event marked the conclusion of the two-year SC2 Fellowship Program, which was one of four core components of the SC2 Initiative. The Fellowship Program placed fellows in key positions within the first seven cities of this pilot initiative—Chester, PA; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI; Fresno, CA; Memphis, TN; New Orleans, LA; and Youngstown, OH.
The fellows worked alongside the embedded federal team leads to help produce some of the innovative ideas that have been instrumental to the success of SC2. SC2 still has active engagements with deployed team leads in seven cities through 2016, though no new fellows. Over the course of the fellowship, the fellows enhanced the capacity of their host institutions through substantial contributions in policy, program, and operational matters.
From launching new systems to prioritize vacant property demolitions in Cleveland, to establishing a Performance Management Platform, to helping to strategically align resources and federal investments in Memphis, the SC2 fellows were vital members of the Obama Administration’s SC2 program.
GMF and its partners—Virginia Tech and Cleveland State University—together with the White House Council on Strong Cities Strong Communities, released a report outlining the specific accomplishments of the fellows and the results of the pilot urban fellowship program.
We couldn’t be more proud of our SC2 Fellows for their contributions to our success in SC2 cities and their ongoing commitment to helping cities achieve their economic and community development goals. We are also appreciative of the strong partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, Cleveland State University, Virginia Tech and our cities which helped make the program a success and a model that can be used by other communities in the years to come.
For more information about the SC2 Initiative and Fellowship Program, please visit:
Tricia Kerney-Willis is the Deputy Director, White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities.
Photo by Ted Eytan on Flickr.Tax dump: The DC Council will vote on its revised budget today. While the Council says they will be able to fund most priorities without a tax increase, Mayor Bowser is putting up a fight about the potential cuts. (WAMU, City Paper)
Raising fare: State law requires MTA to adjust its fares every five years, so the agency is raising fares for MARC, commuter bus, and most transit services in Baltimore. The increases go into effect on June 25. (Post)
Purchasing power: To move forward with buying an additional 220 7000-series cars, WMATA now needs FTA approval before July. WMATA originally planned to use the cars to add capacity to the system, but now wants to replace the 5000 series. (Post)
Door no more: To prevent cyclists from getting doored, the DC Taxicab Commission will soon require taxis to display "Look for Cyclist" stickers. The Commission has not yet published a timeline for design or installation of the stickers. (WABA)
Any alternative: A new commuter group is pushing back against VDOT's plan to convert I-66 inside the Beltway to high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes. The 66 Alliance says VDOT should consider all options, including additional lanes. (ARLnow)
Still free, less range: CPS has cleared the parents of Montgomery's "free-range" kids on one of two neglect charges. But the parents no longer allow the children to walk to parks outside of the neighborhood. (Gazette)
Identity crisis: To improve preservation efforts, developers of a new open source software are making it easier to inventory historical sites before, during, and after a natural disaster or other crisis. (Hyperallergic, Abby)
And...: A small business jet rolled off the runway at BWI on Tuesday morning but no one was injured. (DCist) ... A judge ruled that work on the Virginia Ave Tunnel project can keep chugging along during the Committee of 100's lawsuit. (JDLand) ... Look at the way people volunteer in DC has changed over the past 10 years. (District, Measured)
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