Twenty-five underutilized Metrorail or commuter rail stations in the Washington region will be the focus of the second phase of a Transportation Planning Board study looking for ways to take greater advantage of unused capacity in the region's existing rail transit system.
The study will identify key pedestrian and bicycle improvements near each of the 25 stations to improve access to nearby employment sites, or to make it easier for transit-dependent people who live nearby to reach rail stations and get to job opportunities elsewhere in the region.
Improving access to underutilized stations, which are often outside the regional core, helps get the most out of the existing transit system by encouraging ridership in reverse-commute directions on trains with plenty of available capacity, or by making it possible to "sell the same seat twice" in peak commute directions.
The TPB has been working over the last eight months on the first phase of the study: identifying 25 stations where improvements could have the greatest impact. In particular, researchers looked for stations where daily passenger volumes are less than 30% of station capacity, and where significant near-term employment growth is anticipated nearby or where there are significant concentrations of households that depend on transit to reach employment opportunities.
The next phase of the study, due to be complete by the end of 2014, will involve a review of existing local and regional plans and studies to understand gaps in infrastructure near each of the stations. The second phase will also involve identifying low-cost improvements that have already been planned, could be implemented relatively quickly, and would best fill the gaps and provide more complete access.
Ultimately, the study will yield a go-to list of projects that jurisdictions may reference when working with developers, preparing grant applications, or allocating local funding to make improvements that will enhance local connectivity to transit and possibly support further job or residential growth near the stations in the future.
Of the 25 stations being studied, eight are in the District of Columbia, nine are in suburban Maryland, and eight are in northern Virginia. Most of the stations are exclusively Metrorail stations, with at least one station on each line, including the new Silver Line. Five of the stations are also MARC or VRE commuter rail stations.
The study is being funded under the Federal Highway Administration's Transportation, Community, and System Preservation discretionary grant program, known as TCSP. The program supports efforts to improve the efficiency of transportation systems, reduce environmental impacts and the need for costly infrastructure investments, and to ensure efficient access to jobs, services, and centers of trade.
The study aims to advance a number of strategies outlined in the Regional Transportation Priorities Plan, approved by the TPB in January. In particular, the study will identify projects that support three of the key near-term strategies in the plan: improving access to transit stops and stations; and expanding bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. The improvements will also contribute to ensuring accessibility for persons with low incomes -- a key ongoing strategy in the plan -- and help enhance circulation within Activity Centers -- one of five main long-term strategies.
When complete, the Transportation Planning Board's study of key multimodal access improvements to underutilized transit stations in the region will help local jurisdictions focus on making low-cost investments that yield significant job access and efficiency benefits for local communities and the entire region.