Regarding Metro to Dulles
As a frequent user, coming from upper NW DC, I am
not planning the trip being any quicker then it is currently. I give myself 2 hours, with the quickest journey haven taken about 1+25. That was with literally no longer then a minute wait at metro center, or for making the connection to the Bus to IAD. Everything timed perfectly. Normally there is a wait of 8-10 minutes somewhere.
Subject for another thread but Metro failed miserably in their long term planning with no ability to run express trains, thus having faster service from Dulles or other outer stations to downtown, nor do a loop (using the median of the beltway) to connect the spokes. If you need to go from Bethesda or Silver Spring to Tyson’s Metro is not really a viable option. So folks drive instead, adding to the congestion on the beltway.
I don't think Metro failed here at all. Metro is fine - the trains are plenty fast; the reason the trip seems so slow is simply because Dulles is very far away.
The challenges of getting from suburb to suburb are a broader failure of American car-centric freeway planning, not of transit. It makes zero sense to build a Metro line along the beltway; it's challenging enough to do circumferential transit like the Purple Line - and the Purple Line has favorable land uses along the entire route. The gap between Bethesda and Tysons not only has a river to cross, but a sea of low-density, very wealthy areas that will fight any dense development tooth and nail. It's car-centric, and that means congestion; any transit project there would be really expensive to build and wouldn't be the highest priority for investment.
Yes the trains are fast, except for all the stops. Hence why an express train with limited stops, would be beneficial, not just for Dulles but also daily commuters to get to downtown.
Right, but the stops are the things that make the train useful - that's where people get on and off the train. The demand to and from the airport is much more diffuse than just going downtown, meaning that an express train would be skipping past the stations where people would like to get on the train to go to the airport.
If you wanted an express train to the airport, then Metro is the wrong mode. The better option would've been some kind of regional rail like MARC. But of course there's no rail line like that anywhere near IAD, which makes it infeasible. Instead, you get Metro and the benefits of frequency. Yes, the trip is a little longer, but with trains every 6 minutes at peak hours, the much shorter wait times are a huge benefit.
It would have made perfect sense to build a Metro loop, utilizing the Beltway footprint. That land had already been appropriated for transportation use, unlike the Purple line that required years of lawsuits etc. The car congestion on the Beltway is in part driven by the lack of a viable suburb to suburb public transit option. But again the lack of a future plan back in the day (third rails for Express services, connecting the spokes) hinders today’s Metro system. Beyond the historical funding and mismanagement issues of the current system. If you are close to a spoke and need to get to downtown DC it works, but going from outer spoke to outer spoke really doesn’t except for a limited segment of the population.
My point is that going from outer suburb to outer suburb is never going to be transit's strong suit. Never. Particularly given the American tradition of building those places around the car. They're so car-centric as to make decent transit service infeasible. The viability of the Purple Line is based on those inner suburban locations urbanizing even more than they already are.
Most American suburbs were designed around the car, to preclude any other kind of transit. And, this is what you get! Design for cars, you get a lot of traffic. The parts of the region that pre-date car-centric planning (e.g. Downtown) do much better.
Metro also studied a Beltway line. It did not perform well at all: https://planitmetro.com/wp-content/uplo ... df#page=33
Also: just a note: third tracks for express services are extremely inefficient. There's a reason most transit systems in the world are two-track systems. New York is the exception, and they have tons of three-track lines where the third track is completely unused. Three track lines only allow for express services in one direction. Even in NYC, the four-track sections are far more about increased capacity rather than increased speed. The larger station spacing on newer systems like WMATA means that the service is already faster than the NYC subway even without express tracks.