TAC Meeting Minutes for October 15, 2013


FAIRFAX COUNTY TRANSPORTATION ADVISORY COMMISSION (TAC)
Meeting Summary

Regular Meeting – October 15, 2013 at 7:30 PM – FCDOT, 4050 Legato Rd, Fairfax, VA 22033

TAC Members in Attendance: Chairman Jeff Parnes (Sully), Vice Chairman Jenifer Joy Madden (Hunter Mill), Secretary Roger Hoskin (Mason), Ed. L. Tennyson (At-Large), Kevin Morse (Braddock), Michael Champness (Dranesville), Micah Himmel (Providence), Harry Zimmerman (Lee), Frank Cohn (Mt. Vernon), Eric Thiel (Springfield), and Ann Pimley (Fairfax Area Disability Board).

Others in Attendance:  FCDOT staff: Todd Wigglesworth and Calvin Lam. WMATA staff: Shyam Kannan and Gregory Potts.

The meeting was called to order by Chairman Parnes at 7:37 PM. The minutes of the September 17, 2013 were approved as written. Commissioner Michael Champness of the Dranesville District was welcomed to the TAC.

Note: The sentences on (1) and (2) below were edited based on the approval corrections of this Meeting Notes at the November 17, 2013 meeting.

Note Taker:  Frank Cohn


Main Topics Discussed

Momentum: The Next Generation of Metro and the projected loading statistics for the Dulles Metrorail Silver Line.

Shyam Kannan, the Managing Director of Planning, assisted by Gregory Potts, both of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), provided a detailed briefing of the Strategic Plan of Washington Metro for the period 2013-2025, as well as planning for the out-years. Commissioners were provided with a copy of the briefing, a 75-page booklet entitled “Momentum” depicting the Metro’s Strategic Plan 2013-2025, a rubberized Metro Map, and an updated Metro Map depicting the current Silver Line and its projected future extension.

Within the next ten years Metro which was initiated in 1976, intends to rebuild its aging structure by replacing its outworn stock and securing added cars to operate 8-car trains throughout the system. This renewal process will be accomplished within Metro’s current 2 billion yearly operating budgets. However any further expansion of the Metro network will require additional funding from the affected jurisdictions involved; since no such funding is currently available; there are no current plans to expand the system. It must be noted that the collection of fares are destined to offset operating costs only; capital improvements cannot be funded in that fashion. Eight car trains will be required to accommodate the expected population expansion in the suburbs. The Orange Line is the most crowded where customers quite often need to wait for 2 or 3 trains to pass by, before they can board.

The central area of the system is called “The Core’ which encompasses a 26-station area and where the heaviest traffic is located. The stations which are central in the traffic pattern and are operating at full capacity are Farragut West, Metro Center, and McPherson. The ten year plan has four primary goals; they encompass “Safety”, “Quality Service”, “Improvement of Mobility”, and “Assurance of Financial Stability”. On the Safety side, Metro’s 600 police officers must deal with enforcement rules which differ in the multiple jurisdictions involved while working with differing rules of evidence. To improve service the requirement to procure additional cars, to reach the eight car train goal, is mandatory. Regional Mobility will be enhanced by concentrating Metro bus service where requirements exist and accommodate pedestrian as well as bike traffic. On the financial side, although Metro is one of the 25 largest rail systems, it does not have a dedicated funding source. Jurisdictions served, as well as the Federal government, provide equitable allocations to accommodate the operating budget; but the aim is to establish a more reliable, dedicated source from each jurisdiction involved.

Metro does not have direct control over the various components which are needed to assure a well-functioning system. Sidewalks serving stations are not Metro’s responsibility; neither are bike paths. Metro is responsible for only about 100 bus shelters, the rest belong to the local jurisdictions which run augmenting bus lines. Additionally, those augmenting bus services, as well as the VRE service, need to be integrated into the overall transit plan. Dedicated bus lanes assist, wherever established, to speed-up the service and by-pass congestion. For example, such dedicated lanes will become available in the Crystal City area by 2018. Metro has expansion plans in mind within their 2040 Plan. Among other projects, a Blue Line connection between Rosslyn and Union Station is an ambitious plan, which will require a new tunnel below the Potomac. These types of plans may become a necessity if the system requires expansion due to the envisioned population growth and the concomitant expansion in demand for added service.

Each Commissioner was provided an opportunity to ask questions. The following information was gleaned during the question and answer period:

  • The existing power grid is sufficient to accommodate current and projected needs. Metro is engaged in securing a 35% reduction in power requirements.
  • Bus service needs to be defensible from a fiscal standpoint. If jurisdictions develop needs which are not in line with Metro’s criteria, they must satisfy their needs with their own arrangements. The discontinuation of service to National Harbor lies in that realm.
  • Since the current 2025 Plan does not envision any system expansion, a close look will be required in 2018 to incorporate future needs.
  • Authorization bills are needed each year to assure required funding. While a more stable funding source is desirable, the current system does offer some advantage. There is no set amount dictated by legislation, thus desired increases may be easier to obtain.
  • The current fare card system, which was established back in 1976, has always had flaws and requires upgrading. A new open source payment system is desirable which has the ability to pay not just for Metro and Metro bus service but also for other options such as rail and plane travel.
  • The Metro system is not actually running as planned. It should operate as a self-service system with automatic controls, fully computerized. It took a long time to determine exactly what did not work. Dates delineated by Congress to force the system to work as originally designed are meaningless; nothing can be changed until there is full competency and the assurance that desired changes will work.
  • Current choke points are visible at Metro Center, Gallery Place, L’Enfant Plaza and Rosslyn. Rosslyn is a particular choke point involving the Orange, Blue and Silver line operations. Future plans at Rosslyn envision solutions by possibly changing the Blue Line connection or creating a second Rosslyn station. A pedestrian connection between the two Rosslyn stations would be established, similar to the connections which exist between Metro Center and Gallery Place or Farragut West and Farragut North. It was noted that the maps depicting Metro lines and stations should show these connections The Rosslyn plan would require a $6.05 billion dollar authorization. As a long-range vision, the idea of an added tunnel under the river and hence connecting directly with Union Station, stands as a more costly solution. However, the cost factor may not be as severe as perceived on first glance. When compared with costs of widening major highways and other major transportation projects, the future savings derived from relieving congestion, reducing travel times and assisting the environment, make such a project no longer prohibitive.
  • Google does not distinguish between the various jurisdictions operating bus lines. Only route numbers are provided and the uninitiated can easily be confused as different color busses operate independently. Additionally, busses display signs of end destinations and again, the uninitiated cannot easily determine in which direction, such as North or South, the bus is headed.
  • The 2040 Metro Plan does offer a connection to Centerville. However such expansions will increase the problems in the Core, affecting four jurisdictions in the process. Mr. Kannan is invited to attend the meeting with interested groups.
  • The Board of Supervisors has endorsed the Metro 2025 Plan. The Plan essentially restores the system as it should be operating. It must be successfully completed before any further expansion can be considered.
  • Metro understands that it must provide an equitable fare structure. There cannot be an undue burden on low income commuters.
  • Reference the Momentum Plan (the Blue Book). Although Page 7 and Page 15 carry different ridership statistics, the reference points differ. The first projects ridership after full implementation of the 2025 Plan while the later provides data on current experience.
  • There are different ways to compute savings of gasoline consumption based on Metro operations. Commissioner Tennyson offered to confer with Mr. Kannan.
  • Discussion ensued if different life styles such as Tele-commuting and “Smart Growth” might undermine Metro’s 2040 assumptions on expanding demands in the out-years. Metro insists that these factors were considered in their planning and results remain as depicted in the published plans.
  • Metro is cognizant of the ongoing frequent failures of elevators and escalators; these problems are projected to be fixed within the 2025 Plan.
  • There is past experience when Metro had authorized funding which could not be spent within the designated time period. Assurance can now be given that Metro is currently poised to be able to spend all requested authorizations.
  • Many questions can be answered on operations and statistics by entering the Metro web site: www.Metro.com
  • While Metro favors dedicated bus lanes, it does not control their implementation. Local jurisdictions must be willing to construct them for Metro’s use.
  • While it is useful for the system to connect Dulles and Reagan National airports, the thrust of the system if focused on bringing riders from the suburbs into the District of Columbia.
  • While Metro lines are designed for inter-jurisdictional transport, it was noted that both the lines that do not cross the Potomac River (the Red and Green lines) serve only two jurisdictions; both start and end in the same county (Red line Montgomery and Green Line Prince Georges) while servicing Washington as well. (1)

Accessible Taxi Service

The TAC heard a complaint from Commissioner Pimley concerning the difficulties encountered by handicapped persons to order accessible taxi service. This matter is being addressed by Fairfax Consumer Affairs (not FCDOT) and the TAC should therefore not take the lead in this matter, but rather, the TAC will be willing to consider and endorse their recommendation. Commissioner Pimley will follow up.

Regional Transportation Priorities Plan for the National Capital Region

Commissioner Madden recommended that all TAC members should consult this Plan, currently still in draft form. It has valuable information on short-term and long-term transportation goals and these goals should be considered in all future transportation planning by all jurisdictions within the Washington area.

Commission Parnes noted that one of the key proposals in the Plan, to convert existing traffic lanes to HOT Lanes, was rejected by the Federal Department of Transportation; HOT lanes can only be secured by adding by adding new lanes as was accomplished on the Beltway. This forced the plan to be revised. (2)

The next meeting is scheduled for November 19, 2013.

Topics for Future Meetings:

  • December 17, 2013: Route 1 Transit Center Study – Caijun Luo, FCDOT
  • January 21, 2013: Columbia Pike Street Car Line Progress (and additional possible candidates)
  • Countywide Transit Network Study – Summer 2014
  • CTB Determination of Corridor of Statewide Importance through Loudoun/Prince William Counties
  • Comprehensive Plan staff and Planning Commission discussions with TAC on what their vision is for future development and any changes in planning and zoning guidelines that may be needed to account for future work environment given the pace and impacts of technology advances (including guest speaker to explain impact of self-driving/smart cars, buses and trucks on traffic, roadways and intersections).

Announcements: Attend one or more of the scheduled meetings on funding priorities scheduled for October 30 and November 4, 12 and 13.

Adjourned: The meeting was adjourned as 10:00 PM

Upcoming Events:

Countywide Dialogue on Transportation Public Outreach: All of the meetings will start at 7:00 p.m. (an open house starting at 6:30 p.m.).

October 30 (Wednesday)
Hayfield Secondary School cafeteria
7630 Telegraph Road, Alexandria
(Connector routes 301, 231/232, 321/322)

November 4 (Monday)
Falls Church High School auditorium
7521 Jaguar Trail, Falls Church
(Metrobus routes 1A, 1B, 1Z)

November 12 (Tuesday)
County Government Center, conference rooms 2/3
12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax
(Connector routes 605, 621, 623)

November 13 (Wednesday)
Forest Edge Elementary School cafeteria
1501 Becontree Lane, Reston
(Connector routes RIBS 1, RIBS 3, 552)

Upcoming Meetings:

October 29, 2013                7:30 pm     TAC Work Session (FCDOT)
November 19, 2013             7:30 pm     TAC Regular Meeting (FCDOT)
December 3, 2013               7:30 pm     TAC Work Session (FCDOT)

December 10, 2013             10:00 am    Board Transportation Committee

December 17, 2013             7:30 pm     TAC Regular Meeting (FCDOT)

 


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