The D.C. Metro is among the most convenient subway networks in the U.S., being about equally as convenient as, say, Boston's or Chicago's (though nowhere near as convenient as New York's). However, it has two conflicting mandates: at its nether reaches, it acts as a commuter rail line, and in the city, a traditional subway. This would work a lot like New York's Far Rockaway or Jamaica Bay subways...if there were express tunnels. Instead, since the tunnels are all two-track and there doesn't seem to be a way for overtaking to be scheduled in, all trains are effectively local trains. This works well on lines, in theory, where there are connections with MARC or VRE, since it enables local/express passenger transfer--that is, passengers originating on the Metro but wishing to skip intermediate stations and go straight downtown can use the commuter rail going to Union Station from places like Alexandria, Silver Spring, or New Carrollton, or passengers originating at Manassas and going to Bethesda, or Gaithersburg going to Rosslyn. However, since the ticketing networks of MARC, VRE, and the Metro are mutually exclusive, this is made prohibitively difficult for most passengers. Therefore, the first major action needed is to unify the ticketing schemes and operational patterns across the three networks, in a way that mirrors European S-Bahns. This is, of course, organizational improvement.
Even so, there are real concrete improvements that do need to be made. The network offers poor access (service gaps) into parts of the metropolitan area to the north, south, east, and west of downtown--most pronounced all along the Potomac, in east D.C.'s poorer neighborhoods, and directly west of the Pentagon. Additionally, as the core of the system was designed with the 1970s downtown in mind, it offers an increasingly inadequate service. (See Exhibit A.)
|Exhibit A. Note how current system, while adequate by American standards, has major gaps in several directions, and downtown service can be improved.|
|Exhibit B. The new network idea.|
|Exhibit C. Downtown lines and interlining.|
Red Line would be unchanged.
Orange Line would be unchanged.
Green Line would be unchanged.
Blue Line would run a new downtown tunnel from the Anacostia River, via H Street, to Union Station, where it would curve down to the National Mall, servicing the primary jobs and cultural centers in the city. It would then curve up through Foggy Bottom to Georgetown and return to the current Blue Line at Rosslyn.
Yellow Line would (1) be extended south from Huntingdon to Beacon Mall, (2) run a new tunnel via I and 2nd Sts. to Union Station, and (3) follow a new alignment north along North Capitol Avenue to Rhode Island Avenue and thence 18th St. NE out to Langdon and Howard Divinity School.
Silver Line would be extended along a new route along North Carolina Avenue, Tennessee Avenue, and the Bladensburg Road to Bladensburg and thence across the Anacostia out to Riverdale, where it would terminate in a new transfer stop with the MARC Camden Line.
Purple Line light rail would be unchanged. (It's a Maryland project, anyhow.)
Brown Line would run from Carderock, MD, via Langley, VA, and American University through Georgetown and thence interline along the Yellow and Green Lines into Anacostia, where it would peel off and continue running south to Forest Heights and National Harbor.
Pink Line would run from Walter Rand Medical Center in northern D.C. down through Columbia Heights, where it would interline with the Green Line to L'Enfant Plaza, and then interline with the Yellow Line to Pentagon, where it would follow a westerly route into Virginia via Columbia Pike to Bailey's Crossroads and Annandale.
This network would implement service to the D.C. area's major service gaps and greatly improve downtown circulation (especially around the Mall). Combined with fare and schedule unions with MARC and VRE, making cross-platform connections infinitely easier, this network would offer the D.C. area an impressive Generation II metro/commuter rail network.