How bad will the D.C. Metro shutdown be?

I am finding it difficult to get hard information on this plan, surprise, surprise.  They won’t say which lines will be shuttered and there is talk of “six months” for the shutdown, which I translate as “quite possibly more than a year.”  They are not even saying it will happen for sure, but I find bureaucracies don’t announce such “bad news possibilities” unless they think they are extremely likely.

It is likely that the previous closing of the Metro for a day for “inspections” was in part a theatrical play to justify this decision.  They already knew they would find what they were looking for, as no day-long investigation can reveal enough safety about a suspicious system to avoid a shutdown already thought to be necessary.

Given that Metro lines interconnect (“Only the Red Line runs independently of other lines“), and have hub-spoke relations, is it more efficient to close them all (or mostly) at once?  Can you imagine a 14-month period where the core of D.C. did not have much working metro service?  Or would it be a four- or five-year period with individual lines shuttered sequentially?  If the lines are truly so dangerous, it seems a bunch of them will close at once, and soon.

There is no longer much resilience in area traffic patterns, or so many possibilities for rerouting, so downtown might be at a gridlocked standstill much of the time; it’s already hard enough to cross past the White House since the closing of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Discretionary visitors would avoid the city altogether.  How many downtown coffee shops and lunch places will go out of business?  How many restaurants?  How would the Fourth of July fireworks be held?  Smithsonian events?  There is precious little parking near the Mall.  How about getting the workers from D.C. to the Pentagon and to Reagan National Airport?

For many of the government agencies, the IT infrastructure cannot handle a significant percentage of the employees trying to telecommute at the same time.  This is not commonly understood.

Many suburbanites will have their first experiences with local buses.  But they still have to get from the bus stops to their places of work, and/or park near the bus stops.  So often parking is the ultimate constraint.

What other economic implications should I be thinking about?

Will the authorities use this opportunity to upgrade anti-terrorist protections in the Metro?

Might we actually learn that travel is less important than we had thought, and that much of that to and fro was just an input into costly signaling?  One wag even suggested to me that the D.C. area could in fact improve, national gdp might go up too.

If you are looking to make Tysons Corner a viable city, this is a good way to start!

I find this story to be under-covered so far.  Here is background information on the metro crisis — I was so impressed when I first saw and rode it in 1979, it felt as if I had stepped into the future.  Today, here is the Twitter feed UnsuckDCMetro.


I would also expect housing prices to be distorted. Given that there will be a new administration, regardless of who it is, I expect many new people coming in that would rather live in the city than commute. Also prices/rents on MARC/VRE I expect to increase

Worth noting that a track switch broke and stranded all VRE riders for several hours Friday afternoon. I was only able to get home by taking.... the Metro, and getting picked up by car at the last stop.
VRE is generally way more reliable than Metro, but the entire system is not very resilient.

Apocalypse Now! Free market solutions appear to be worse though- don't they

MARC fares rose sharply just last summer, thanks to Maryland's Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act. Under that same law, fares must be adjusted every two years based on CPI. The same law applies to fares for Maryland MTA buses (commuter and local), and the Baltimore-area subway and light-rail lines.

Governor (Leisure-suit) Larry Hogan noentheless lowered state-administered tolls on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which is driven by many of his constituents.

And left the cash tolls unchanged on the Baltimore tunnels and Key Bridge.

And prices next to Metro stations will plummet.
Buying opportunity.

Could be good news for the buses. If the correct type of people start riding them there will be a good incentive to expand the network massively. When I was in HS and taking classes at GW one summer many years ago coming from Falls Church I had to stand in the grass along the side of Lee Highway and the drivers wouldn't even always stop. Even that was just to get to an Orange Line stop and into the city, I don't think any bus went all the way in. They start packing people into the buses and young black males like myself even might have someone sit next to us!

If you dress nicely, we won't be afraid of you.

Haha, you got jokes. If they could get the buses rolling like Boston that would be decent, very good network there.

I wouldn't know. I drive a car. White privilege!

Suburb privilege.
I walked down Belmont Ave sidewalks Friday night. Entirely covered in trash, to such an extent the liquid actually formed pools in some sections. Disgusting.

Is there any incentive to take the bus over driving, since there's no speed advantage (unless DC has dedicated bus lanes?).

Hmmm. This seems to be an equilibrium, where everyone would be better off if everyone took the bus, because of the lower traffic; but since you're worse off if you take the bus and most people don't, hardly anyone does.

Maybe DC needs to ban cars for the duration of the shutdown? Whilst there will be a lot of corruption involved, passes could be granted for people who have need of a car. Or they could have a sufficiently high congestion charge to make riding the bus the best choice for the majority.

The advantage is the bus drops you off at your destination (office, transit station, residence). Attempting to do the same with a car will result in your getting a ticket or your car towed.

--Well, you don't have to park on arrival, which is both time consuming and usually expensive (to someone, even if not to you personally).
--Assuming you can get a seat, you can read or do something useful en route,
--Lower stress and lower risk: commuting drivers are especially prone to seize the right-of-way, make illegal maneuvers, and generally take excessive risk. You don't have to deal with them directly, or cope with the occasional fender-bender.
--Lower auto insurance rates.
--Many public parking garages in downtown DC have tiny spaces. Park regularly and look forward to an array of scratches and dings on your vehicle.
--Building some exercise into your daily schedule by walking to/from bus stop is good for your health.

+1 to all of these points. Driving to work in D.C. is an aesthetic and emotional nightmare.

Perhaps DC should ban unions & incompetent bureaucrats since they caused the problem

How serious a problem is sexual (and other) harassment on DC-area public transit?

Please God never make me move anywhere near DC! Please God...Please! Amen.

It seems to have many of the disadvantages of somewhere such as London or NYC with almost none of the advantages.

except us news just ranked it 8th best place to live in the us. nyc, not so much. I guess you don't consider some of the best museums, culture and restaurants in the country advantages. please stay where you are.

It seems to have many of the disadvantages of somewhere such as London or NYC

The traffic is similarly nightmarish, but the cost of living is significantly lower, as is the population density if you prefer not to be stacked on top of your 1 million closest neighbors

with almost none of the advantages

Aside from a similar concentration of world-class cultural and educational institutions (Smithsonian Institution, Library of Congress, Georgetown, etc.), a burgeoning theater scene, and a growing local economy, I suppose you're correct.

I think I would like living in DC if not for the summer heat.

Actually, the ART museums of DC are shockingly narrow. The only collection of anything European much before the Renaissance is Dumbarton Oaks. The Freer/Sackler is a world-class museum, but hardly the size of the Asian collections in NYC or Chicago.

If so-called terrorists were clever, this is the kind of action they'd take. It strikes directly at the people who run the government and makes them miserable. While the authorities are all concerned about airplanes and the Superbowl, who's watching the trains? If I were in charge, I'd attack in the middle of a blizzard though -- best to start from a high base of misery and then add to it.

If any so-called terrorist tried to futz with DC transportation infrastructure, they would quickly learn the meaning of the word sparagmos.

As a daily metro rider, this is something I worry about constantly. A suicide bomber or a Mumbai-style hit squad at Gallery Place on a weekday morning would throw the entire city into unbridled chaos.

Do you also worry about slipping and falling in a bathroom, being shot by an armed American, a car driving onto the sidewalk? All of these events are far more likely to occur than a terrorist attack.

They're also more randomly distributed events, so the comparison is pointless.

Unless you think it's just a coincidence that European capitals are the western cities being struck in the past year.

1. I stooped using smoothing shampoo for that reason.
2. Virginia arms and Beltway road rage.
3. Maryland drivers, 4-wheelers and cyclists dominate sidewalks.

Note SF's BART system – which has often seemed to be Metrorail's twin in many aspects of car, station, and pay-card design – has been wrestling with surprise problems on one track segment the last few weeks:

I recall not long ago MR highlighting how transit stoppages may motivate people to learn permanently better practices: "Did the London Tube strike improve social welfare?"

The IT for telecommuting can be upgraded faster than transport infrastructure – and if not to every home, to remote coworking facilities with good bandwidth & office-support functions.

A long shutdown would be a perfect chance to launch an app-based congestion-pricing system: drivers check their car's license plate into an official smartphone app to enter the city, and then they're charged by time/distance, measured by the app's geo-services, at whatever floating rates are necessary to maximize traffic flow. With such incentives, UberPool/LyftLine/etc dynamic rideshares, often in vans/shuttles, would quickly multiply roads' carrying-capacity.

If the fix is taking too long, maybe just fast-forward to the semi-paved-rails of Brad Templeton's "Future of Mass/Public Transit" vision – see ("Rail/Road" section 4/5th down the page) – where wheeled electric vehicles share rail rights-of-way.

I can't imagine how anything could possibly go wrong with tracking the location of every driver in the most important political capital in the world.

It's charming that you think they're not already!

Both license-plate readers and individual phone/wireless-device trackers have come a long way, and are used extensively even in areas without the same security concerns as DC.

But if you wanted, you could design such a road-billing system for privacy, paying for routes (or appearance at certain checkpoints, by license-plate or smartphone crypto-token) without revealing payor's/driver's/passengers' identities. The best incentives are possible if every road-segment can be metered separately, but even just a system of a few major zones – like say the classic DC taxi fare zones – or a single central congestion district would achieve much of the benefit.

I'm sure all the immigration since '79 has improved the political economy so this should be fixed quickly. It'll be Japan that has infrastucture problems--not diverse enough!

Ever been crammed into a Tokyo subway during rush hour?

Have you considered taking medicine for your OCD?

All that pre-'79 immigration was just the best though.

In Boston, when they shut down the T (subway), they usually just run buses along the same routes. Not as good as running the trains, obviously, but at least people can go to the same stops.

That also allows them to close only the stations necessary, running the busses only between the affected stations.

The stops in the T system are so much closer together though. The green line is hardly better than a bus half the time. The government center stop just reopened after two years! I don't know I'd dc could make it.

This solution will not work on DC. Distance between stops is quite big.

They have used buses before in DC, but only between closed parts of the lines. Back in 2008 I visited and stayed in Alexandria and took the yellow line in, but had to get off and use a bus for a portion of it.

The DC Metro regularly uses buses between stops when there is some problem on a segment or station.

'was in part a theatrical play to justify this decision'

They just needed to imagine a can opener to make the problem go away, right?

'They already knew they would find what they were looking for, as no day-long investigation can reveal enough safety about a suspicious system to avoid a shutdown already thought to be necessary.'

Change 'no day-long investigation can reveal' to 'a day-long investigation can confirm' and see how this entire point just goes away.

'If you are looking to make Tysons Corner a viable city, this is a good way to start!'

Til Hazel agrees with such sentiments wholeheartedly, unsurprisingly.

'I was so impressed when I first saw and rode it in 1979, it felt as if I had stepped into the future.'

Brutalism - yep, that sure felt like the future in 1979.

You are all such frequent metro riders that no one noticed the map is missing an entire route: the relatively recent silver line.

I noticed.
I can't believe how fucking incompetent they must be if the recently constructed Silver Line has problems.

@Bliss: as for the map missing the Silver Line, blame Tyler. The map in the Post article looks right to me.

"I noticed. I can’t believe how fucking incompetent they must be if the recently constructed Silver Line has problems."

The only recently-constructed stuff is 5 stops from McLean to Wiehle-Reston. (And obviously the track, and whatever stuff between Wiehle-Reston and Dulles that they haven't opened yet, and I'd be surprised if they didn't have to do some kind of work to existing track to get ready for the Silver Line. But you get the idea - 80 percent of the Silver Line is existing track.) The rest of the silver line shares the track with the orange and blue lines. Even if the new construction is in perfect condition, it wouldn't be worth keeping open if it ended at McLean.

Why is permanently shutting down every Sunday not an option? "Don't go on Metro on Sundays" is pretty easy to remember.

For one, weekends see a lot of tourist activity on Metro.

The Tube in London has work done at night and on weekends

Oh, Metro does do weekend work, a decent amount. But they don't completely close it on weekends as a general rule. They might close one part of a line on a weekend here and there, or do single tracking to keep it open , but open with delays.

That hasn't stopped metro from being functionally useless most weekends outside of peak bloom. I would frankly prefer they just shut it down and run more buses to compensate.

Presumably if the issue is a safety hazard, it can break down at the risk to people's live at any moment. Shutting down only on sundays doesn't seem to be an option.

I'm guessing that nobody wants to be the guy at the head of the metro when hundreds of people get stranded in the Rosslyn tunnel and die of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Or you know, you people could move to cities where you can drive in your own car instead of having to ride in an underground turd sandwich.

Bonus points: you will then be able to afford more than a tuna box for a house.

Of course, you will have to deal with the numerable downsides of such cities, like, lack of diversity.

Most people who ride Metro also have cars, fool.

A non-sequitur response. I said cities where you CAN drive your own car.

And in cities with metros, you CAN drive your own car. I do it all the time. Ha.

Sigh. It's like talking to a 3 year old.

You literally have no idea what' you're talking about, clearly. In almost no urban areas are people forced to take public transit.

Perhaps the one talking about a "turd sandwich" is being more the toddler here?

I think his point is not that you MAY drive your own car but that you CANNOT. Not a matter of permission but one of actual feasibility. Sitting for time on end is not really driving... is it?

Try doing it when everyone else in the DC metro area is also doing it.

Downsides like... *having* to drive your own car, because there's no public transit option and it's too far to walk?

My suburb has bike trails in addition to moving roads, yards, zero crime, good schools, and ample parking.

Is it feasible to commute by bike to work or shopping?

Depends on your job and your shopping habits. For my job? No. For my shopping habits? Yes, I can easily buy a bike trailer and bike the 1 mile to the closest grocery store. Not so easy for my mother shopping for a family of 6, but public transit wouldn't fix that problem.

Someone has a chip on his shoulder about living in flyover.

Tsk, tsk, a salutary lesson: the importance of Preventative Maintenance for infrastructure.

Where are all the scolds who claim the USA spends too much on infrastructure, not too little?

For all the billions wasted on trains in DC and elsewhere, they could have build 3 times as many roads, to move 10 times as many people.

Trains, subways etc are literally the dumbest form of infrastructure invented by man kind. Which, of course, it is why it is a DC favorite.

The precise opposite of what you say is the actual reason for building them. I don't think every single city on the planet with more than 1 million people could simultaneously be so dumb as to make the same mistake of making congestion-reducing investments which actually increase congestion. And not to mention the pollution ...

"I don’t think every single city on the planet with more than 1 million people"

Wow. You actually live on a planet where every city of more than 1 million people has a subway system? What planet is that? In the US, only a small handful of very large cities have subway systems, and of those maybe only 1 could be considered a "success" (in so far as actually overcoming geographic barriers of islands is concerned).

BTW, I know math is probably not a strong point here, but I would assume you can figure out the cost-benefit analysis of such transit projects which cost multiple billions of dollars (some per mile!), vs. the actual use they get...vs. the alternative arrangements.

And yes I'm more than certain that virtually every large city is indeed run by morons. They're called politicians.

Here where I live they have already spend multiple billions on some stupid light rail lines which literally block traffic and only carry a minuscule number of people. There's little doubt of how stupid the people who plan these things are.

You, sir, are the moron:


It's telling, BTW, that you would post a picture from China. LOL.

BTW, I'm going to try and give a serious response to your non-serious response. In order to build a subway system (or other non-bus based transit system) to accommodate that sort of demand would cost about 10x more in fixed costs that to build a comparable highway system, and would require a minimum of 10x yearly maintenance costs of said highway system. In the process, you would also need considerably higher density and centralization in order for it to work, which would lead to 2x increases in living costs for those unfortunate enough to be caught up in such a city. And of course you wold never actually recover the costs of such a system since you would never actually be able to charge sufficient prices for customers (and even what you would charge, may end up costing more for them then driving, but it would never be enough to recover the fixed or variable costs of the system)

So this is simply basic addition and subtraction: costs vs. benefits. Not simply the costs of the system itself (to build and over its lifetime), but also the additional costs associated with higher density and centralization imposed on the consumers. Oh, and, BTW, you'll still do nothing to reduce commute times.

"So this is simply basic addition and subtraction: costs vs. benefits."

Your analysis is woefully incomplete. Having fast, reliable public transit increases property values as it reduces the need for unsightly expressways near population and business centers and increases accessibility to congested areas during peak times. Additionally, by some estimates, an additional car on the road imposes substantial externalities on other drivers. Even if you never use the train or subway, all the people who do are doing you a favor by making your drive that much easier.

Finally, as a point on political economy, gas taxes and tolls on major roads are theoretically supposed to function as user fees for the highway system but, at the federal level, the highway system is in deficit. If you are going to evaluate an infrastructure project on whether it will realistically recoup its costs from user fees, highways don't necessarily make the cut either. But it's a silly way to look at a project because we should be including externalities.

Yup, rip out the subway lines of D.C. and Manhattan and replace them with several 8-lane elevated expressways along with amply-sized parking lots to accommodate all the extra cars and watch property values soar!

The idea is to make property values...fall. So you can live somewhere other than a $700,000 tuna can they call a "home".

No, replacing subways with highways isn't going to do anything for Manhattan or DC. Too late for that. Allowing businesses to be build elsewhere other than a single centralized area, by making movement easier, would, however.

Funny how fewer people are driving and driving less. They clearly have no idea what they're doing.

One day when you get a big boy job and have to drive in rush hour traffic a few days a week you'll be begging for a functional subway.

Yes, currently businesses are not "allowed" to build anywhere outside single centralized areas. There are thousands of suburban office parks and strip malls in New Jersey, NoVA, pretty much the entirety of San Mateo and Silicon Valley south of San Francisco and dozens of other places throughout the U.S. that prove you wrong but I have a feeling facts don't matter here.

"Funny how fewer people are driving and driving less. They clearly have no idea what they’re doing.
One day when you get a big boy job and have to drive in rush hour traffic a few days a week you’ll be begging for a functional subway."

LOL. Thanks. I lived for too many years in NYC. Jan, when you grow up and get a big boy job, and have a big boy family, and buy a big boy house, maybe you'll figure out why underground turd sandwiches aren't the way to go.

BTW, here's your share of driving vs transit in the US:

LOL...yeah I must be wrong and everyone must be right. Oh wait, everyone seems to agree with me.

"Yes, currently businesses are not “allowed” to build anywhere outside single centralized areas. There are thousands of suburban office parks and strip malls in New Jersey, NoVA, pretty much the entirety of San Mateo and Silicon Valley south of San Francisco and dozens of other places throughout the U.S. that prove you wrong but I have a feeling facts don’t matter here."

"Allowing", as in...making easier. Try to read things before responding.

AIG, you completely ignored my point. People are driving less and there are fewer of them entering the roads every year. Do you dispute that? That's simply the direction the country is heading. Don't worry, nobody is going to make you take a train. You'll be out living somewhere on the fringe of suburbia or sitting in gridlock, but it'll be your choice.

"Jan, when you grow up and get a big boy job, and have a big boy family, and buy a big boy house, maybe you’ll figure out why underground turd sandwiches aren’t the way to go."

Let's see, I've got a house, a family, a car that we drive every weekend, AND I take the Metro to work. So, I've pretty much done it all. Somehow, I haven't come to you conclusion about "turd sandwiches." Sorry, the only possible response is that I'm right and you're wrong. That's how we do it here, right?

The great revolution in American quality of life came about precisely by moving away from centralized locations of living and doing business, and reliance on public transport. I.e., the destruction of the core "city". Somehow, however, a segment of politicians and the public think that going back to 1880's level of technology is the key to improving life.

Yes, erecting giant highways through the middle of big cities was great all around. Bonus: brown people on one side of the highway,whites on the other!

"Yes, erecting giant highways through the middle of big cities was great all around"

Indeed, it was. It killed cities, and let the suburbs flourish.

And you're angry that the movement of people and economic activity is reversing back to cities now? Ok, so don't live there. Don't go around like a jackass spouting nonsense about it.

I suppose it's fitting that this thread is a train wreck

Highways and roads are far superior in that they actually get me where I want to go. Ride-sharing programs benefit me as much more than the "L" system, and probably would more were the ride-shares self-driving (eliminating the substantial labor cost).
Modern IT removes my need to commute entirely: I am in the office due to residual corporate norms.
"Core cities" is precisely the wrong direction and mostly the delusion of Yuppies with more political influence than they should have.

"And you’re angry that the movement of people and economic activity is reversing back to cities now?"

It actually isn't though (at least not in the US). Faster population growth in dense cities than suburbs appears to have been only a brief blip that has since reverted to the pattern of greater suburbanization:

Particularly notable is the continued migration of Americans to the newer, southern metro areas that are far less dense than older cities in the northeast.


The article you link to says that growth is faster in the suburbs because of tight supply in dense areas, suggesting there is still interest in moving there if costs were brought down. This could be done if construction restrictions were eased.

@AIG: "The great revolution in American quality of life came about precisely by moving away from centralized locations of living and doing business, and reliance on public transport. I.e., the destruction of the core “city”. "

Hey, everybody, look! It's Joel Kotkin!

Yes, Baltimore has benefited so much from seeing its public transit infrastructure gutted in favor of highway arteries that bisect the city core.

AIG, since you are locked into your car centric view I have some questions for you.

How do you explain the large subsidies that auto transportation receive? How do you pay for more roads in a crowded metropolitan area? Why do you think that most American cities are investigating and building mass transit systems?

Land costs make new roads prohibitively expensive. More roads rarely reduce congestion and often exacerbate the problem. Congestion pricing may make a small difference but is politically unpalatable.

Who pays for and provides parking for all the additional cars? How do you deal with the increase in pollution? How do you deal with the increase of green houses gases?

Mass transit moves more people more efficiently and cheaper for the individual even without subsidies. Most people have the illusion that it takes longer by comparing commute times to congestion free travel time. The deadweight loss of productivity of having people sit in their two ton contrivances is staggering. You obviously have never tried to drive in the Silicone Valley of other "suburban" area during rush hour.

How could they build more roads? We're talking a built-up city not the boondocks. There's no more room (or very, very little) room for any more roads. Have you been to DC?

The US does spend too much, but is very bad at getting good value for the money -- particularly when it comes to rail projects:

And for roads, the bang-for-the buck appears especially bad in 'blue' states where infrastructure spending seems as much about jobs & cronies than roads & bridges:

The problem is competence of local government. Flint was another place where incompetent local government created a huge problem.

Maybe just rip out the rails and turn it into a underground, electric, self-driving BRT system. Voila, no more "track work."

Politicians hate buses and love trains. I really can't figure out why, since buses are 100x cheaper, don't block 50% of the roadway they're on (like light rail does), are infinitely more flexible than rail, and don't require billions of dollars in maintenance per year.

And yet, cities like DC piss away billions of dollars per year on ridiculous rail projects which will never pay themselves back in 15,000 years of operation...when they could have just bought a couple of buses to do the same thing.

Just explain to everybody how cool the bus system will be when it's all autonomous, electric, rapid and run by software.

Seriously, what is the advantage of expensive, dangerous rail in a world of autonomous vehicles? All the advantages of rail (less labor, more capacity, speed) are rendered moot by software. And a subway track is a perfect place for autonous vehicles because it's self-contained.

Autonous is actually a great name. Credit bjk.

Because trains have complex maintenance needs so it's much easier to instill politically connected friends to earn lots of overtime on the city's train system. Most voters have a solid understanding of both road maintenance levels and automotive maintenance requirements which makes graft much harder to hide.

'automotive maintenance requirements which makes graft much harder to hide'

Not according to at least one noted member of the GMU econ dept.

OK, that was pretty funny.

Small buses straight from suburbs to city centers work very well. But then you get protests that the poor aren't allowed on them and mumble mumble google bus mumble mumble freakin' nerds mumble.

Or a hovertrain system -

Steel-on-steel has advantages when it comes to energy efficiency, but I don't think it makes sense for a low speed metro system, given the increased maintenance requirements and the greater acceleration afforded by rubber-on-concrete. Keep the steel-on-steel trains for intercity journeys, where the 140 mph speed limit (conventional rail, tilting trains) can actually be reached.

If this is just about fixing the subway lines, its going to be expensive. But its not. No way does an electrical problem cause the entire subway to be grounded. This is all about security. The government knows something and they want to have the ability to limit travel within the city for a long period of time.

It's only peripherally about security, it's really about control. In fact, there must be a perceived threat to security in order to justify control, the two go hand in hand. This is a further pilot project, an extension of the TSA. Eventually, traffic from Kaycee, Wyoming to Red Owl, South Dakota will be monitored and controlled as well.

On first glance you might think that DC metro is rather nice and modern but the Beijing metro is far better. In Beijing the underground station platforms are very long and can accommodate very long trains. The trains run much more frequently than in DC and the trains are much faster. The first time that I used line 6 in Beijing, I was standing in the middle of this very long platform when a train entered the station at what seemed like an extremely high rate of speed. I thought to myself, "No way this train can stop in time." But the platform was very long and the train slowed rapidly when it got to the end. No problem.

Also, all of the newer Beijing lines have double doors so there is no danger of falling on the tracks.

The real test is, will it work in 10 years? Do you want to bet?

During the later 1970s I participated with Gannett Fleming in a National Rail Study. Looking at comparative numbers at that time the subsidy required for NYC transit was around $1 per rider vs. $3.50 per rider on WMATA.

Wasn't the "theatrical play" intended as a loud and clear public warning not to ride the metro, to find alternatives to the metro, to expect a long shut-down? Preventing a terrorist attack on an airplane is one thing, but preventing a terrorist attack on the metro is of a different order of magnitude. Krugman's column today is about the "urban renaissance", the shift to urban centers by the highly educated and affluent, the shift to other areas by the less educated and less affluent. Krugman's column is about urban housing (he and Tabarrok agree on something), but it could just as well be about urban public transit because without transit, there is no urban renaissance. Will terrorism, or the threat of terrorism, send the highly educated and affluent to Texas, Arizona, and Florida, and return big cities to "arenas of dystopian social collapse"?

Will terrorism, or the threat of terrorism, send the highly educated and affluent to Texas, Arizona, and Florida, and return big cities to “arenas of dystopian social collapse”?

No. People are moving because of job opportunities and quality of life, not fear of terrorism. Renewed collapse of big cities does not seem far-fetched, though. Not because of terrorism, but more likely due to crime, high-taxes, public-pension fueled debt crises, etc. Chicago seems to be the current poster child:

"Chicago Murder Rate at 15-year-high"

"Fitch Downgrades Rating on Chicago Debt to One Notch Above Junk"

Aside from transient fluctuations like last year's upheavals in Baltimore, There's no evidence that crime is getting worse in the cities. Quite the contrary in fact. And the dirty little secret is that you can live in a crime-prone city like Baltimore and as long you stay out of certain neighborhoods (and are involved with the drug trade) you're not likely to end up a statistic, except for the most minor sort of crime (say, a car break in) that also happen in suburbs.
I live in Baltimore. Last night a friend and I went down to the Harbor for the last night Of the "City of Lights" festivals. Scads and scads of people people were out-- and lots of police-- and no sign of trouble. My friend and I discussed a bit the fact that Baltimore was really two cities: the safe, polished, creative functional city we live in; and the run-down, dysfunctional, blighted mess that is West Baltimore (and parts of East Baltimore too). "A Tale of Two Cities".

Erratum: "And are NOT involved with the drug trade"

If crime rates in cities go up substantially, though, the whole gentrification process is going to suddenly look a lot less appealing for potential buyers.

It depends where the crime is going up. Gentrifiers coexist quite easily with crime waves that are a couple miles up the road in neighborhoods they never set foot in.

"For many of the government agencies, the IT infrastructure cannot handle a significant percentage of the employees trying to telecommute at the same time."

I hate to make the mistake of underestimating the incompetence of government IT, but even taking that into account, I'm skeptical. Most of office employees do takes very little bandwidth (sending and receiving emails, reading and writing reports, talking on the phone). They're not streaming HD video from Youtube all day. Or maybe they are. But in that case, telecommuting would help (by getting all that activity onto home networks and off the government's pipes).

While I am of that variety of office employee you mention, a significant portion of telecommuting for knowledge workers is now composed of connecting to a virtual desktop or to virtual apps using something like Citrix Receiver. The bandwidth requirements for these are not trivial. Don't know the composition of government employees that might do that though. Also, depending on the hosting of these solutions, activity may not be off the government pipes even while telecommuting.

Using a virtual desktops for office applications is higher than IMAP/POP email, but vastly lower than HD streaming video (most of the time, very little is changing on a word/excel/powerpoint/outlook screen, and only the deltas are actually transmitted). Unless, of course, you have employees who are streaming lots of video on their virtual desktops...

Even if bandwidth isn't the issue, you have a server farm designed for occasional teleworkers and weekend/night work. A much larger server farm would be required to have everyone telecommute all day every day. Setting aside red tape and budget concerns, that's an easy fix - just add several servers (or a few powerful servers plus virtualization), but this is the government, so red tape and budget concerns dominate

Copy la Clinton: just you govt workers install your own servers and the hell with security considerations.

No, they'd be streaming the HD video over their VPNs.

Hopefully the govt would be smart enough to split the traffic, or the govt worker would be smart enough to stream from his own personal device.

Yep, if the VPN is too slow to support Netflix, I assume they'll be smart enough to prop up their phone or iPad on the desk to watch.

video conferencing where some high muck-a-muck wants to make a policy announcement, and a simple email just isn't sufficiently grand.

Seems like this would be a good opportunity to install bus-only rapid transit lanes along major city streets and routes of egress (I-66, 395, 495, 270) to provide both a viable alternative to Metro and the incentive to ride public transit.

Regardless of how you feel about cars, DC traffic is so bad already that there is no way the highway system could handle the extra volume. And no places to build another highway in the city.

I agree.

For a comparison, New York and New Jersey operates a part-time exclusive bus lane along New Jersey route 495 through the Lincoln Tunnel, that only operates for four hours on weekday mornings, yet in 2014 averaged over 1800 buses/day, More people were transported into Manhattan via the XBL than New Jersey Transit's trains into Penn Station.

Bus Rapid Transit and other bus improvements are woefully underused in the US.

>I find this story to be under-covered so far.

You do? Apparently you expected the NYT to run extensive coverage of the complete inability of Government to provide basic services to its citizens? In the middle of a Presidential election?

I suggest you get out of the bubble a little bit more.

Actually on the NY Times home page at the moment.

"For many of the government agencies, the IT infrastructure cannot handle a significant percentage of the employees trying to telecommute at the same time. This is not commonly understood."

They can all set up email servers at home - just ask Hillary!

Your map is missing the silver line

If this happens it will be interesting to see how it effects me. We moved to the White Flint/Twinbrook area a few months back. Sold one of the cars and chose the apartment based on being able to walk to work. We really can walk to everything we need. Having the Red Line so close is great because Union Station (Amtrack) and National are easy legs of longer trips and everything in DC is an elevator ride and a five minute walk away. Compared to the Green Line on the T the DC Metro is still a giant step into the future, and when we lived outside Norfolk it was car or nothing.

I don't know how many people in the new buildings on/along Rockville Pike are getting o nthe Metro every day and might look to move if it wasn't an option. I have been surprised how many people I see gettign off the train at those stops to go t owork though. Maybe they would move in and it would be a wash?

We'll see maybe.

What an alarmist, unhelpful "Oh NO!" piece of dreck. Fear-mongering Fox News-style by raising lots of dire questions but not making any effort to seriously research or address them. Crap article, looks like a hit job.

It's the government's job to seriously address the problem, not Tylers. So far, they haven't. hence the alarm.

Metro is threatening to shut down as a negotiation ploy. The goal is to get more money from the jurisdictions around DC.

Exactly! This is a negotiation technique. The interim safety chief didn't want to play along, so resigned before they made this threat.

This is a great point. Maybe it's less about the jurisdictions around DC though and instead a ploy to get the Feds to pony up. Congress sucks at getting anything done outside of its members' narrow self-interests. I think the threat of the absolute hell this would unleash (which we already saw a month ago -- possibly a brilliant move?) is enough to make those on Capitol Hill get over the bipartisanship really quickly.

This will be NYC in a decade or two at most.

One saving grace for NYC, as well as a lot of others like Chicago and Boston, is that each line was generally a separate project, and so the service life of the associated infrastructures will end at staggered intervals. Maybe MTA needs to shut down the A/C/E at some point, but the other lines should be available to absorb that capacity.

Because the DC metro system was built in practically one fell swoop back in the 70's, the entire system is failing all at once. Prioritizing, say, the Red Line for a shutdown doesn't mean the other lines won't still be falling apart.

Holy god, this is going to be an epic cluster fuck the likes of which has not been seen since Boston's Big Dig.

This could mean the collapse of DC's taxi cartel.
There will be massive demand for Uber and ridesharing services.

The hipsters might like it because they will bike everywhere. Maybe install some massive bike lanes, including over the bridges into Virginia. This is probably going to be the only feasible option.

Say hello to DC, Beijing style.

I can think they will close 1 or 2 lines at once and reopen them and then 2 other lines and so forth. Or just portions of lines. People are overreacting everywhere as usual. There are more who *want* the Metro shutdown but its social media. Make sarcastic remarks and not be held accountable unless you want to be blocked.

Other cities are doing so its possible but as you mentioned all the other factors involved like businesses closing due to the lower level of people using Metro. And even now, stores are closing up at a higher rate near the White House due to a reconstruction going on with some building near G Street.

From the article: " Washington’s Metro system could face a $100 million budget shortfall next fiscal year, according to the chairman of the agency that oversees it."
and " Metro riders made roughly 261 million trips last year, according to the American Public Transportation Association."

So, increase fares by $0.50.

Or is that too logical for the Washington DC brain trust running the Metro?

Something to bear in mind: the Metro is not just run by DC city government. Congress has its hands in it, as with everything in the District .And parts of the metro are in Maryland and Virginia, requiring cooperation from those states' transportation agencies.

All consequences come down to one word, in the end:


Good. A Washington Shutdown is as close as we will ever get to freedom in the 21st Century.

"It relies solely on allocations from its three jurisdictions and on its own fares for operations."

Relying on fares for operations? Bizarre!

Comments for this post are closed