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.


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