Trains Versus Cars: The Costs Favor Trains

By way of Greater Greater Washington, we come across this post which argues that expanding the Metro system would be cheaper than expanding I-66, a major part of the DC area interstate system:

In Arlington for instance, going to eight-car trains on the Orange Line as part of Metro 2025 is like widening I-66 by two lanes. Let’s do the math:

  1. One lane of highway can move around 2,200 cars per hour, at its theoretical maximum.
  2. Today, every morning Metrorail runs about 18 trains per hour eastbound on the Orange Line through Arlington, and about a third are scheduled eight-car trains. That’s a train every three minutes, and equates to around 121 rail cars per hour, or 12,060 passengers per hour.
  3. By 2025 with eight-car trains, Metrorail will be able to run 21, eight-car trains per hour eastbound on the combined Orange and Silver Lines, which equates to 168 cars per hour.
  4. This means Metro 2025 will bring the line’s capacity to 16,800 riders per hour, or an increase of 4,740 passengers per hour.
  5. To accommodate 4,740 more people on I-66 at 2,200 cars per hour, 2 people per car, we’d need 4,740 / 2 / 2,200 = 1.1 highway lanes in each direction.

That means we’d need at least two new lanes on I-66 to match the capacity of Metro 2025. In addition, eight-car trains would be cheaper, and would likely move people faster through the corridor.

It will never happen, even though it should: the surrounding areas are unwilling to put money into mass transit beyond what they’ve already done (for reasons I don’t understand, few things cause people to fly off the handle more quickly than traffic policy). As long as Republicans control the House, there’s no chance that mass transit will be given more weight (and money) than cars. Still, it’s worth making the point; we might get lucky…

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4 Responses to Trains Versus Cars: The Costs Favor Trains

  1. colnago80 says:

    Hey, the teapartiers don’t like cars either as they refuse to raise the gas tax to pay for highway improvements. By the way, I66 inside the beltway ain’t going to be widened as Arlington Co. is against it.

  2. Min says:

    How to fight global warming? Let the highways go to hell. 😉

  3. anthrosciguy says:

    Trains in particular make Americans go off the rails.

    Very frustrating when you’ve been to Europe, where with trains and occasional buses you can so easily go almost anywhere.

    • albanaeon says:

      I don’t get the basic antipathy public transportation in general. Coming from a town with very basic bus service going to Orlando was an eye opener. We could get anywhere for a pittance at any hour with very little hassle.

      And after spending an hour stuck in Denver’s traffic due to ???, I am wondering why exactly a light rail from Pueblo to Fort Collins is such a non starter. Who likes stop and go traffic.

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