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new projects - extending the Blue Line to Largo in Prince George's, building a New York Avenue station on the Red Line and extending rail to Dulles International Airport, with stops in Tysons Corner.
As Metro starts digging the rail bed for the new century, some say it should correct its mistakes.
"If they just run [rail to Dulles] out the highway median and don't focus on development at the stations, it will be a wasted investment," Schwartz said.
If Metro won't pull the rail to Dulles off the Dulles Toll Road and route it into the heart of the suburbs, it should make the most of the stations along the highway, Risse and Schwartz said. They want stations of the new millennium to be built on platforms over the highway that would also support stores, offices and housing - all of it rising into the sky over the roadway.
"While there is record ridership and we are doing a good job, it's like having a Class C basketball team beating all its opponents and saying that's good enough," Risse said. "But there's Class B and Class A and Class AA. There's no reason this transit system can't be Class AA."
© 2001 The Washington Post Company
Crowds Could Derail Decades of Progress
By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 26, 2001
In the next 20 years, say the leaders of Washington's Metro, the transit agency must spend more than it cost to build the 103-mile subway system just to maintain the rail and bus lines it now operates.
Metro doesn't know where it will find all of those billions. But as the subway celebrates its silver anniversary this week, a new problem is brewing. Daily ridership that today totals about 600,000 -- and on some days overwhelms trains -- is going to double by 2025.
By then, six heavily used stations -- Metro Center, Gallery Place, L'Enfant Plaza, Farragut North, Union Station and Farragut West -- will have run out of passenger room on their platforms, mezzanines and escalators and at station entrances and fare gates, according to Metro's planners. They say the Orange Line won't be able to handle a single additional rider by 2020.
"We built it and they came -- and they're still coming," said Metro board member Katherine K. Hanley, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
The challenge of squeezing all those new passengers into trains and moving them through stations is not just a test of Metro's ability to serve the region. If the transit system can't meet the demand, passengers are likely to abandon the subway for the roadways -- which already are overburdened.
The result, transit advocates say, would be a meltdown of transportation services, threatening the local economy, environment and lifestyle.
Drawing a Crowd
While Metro managers acknowledge that they face the challenge of moving people from suburb to suburb, their primary focus for the past 33 years has been planning and building the 103-mile system -- a job they finished just in January.
Many of the new passengers Metro expects will come from three projects that are part of the original concept of a hub-and-spoke system: Metro plans to extend rail service to Dulles International Airport and Largo and to open a Red Line station at New York Avenue. The Dulles extension alone, serving Northern Virginia's high-technology corridor, is expected to generate 70,000 daily trips.
"We don't quite know when we'll be overrun, but once you hit that limit, you can't carry any more people," Metro General Manager Richard A. White said.
Commuters arriving at stations would have to wait on crowded platforms and watch as packed trains roll through -- a situation similar to today's overburdened Green Line, where transit police monitor platforms to prevent scuffles among passengers. The civility that has been a hallmark of Metro could become a quaint memory. Service could suffer, too, with more train breakdowns and delays.
Metro, which first carried passengers on March 27, 1976, would start losing riders to the roadways, White said.
"Then it becomes not just an issue for the transit system, but a quality-of-life issue for the region," he said, suggesting an era in which deliveries are always late, keeping appointments is a major logistical feat and people waste hours traveling just a few miles. "What you really have is a surface transportation system that grinds to a halt."
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