Friday, August 22, 2008

Here We Go Again

Wow, this is a kick in the teeth to the Tyson's Tunnel folks and good TOD. It sounds like good news, but its really just a way to get the elevated portion started so that no one can fight it later. Good work FTA. Way to be teh suck.


Robert said...

People are really over-estimating the negative impact that an elevated rail would have on development of the Tyson's corridor. Chicago's rail system is almost all elevated. The only subway section I can recall is a small strip of the red line under state street. Meanwhile, the entire northside astride the rail -- in some cases, mere feet from the tracks -- is completely packed with homes.

Transit supporters are often derided as Utopia-seekers, with our grand visions for beautiful parks and people traveling on foot and sitting in cafes, etc. Now, I don't take that as a serious argument, but transit supporters won this one and should remember that there will now be rapid transit in one of the most congested and visible corridors in the country.

Let's move on.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Robert. It's a waste of money to put the Metro underground, unless you're willing to invest billions more in completely revamping it's automobile infrastructure. None of the Tysons tunnel people have proposed that, not even turning the existing divided-highway style Routes 7 and 123 into boulevards or getting rid of the cloverleaf where they intersect.

In particular, they are currently building flyover ramps for auto access to the new Beltway HOT lanes. Putting them underground would be a much better investment in making Tysons pedestrian-friendly than undergrounding the Metro. So would replacing the cloverleaf at 7 & 123 with an underpass & traffic circle.

Cavan said...

I think the Tysons tunnel people have become NIMBY-like in their obsessions. We have elevated tracks in already existing walkable environments elsewhere in the Washington area. The Metro station in Silver Spring (MD) is elevated and it doesn't stop Silver Spring from being a walkable, vibrant area. Actually, the southern half of Silver Spring is cut in two by the tracks that are at grade.

Somehow, no one ever complains that the tracks are an eyesore. Then again, the tracks have been there (they share the B&O Railroad freight train viaduct) since the nineteenth century. Even still, I have seen elevated tracks work ok in Brooklyn, and Queens, NY. It's not ideal but it's hardly something that decreases the quality of life.

I think it's important for our next door neighbors to take the money and get on with it before inflation and materials costs eat away at the value of the FTA's disbursements. I applaud Gov. Kaine's moves to be speedy. Sadly, he has had to work with a lousy Bush Admin. FTA. I think that once the Silver Line gets built, no one will question its existence, they will simply ride it... kind of like the rest of the Metro system.

Alex B. said...

I'm also not convinced that the elevated line through Tysons is a blow to good TOD. The line will be elevated over what is essentially a highway. It won't change the width of the road it follows, regardless if the train is above it or below it.

The key to TOD in Tysons is the parcels adjacent to the stations.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

All good points. Thanks for the comments all. Part of the problem for me is visual as well as integration. Here in the Bay Area, all of the stations that are elevated are surrounded by parking lots and slow to develop TOD. Much of the development happens away from the station which in some cases like Hayward work all right as they created a good ped walkway into the neighborhood.

If it were a perfect world, the Tyson's line would tunnel under a minor street instead of a major one that could bring people closer to the action as it were. I always wonder what the South BART line could have been like if it went under International and each of the downtowns that it serves outside now instead of skirting the edge of them elevated. It's possible that is another issue all together but I'd rather have everything planned right instead of having to look back at what was wrong. We will see if it pans out like that.

Dave Murphy said...

I'm sure you're aware of the wholesale redevelopment that has been proposed for the Tysons Corner area. Perhaps the development will be somewhat affected by the above ground rails, but I do not believe the money/energy spent to fund a tunnel will be worth the effort in the end.

Cavan's not about the Silver Spring station is very important; downtown Silver Spring has a population of about 70,000. High density condos and apartments are built right along the tracks. My mother lives in one. No big deal.

There are also elevated stations in other areas around Metro that are being redeveloped, mostly on the Red Line. If being above ground gets it built, it keeps perfect from being the enemy of good.

Anonymous said...

Pantograph - I think the difference between Tysons and the elevated sections of BART is that the Silver Line through Tysons is basically serving density that's already there. In San Francisco terms, don't think about an underground Metro in Tysons Corner as like BART under Market Street or the underground sections in Berkeley and Oakland. Think of what would happen if the BART to Walnut Creek had been built underground under the freeway. Obviously, wouldn't have been worth the money.

Thomas said...

I actually agree with Overhead Wire. Of course it's true that building elevated rail is better than not building any at all.

But it's really too bad that the line won't be underground. I think the problem is a conflict with the point of walkability - that things are close together, since humans just can't go nearly as far as cars by themselves. Underground stations preserve precious space, allowing destinations to be closely linked, and themselves form the center of walkable areas. This might seem picky, but when we're talking about radii of quarter- or half-miles, then we can't afford to waste much at all.

I do think that Silver Spring is impressive, but in truth, it will never be quite as dynamic as other metro stops underground. It has no real center. Perhaps the four Tysons Corner stops can be done differently. I hope so. They're talking about getting 100,000+ people to live there!

Daniel M. Laenker said...

I think the best analogy for Tysons as a neighborhood is La Defense in Paris, or Canary Wharf in London. We could have built an underground line into the complex like Paris did, or we could build an elevated system that services large major sections of it like Docklands Light Rail. Both are highly effective means of transporting people into and out of these edge cities and better integrating them with the classical old cities they serve. Tysons and Washington are the same way.

I was a tunnel supporter, and I think that if the project were subject to competitive bid it would have been a cost-effective solution. But elevated rail will not be such a significant impediment to the redevelopment of the neighborhood as to undermine all of its other positive assets, to include significantly greater opportunities to connect Tysons to Metro.

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