Should parking be added near Tysons Metro stations?

November 8, 2012

Like the other three Metro stations under construction in the Tysons area, the Tysons West station on Route 7 won’t have commuter parking. (Jeffrey MacMillan – Capital Business)

[In case you missed it: This is my column from Oct. 28.]

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I wonder when it is going to dawn on all those commuters coming down Leesburg Pike every morning that the rapidly approaching opening of Metro’s Silver Line stations apparently spells, for them, only confusion, confrontation and further gridlock.

The geniuses on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors apparently allowed themselves to be stampeded into denying that any sort of parking garages would be needed adjacent to the four Tysons stations.

When the stations open and desperate rider-commuters start parking in – and getting towed from – established commercial lots and mall garages, I bet that heads in the county government will start rolling.

Despite the Tysons Metrorail Station Access Management Study that arrogantly intimated that “driving will not be an option,” a just-released study by the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis titled “Connecting Transportation Investment and the Economy in Metropolitan Washington” suggests that the automobile will remain by far the dominant mode of transportation in the Washington area through 2040.

Apparently unnoticed by the folks preparing the county’s flawed comprehensive plan has been the success of convenient high-rise parking facilities within prosperous local centers such as Bethesda, Shirlington, Reston Town Center and Ballston, where workers and others can come, park, recreate and shop or commute to work via a smart combination of Metro and their cozy, convenient, climate-controlled, robber-proof capsules.

In the foreseeable future, commuting and shopping on foot or with bicycles – the planned utopian solution – is applicable only to a very tiny and hearty segment of the population.

— John Lucas, Wolf Trap

Many detailed transportation plans don’t survive their first encounters with rush hour.

But the comprehensive plan the county board adopted in 2010 set good goals for Tysons, and the board should stick to them. The goals are defined in the opening of the access study: “to take advantage of the arrival of Metrorail service to Tysons Corner and transform the area from the auto-oriented, suburban development pattern that exists today into a true urban downtown for Fairfax County.”

If the county buckles and encourages more parking for the four stations, then kiss that dream of a 21st- century downtown goodbye. Tysons would be more of a car magnet than ever.

Dupont Circle escalators

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

At 5:15 p.m. Tuesday [Oct. 23], I used the new escalators for the first time to enter the Dupont Circle station. I was kind of excited to see how they looked.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed, as one escalator was already not working, but I suppose not really surprised.

Looking down toward the mezzanine, the escalator on the right should have been moving down. Instead, customers had to walk down the steps into the station. The two upward-bound escalators were, however, working.

— Rodger Pitcairn, Rockville

The installation of the three new escalators and the reopening of the south entrance is one of a handful of highlights for Metro in 2012. For most of its history, Metro rarely replaced escalators, instead looping itself into a seemingly endless cycle of repairs, breakdowns and more repairs.

Metro’s new long-term plan calls for many replacements, and that’s a most-welcome pivot.

On Tuesday, one of the new escalators shut down because its sensor detected too much pressure on the comb plate at the end. It’s the sort of thing that might happen if a heavy piece of luggage hit it. An escalator technician, on standby during the break-in period, reset the unit and got it working again.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.
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