What are your picks for the top transportation developments of 2012?

Dr. Gridlock rates the opening of the express lanes on the Capital Beltway in Virginia as the top event of 2012. (Dayna Smith – For The Washington Post)

I made a top 10 list of the D.C. region’s transportation events for 2012, and we published it on Sunday’s Commuter page, but to do it, I had to think in a way that most travelers don’t.

I might conclude that for the entire region, the opening of the Beltway HOT lanes was the biggest deal. However, most travelers won’t even see those lanes. What planners call the “transportation network” is a very personal thing pegged to a particular route of prime importance to the individual traveler.

So the biggest transportation event of the year might be the installation of a new traffic signal that either slows them down as drivers or allows them a safer crossing as pedestrians. Or it might be the fact that the ceiling of the Farragut North Metro station went through the whole year looking just as ugly as it did the year before.

Please help me complete this year in review by adding your choices for the most significant transportation developments of 2012.

Here’s the short version of my picks:

Opening the 495 Express Lanes: The high-occupancy toll lanes are historic, bringing a new type of travel to the nation’s capital.

11th Street Bridge ramps: Many changes occurred throughout the year because of this project, but I think the two with the highest impact were the opening over the summer of the ramp from D.C. 295 South to the new bridge’s inbound freeway span and the opening this month of the ramp from the outbound span to D.C. 295 North.

Beltway bottleneck gone: The completion this year of the THRU and LOCAL lane system on both loops benefited both commuters and long-distance travelers on Interstate 95.

Rush Plus, or Minus: This was the year’s top transit event, more significant even than Metro’s fare increases, despite the new fares’ wider impact on riders.

Fare increases: The basic rail fare rose to $2.10 from $1.95 during the peak periods, but riders were affected in many different ways depending on the distance of their trips, the time of day and whether they parked at the station.

New bike lane: As Capital Bikeshare continued to expand its rent-a-bike service, the District expanded its network of bicycle lanes. This fall, the D.C. Department of Transportation added a one-way, bike-only route on the north side of L Street NW through much of the downtown.

Dupont Circle escalators replaced: What’s really encouraging is that Metro officials are moving away from the policy of fixing old escalators that won’t stay fixed and will begin to replace more and more of them.

Silver Spring transit center: Here, I added something that didn’t happen. At this point, transit users don’t need the center as much as they need relief from the disruption caused by the scattering of the bus stops across the busy downtown streets of Silver Spring.

Intercounty Connector extension: The Maryland State Highway Administration began work on extending the Intercounty Connector toll road east from I-95 to Route 1, the project’s final segment.

Apple Maps: Apple, which has had so many successes, stumbled badly when it introduced its own route-mapping system to replace Google Maps on its portable devices.

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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Robert Thomson · December 31, 2012

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