City Desk

Metro Spent $200,000 on a Study Imagining D.C. with No Metro

In a study released last month, WMATA conducted quite the thought experiment: What if there weren't a transit system at all?

WMATA took the same transportation demand model that it uses to project ridership on a new line and instead ran a couple of scenarios with the region’s transit literally turned off. All of it: the regional rail, the buses and the metro system.

"It was literally just imagining Washington, and all of a sudden, you wake up tomorrow, and the transit system isn’t there," Antos says. "What would you do?"

People, it turns out, do something very interesting. They stop making long car trips because the traffic is so bad. In one hypothetical scenario, Antos took away the transit but kept the rest of the area’s road infrastructure the same. People were allowed to change their trip patterns – to chose different jobs or shopping centers – and most of them stopped crossing the region to get to those things.

There's more at the Atlantic Cities, and it's all well and good, but the piece ignores a couple of things.

1) Without transit, the District would have developed in a completely different way, so wondering what would happen if it disappeared tomorrow, while fun, is also kind of silly.

2) According to WMATA spokesman Dan Stessel, this study cost just under $200,000 to conduct.

Stessel defends the cost, pointing out that's only 16 cents per rider, and the study—which, granted, has more to it than the projection of life without transit—will help the board make planning decisions. And to be fair, the findings, which amount to "Metro is good for D.C.," aren't bad (and WMATA could certainly use the PR), but the price tag still seems hefty. That's almost enough money to maintain four escalators!

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • hyrcan

    So THAT's why all of the escalators at Georgia Ave/Petworth station are out.

  • Lightning

    Imagine DC with a much less costly above ground & more extensive trolley system with bridges to VA!

  • Exavier126

    @Lightning- That would totally work...if we had the property values of a third-world city. They could have gone for an elevated line, but the Committee of 100 and the Architect of the Capitol would have raised hell. Also, given the protests individuals in the third district raised when an underground system was being constructed, it is unlikely that such a system would have even be built in the district.
    There was a reason trolleys were removed in the first place, they don't really provide any better transit options because they have no designated right-of-way. Light rail can be more effective, but the right-of-way requirements would probably make it somewhat unfeasible for this city (it would probably work out in the suburbs though, hence why the purple line is likely going to be a light rail system).

  • Kara

    Can I have 16 cents per rider deposited to my bank account? :)

  • Richard

    Imagine this. What if you woke up tomorrow and WMATA AND the city of D.C. had competent managers who didn't waste money on worthless, meaningless studies that try to project what DC would be like without Metro.