Build the Invisible Tunnel!

Farragut_tunnel_2I can't take credit for this idea--I read it somewhere else--but it's so good that it needs to be promoted and publicized until Metro takes notice and implements it.

The idea of linking the Farragut North and Farragut West metro stations with a tunnel has been around a long time (I found a W. Post article from 1994 that mentioned it) and makes good sense. WMATA published a comprehensive study of the tunnel option, including capacity and ridership impacts, 2004. The primary impediment to building the tunnel is money. WMATA's recent Station Access & Capacity Study estimates a cost of about $25 million.

The tunnel is a great idea and probably should have been built at the time the system was built. In the meanwhile, while we wait, the technology exists to build a virtual tunnel right now. Right now!! And there is absolutely no reason WMATA shouldn't. Ridership's about to pick up again in September, so let's create the virtual tunnel right away.

What is the virtual tunnel? Simple. Metro riders who have SmarTrip cards can leave one Farragut station and enter the other station within a certain time window--say, 10 minutes--and not be charged, a free transfer (click on the image above for a map/diagram). The 2004 tunnel study estimated about 15,000 people per day would transfer using the underground tunnel (using 2003 ridership numbers). Given the greater inconvenience of going up on the street and coming back down and having to cross two intersections (300 steps from faregate to faregate. . .I counted), fewer would choose to use the virtual tunnel than a real one, but still thousands per day I would guess. That would relieve pressure at Metro Center as well as convenience the passengers who choose to take advantage.Smartrip

Here's the key point: there is no downside to implementing this idea. No downside. No studies required. No excuses to put it off. Repeat: no downside. All it takes is a little computer programming and a press release to get the word out. It adds flexibility to the system at virtually no cost. No one will be additionally inconvenienced, since passengers are more than welcome to continue to use the system as usual: if you don't want to make the transfer and walk, just keep using Metro Center as before. I have wracked my brain and cannot think of a single negative impact--all pros and no cons. If someone can think of a downside, please comment and let me know what it is.

I sent a note to Arlington Board member and WMATA Board Chair Chris Zimmerman a couple of months ago recommending he push this idea to WMATA, but I didn't hear back. I don't know the ins and outs of making things happen at Metro, but this is a no-brainer; they should just do it. And what better time than right now?

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