The Smartest Kids in School

Bikes_at_swanson_3I was walking past Swanson Middle School in Arlington a shortly after school started in the fall and took note of the bike racks and bikes. There were thirteen bicycles parked on the bike racks,
which could potentially hold a maximum of twenty.

I think these are the smartest kids (and teachers) in the school. In
Arlington, students who live within 1.5 miles of a Middle School are in the walking zone; outside that zone they are provided bus service. A student who lives 1-1.5 miles away will take 15-30 minutes to walk, depending on pace and distance. On a bike, though, it shouldn't take
more than 10 minutes max to ride a mile and a half--providing that much extra sleep time in the morning.

Looking at the boundary map, it appears that one-third to one-half of the households in the Swanson District are within 1/2 mile of the Custis Trail and W&OD trails, which bring you within a block or two of the school. Kids who would have to catch the bus from 2-4 miles away and 45 minutes before school starts can save themselves as much as 30 minutes by riding over to school instead of taking the bus. By utilizing the trails, they can ride almost the whole way separated from traffic. At the end of the day they can be halfway home or to their friend's house (or wherever they go after school) before the bus is even loaded!Walk_to_school_day

I hope these and many other students participated in Bike and Walk to School Day back in October. Let's give these bike riders an A for riding every day. They're smart.

Testing the Invisible Tunnel

Tunnel_transferIf you haven't seen my previous posts about the invisible/virtual tunnel connecting the two Farragut stations, you may want to read them for background (1st post, 2nd post, 3rd post). In short, the technology exists to allow Metro riders to transfer between the two Farragut stations and treat them as though they were transferring within the system. Metro should implement this idea immediately, since there is no downside, many riders will save time, and congestion at Metro Center will be reduced.

Recently I had a meeting at American University, which provided me the perfect opportunity to try out the transfer for myself. I was traveling from Arlington, so I followed the route shown in the diagram above, getting off at Farragut West, walking up 17th Street to Farragut North and then taking the red line to Tenleytown. I made the same trip in reverse on the return.

I took a stopwatch with me to see how long it would take. For the initial trip I reached the top of the escalator at exactly the wrong time to cross I St. and had to wait the full light cycle. I waited about 25 seconds to cross K St. I was standing on the platform at Farragut North 5' 13" after the doors opened on my train at Farragut West. On the return trip I arrived on the street during the walk signal at K St. but had to wait about 20 seconds at I St. Farragut_tunnel I was on the platform 4' 10" from the time the train doors opened at Farragut North. I did not run. I walked at a normal able-bodied speed. Someone in a hurry could make this transfer faster; if one stands on the escalators, it will take longer.

So what does this mean? In both cases I then had to wait a little bit for the train, so I likely ended up on the same one as I would have had I made the usual transfer at Metro Center. However--particularly on the return trip--had I arrived on the platform just in time to catch a train, that train would almost certainly be one train earlier than what I would have caught at Metro Center.

Based on this one experience, I would guess that a person making this transfer during rush hour will catch the earlier train at least a couple of times a week and possibly as much as half the time if they hustle. During periods with longer periods between trains, one will catch the earlier train less frequently, but it will save a lot more time when it happens.

The bottom line is that the transfer works and many riders will learn how to take advantage of it if it's made available to them. If you work at Metro or know who to contact to help push this forward, please do so. If you're a rider who would avail themselves of the transfer, please contact Metro and request it. I know that Chris Zimmerman has made at least one inquiry about it; perhaps he can continue to pursue this along a faster timeframe than sometime in 2010--if ever (see most recent post). A woman named Cyndi Zieman was recently put in charge of SmarTrip cards. Perhaps she can take a leadership position and make this happen. It's a no brainer; let's build the invisible tunnel!

(cross posted on Greater Greater Washington)