DC Metro expansion is great in theory, but maybe not in practice

Major improvements to the Metro by 2025 approved by WMATA, but funding still needed

By Allison Opitz

Contributing Writer

opitz1@umbc.edu

A plan to improve DC mass transit by 2025 has the potential to benefit the University System of Maryland, but it might just be a lot of talk.

 

Washington, D.C.’s Metro system might experience a major face lift by 2025, thanks to a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) plan to expand its public transportation services throughout the region. The Momentum Strategic Plan would increase capacity and service at Metrorail stations as well as increase bus services. There is also a potential for enhanced communications and updated track technology.

A project this big requires lots of funding. Lawmakers must, “justify the investments necessary to make Momentum a reality,” said Barret Wessel, a University of Maryland, College Park Senate member who has been spearheading a campaign for support for the project.

Wessel is currently seeking a public endorsement from the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents, which he believes will facilitate financial support. “There is in fact quite a bit of support for this at College Park,” said Wessel. He intends to seek additional support from universities in the USM.

UMBC students also stand to benefit. They’d have increased access to DC resources, especially job and internship opportunities. Commuters from the DC area would also benefit from reduced travel times. The Momentum plan could bring the Metro to Baltimore, which would give students increased access to the nation’s capital.

David Jackson, a senior history major, resides in Silver Spring and used DC transit for a long time, and used to commute before living on campus. “While it may take a while, public transit is usually serviceable,” he said. “It’s wonderful to hop on the Metro and within 15 minutes be right in the heart of downtown DC.”

“In the name of progress I’m all for it,” said Jackson, regarding the potential service expansion. Since some of his classes require access to the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian museums, he would appreciate an improved travel experience.

The Momentum plan has some hefty promises of improvement over the next 15 years. UMBC certainly has much to gain from it, even without a possible expansion to Baltimore. Unfortunately, for projects on this scale, funding isn’t the only issue. A current project in Silver Spring, started in 2007, is “closed due to construction concerns,” said Jackson, “[Momentum] seems like it could be a lot of talk.”

It seems like a fantastic plan, in theory, but more than funding factors into the equation. Laws, construction contracts and major street-level work during the construction phase would create huge inconveniences. Major construction plans have a history of changing mid-project due to funding or contract issues, causing delays in the process.

Does the end justify the means, if the end ever comes? If WMATA wants Momentum to succeed, it needs to prove its commitment to getting the work done efficiently, a mass transit marvel in itself. Let’s see real progress on current projects before we get too heavily invested in Momentum.