Monday, May 16, 2011
Metro Keeps Opening Doors
Earlier in these pages, we compared DC's proposed streetcar network and existing Metro system to the original DC Transit, circa 1958 when the system was at its zenith.
Today, prompted by a conversation with the author of the Blog of the Courtier, we endeavor to show how mass transit is a critical ingredient for population density. Using the same streetcar map and comparing it to the 2010 census population data for each of the 180-odd census tracts within the District, we can see an almost uncanny conincidence betweena areas of high density and the original streetcar network.
Prior to the 1960's, there were few bridges across the Anacostia river, so large parts of far Southeast were never served by streetcars. However, at the same time, large areas of Northeast D.C. which are not served by Metro had extensive streetcar service.
Intuitively, it makes sense that density conincides with streetcars. Proponents of bus service argue that routes can be changed easily to accomodate changing trends and population shifts--indeed, Metro has a page dedicated to bus route changes, but this is exactly why bus lines do not promote density. Metro can decide on a whim to reroute the bus line that used to take you straight to your office.
On the other hand, a streetcar or subway line cannot be moved very easily, so developers and residents have confidence that they will continue to have regular transit service. Even after more than 50 years, the only areas of higher density that have emerged in the district are the pockets in far Southeast that are now served by Metro.