Points to Consider-Dulles Rail Garages Hearing

By on May 8, 2013

by: Rob Whitfield
Tonight at 6pm there is a public hearing on the Garages for the Dulles Rail, Phase II.

Conceptual development proposals for Dulles Rail Phase 2 garages are being considered at a public hearing TONIGHT, Wednesday May 8, 2013 at 6.00 pm by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. More information will be available after tonight’s meeting.

Several points to consider:

1. The Desman Dulles Rail Phase 2 Parking Study report prepared for Loudoun County in April 2012 was premised on computer modeling results provided to Desman by WMATA based on outputs used in the 2002 draft Dulles Rail Environmental Impact Statement. A long time computer professional who has worked for a governmental agency with direct knowledge of the model used explained that the model was “custom made” for WMATA use on Dulles Rail ridership projections incorporating assumptions not used in other modeling studies for projecting traffic demand in Northern Virginia.

2. Desman reported to Loudoun County Board during its April 2012 presentation that WMATA could not/would not provide more current information based on subsequent modeling and analyses of projected Dulles Rail ridership with potential origins and destinations of Silver Line passengers. After the Desman BOS presentation, the project leader was asked why updated information based on current demographic and economic conditions was not used. He responded (words to the effect): “We were told by WMATA that the computer model was no longer available for our use because WMATA had either discarded or destroyed the model.”

3. The Loudoun County conceptual development proposal for garages does not include an option for the selected contractor and operator to provide some surface parking initially and/or phasing of garage development based on ridership demand using current economic and demographic conditions.

4. The actual demand for garage use will depend on factors and variables other than overall rail ridership demand including: garage pricing, local and express bus service provided to garages and elsewhere from various communities, its cost and frequency, pricing options for carpool and vanpools etc.

5. Nancy Gourley, head of Loudoun County Transit, confirmed last week that over 90% of their express bus passengers responded in a 2007 survey their wish to remain LCT passengers after the Silver Line opens, even if the local gasoline tax subsidy used to reduce bus fares, currently $7 each way with a pass, is removed and the cost of service becomes as much as $12 each way. When the 2002 draft and 2004 final Dulles Rail EIS reports were prepared, express bus service from Loudoun County was in its early stages of growth. It appears that WMATA and MWAA did not consider any of the updated demographic, economic or ridership demand factors and changed conditions in their 2012 Phase 2 environmental assessment report.

6. Thelma Drake, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit Administrator, confirmed in an April 2012 conversation that DRPT is relying on Silver Line ridership information prepared and/or reviewed by MWAA, WMATA and US Federal Transit Administration.

7. Financing for construction and operation of any private developer built parking facilities will be contingent on prospective completed property value at stabilization to be determined by real estate appraisals and financial feasibility studies that account for the variables outlined above.

8. WMATA General Manager Richard Sarles made a presentation to the Loudoun County BOS in April 2012 and has not provided updated ridership and revenue subsequently. Sarles made a presentation at the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission on May 2, 2013. Supervisor Ken Reid, the Loudoun County representative and other elected local representatives to NVTC did not ask any questions about potential Silver Line ridership, revenues and costs.

The lack of questioning and due diligence by public officials with decision making responsibility for Dulles Rail Phase 2 reminds me of the Japanese proverb about three wise monkeys: See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

Rob Whitfield
Dulles Corridor Users Group

Supporting Documentation of Proposals:

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