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Metro: Suburb-to-suburb commutes set to explode

Thursday - 9/22/2011, 1:28pm  ET

Adam Tuss,

WASHINGTON -- Does your typical commute take you from a suburb to the core of downtown D.C.?

You're not alone if that's the case. But in the not-too-distant future, planners predict an explosion in the number of commuting trips from suburb to suburb.

Metro leaders are reviewing a document that says between now and 2040, the number of suburb-to-suburb commutes will increase by 45 percent.

Meanwhile, the document states that all rail trips in the downtown core of D.C. will require eight-car trains by 2040. Many trains right now carry only six cars in the core.

So how is everyone going to get around, and can Metro handle the load?

Members of the Metro Board of Directors made the case Thursday that funding levels must match growth in order for the system to handle the boom.

"This is not, 'Oh, it's an expense,'" says Mary Hynes, who represents Arlington on the board. "This is an ongoing investment in our vitality, our vibrancy, etc."

The "strategic planning process" document also paints a picture showing that if the investment in Metro is not made, the inability to carry extra riders and connect communities could spill over onto area roads.

According to the document, if there were no transit in the D.C. region, there would be more than 1 million more vehicle trips on the roads, 1,000 new lane miles of highway would be needed to accommodate that traffic (essentially another Capital Beltway) and some Potomac River crossings would need an additional two to three lanes in each direction.

"These are the consequences we predict for the region," says Hynes.

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