Open Transport Forum DC

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Open Transport Forum DC


(Subject to Change)

January 6, 2017

We are convening a half-day transportation conference timed to coincide with the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB’s) annual Washington conference in January, 2017.


In response to service problems and a decline in ridership, Washington Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has proposed an unprecedented reduction in service and the elimination of 1,000 employees. Metro Board Chair Jack Evans and the Washington Post Editorial have called for consideration of a Federal takeover of the system.

Recent MetroRail summits organized by the Council of Governments and the Board of Trade have focused on issues including innovation, funding, and government. These summits were an excellent starting point, but this conversation needs to be expanded in a few fundamental ways.

First, more people need to be involved in this conversation.

Second, we need to look not just at MetroRail and Metro but at regional transportation as a whole. Individuals make decisions about how to travel around the region based on comparison of all the available transportation choices (modes). Improvement or deterioration in the condition of one mode may affect the use of all modes.

Third, considering transportation as a whole, we need to understand what our mission and goals are. The Transportation Planning Board (TPB) is the region’s Federally Mandated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). The TPB’s Vision and first goal is a good place to start:

Goal 1. The Washington metropolitan region's transportation system will provide reasonable access at reasonable cost to everyone in the region.

There are other goals to consider, including protecting the environment and serving the public equitably.


Mission: Overall

Organizations, including communities, benefit from developing and articulating their mission and goals. This session will explore issues including visions for the future, environmental issues, and equity.

Mission: Equity and Environment

Two topics -- equity and environment -- warrant particular attention. Equity, because of the inequities that have become increasingly apparent, and environment, because transportation has become the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.


Many products generate value when combined with others, forming what Michael L Katz and Carl Shapiro call systems. Autos and roadways, rail cars and rail lines. This session will explore transportation systems and competition between systems as opposed to competition between individual products.


Transportation is undergoing dramatic changes driven, primarily, by technology. These changes -- the specifics of which we can’t know -- increase uncertainty and should stir caution. There is also evidence that projections for many transportation projects were overly optimistic, either by mistake or by design. This session will explore what investments choices there may be.

Political Realities

The 2016 election has seen extensive discussion of disappointment and mistrust of government by people across the political spectrum, and there is significant evidence to justify such feelings. This session will offer explanations for such feelings.

Organizational Structure

While MetroRail is most directly affected by the fact that this region is comprised of three jurisdictions -- DC, Maryland, and Virginia -- all transportation services are affected to varying degrees. This session will explore issues including WMATA's structure, regionwide funding, and public versus private service provision.

Possible Solutions

Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney wrote in late November that there are four proposals to save metro: put funding first; rewrite the compact; let the feds take over; professionalize the board. These proposals may evolve or disappear and others may arise. This session will invite proponents of key proposals to describe their proposals and the merits of their proposals.