Antos, a WMATA transportation analyst, has for the last several months been managing a study [PDF] that makes the business case for transit in the D.C. area. The agency tried to isolate the actual impact of rail lines on economic development, property values and tax revenues in the immediate vicinity around each station (they conservatively estimate that Metrorail boosts the value of property within a half mile of stations by about seven to nine percent).
But they also modeled what the region would look like if its transit never existed. And this is where things get really interesting.
WMATA took the same transportation demand model that it uses to project ridership on a new line and instead ran a couple of scenarios with the region’s transit literally turned off. All of it: the regional rail, the buses and the metro system.
"It was literally just imagining Washington, and all of a sudden, you wake up tomorrow, and the transit system isn’t there," Antos says. "What would you do?"