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Can you sign up for a monthly sustaining gift to Greater Greater Washington?

Our reader drive is underway! Our donation box, by default, suggests making a monthly donation. Here's why we're so interested in those. Can you sign up for one?

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We love our readers and our reader drive has been a very important part of Greater Greater Washington's budget planning since we started it three years ago (when we started having a paid editor for the first time). All of your contributions mean a lot and have helped us continue providing this blog we all enjoy writing for and you enjoy reading.

It's also a lot of work to set up a reader drive every year, and each time, we have to essentially start from zero. There's a big exception: the 46 of you who've signed up for monthly ongoing contributions of $5 to $50 per month and the 31 of you who're making automatic yearly gifts of $25-250.

This gives us an ongoing baseline of revenue to plan around, and while we can't count on it—you're of course free to stop at any time—it makes our income a little more predictable. Predictability is really, really helpful for an organization, especially a small one like Greater Greater Washington.

We've set a goal for this reader drive of increasing our monthly sustaining supporters by a third. Can you be one of them? Just choose a level of $5, $10, $25, or enter your own higher amount in the box here:

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time
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Greatest supporter—$250
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If you are already one of those 46 + 31, thank you so much! Your support really means a lot. If you were one of the handful of people who'd been monthly supporters and your contribution lapsed, either because your credit card on file with PayPal expired or for some other reason, I hope you will also consider re-upping for a monthly gift.

And if you aren't comfortable signing up monthly or yearly, we still super duper appreciate your one-time support as well! Thanks again for reading and helping keep Greater Greater Washington producing high-quality content every day!

Did you enjoy this article? Greater Greater Washington is running a reader drive to raise funds so we can keep editing and publishing great articles every day. Please help us be sustainable by making a monthly, yearly, or one-time contribution today!

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time
Greatest supporter—$250/year
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Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
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Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

Events


Events roundup: Transit preferences and safer streets

Learn about the latest stats on transit preference in US cities, hear from Maryland's congressional candidates, and chime in on plans for a new pedestrian bridge, redevelopment of a bridge over the Potomac, and complete streets in Alexandria.


Photo by SDOT

National transit poll: The National Association of Relators (NAR) recently polled residents of the 50 largest metro areas on their preferences for biking, walking, and transit. Learn more about the results from Hugh Morris, the manager of NAR's Smart Growth Program, at Tuesdays at APA, February 9, 5:30 pm at 1030 15th Street, NW, Suite 750 West.

After the jump: A candidates' forum in Montgomery County, a Ballston pedestrian bridge, Long Bridge, and King Street.

Maryland candidates forum: Head over to this month's Action Committee for Transit meeting to hear from the candidates for Maryland's District 8 Republican congressional primary, moderated by Glen Bottoms, from American Conservative Center for Public Transportation. The forum is this Tuesday, February 9 at 7:30 pm at the Silver Spring Civic Building, One Veterans Place.

Ballston bridge: As part of the Ballston Quarter Redevelopment, a new pedestrian bridge could create better access to the Ballston Metro. Learn more about the project and share your opinions at the kick-off meeting this Tuesday, February 9 at 6:30 pm at Ballston Common Mall (4328 Wilson Boulevard).

A plan for Long Bridge: Long Bridge runs across the Potomac River and serves freight trains, Amtrak, and commuter rail. A plan is in the works to replace or rehabilitate it. Learn more and share your opinion on the second phase of the plan this Wednesday, February 10, at 470 L'Enfant Plaza SW from 4 to 7 pm.

Complete King Street: As part of the King Street Complete Street Project, the King Street corridor between Radford Street and Janneys Lane is slated for bike and pedestrian improvements. Share your opinions on the project at the second public meeting this Thursday, February 11 at 6:30 pm at TC Williams High School (3330 King Street).

Calendar: Beyond what we've highlighted here, there are many other worthwhile events across the region. Check out more great events in our events calendar:

Do you know of an upcoming event that may be interesting, relevant, or important to Greater Greater Washington readers that should go on our events calendar? Send it to us at events@ggwash.org.

Did you enjoy this article? Greater Greater Washington is running a reader drive to raise funds so we can keep editing and publishing great articles every day. Please help us be sustainable by making a monthly, yearly, or one-time contribution today!

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History


DC tried fixing its housing shortage by building tiny houses... in the 1880s

Last fall, DC Councilmember Vincent Orange proposed building 1,000 "tiny houses" for low-income residents and millennials, but the idea drew wide criticism as being "gimmicky" and potentially discriminatory. What many don't know is that Orange's initiative wasn't the first time District leaders sought to solve big housing problems with small houses.


Tiny houses in DC. Photo by Inhabitat on Flickr.

In Washington's earliest years, alleys housed horses and privies. As African Americans began streaming into the city during the Civil War, most alleys were converted to residential uses and many small wood shacks went up. These quickly became overcrowded and concerns about disease and crime followed.

Between 1872 and 1878 nearly 1,000 houses in Washington's alleys were condemned, with housing reformers and public health activists pushing to clear out these blighted, crowded, and "insanitary" spaces. But in 1878, Congress re-organized the District government by creating the commissioner system. Unlike the earlier government, the reconstituted Board of Health lacked the authority to condemn insanitary buildings.

That led to a return of tiny houses in alleys. In 1890, the Washington Evening Star described the concentration of poor people in DC's alleys as a result of increasing property values. Small houses in alleys created housing for Washington's poor and profits for the city's real estate speculators, the paper reported.

Critics assailed the move as pandering to influential real estate speculators. "Construction of houses in the alleys promised profits," James Ring told Congress in 1944. When he was speaking, Ring was the administrative officer for the National Capital Housing Authority, and the Senate was holding hearings on extending a deadline to vacate Washington's remaining alley dwellings.

What Ring said next about the period between 1880 and 1892 is important: "There were philosophically inclined persons who sincerely believed that well-built little houses in the alleys were far better socially than insanitary alley shacks."

Ring went on to describe a construction boom in Washington's alleys, what he called "a very active period of buying and selling the rear ends of street lots."

In a 2014 the DC State Historic Preservation Office published a survey of alley buildings, along with a history of their development. Architectural historian Kim Prothro Williams wrote that the 1880s construction boom simply replaced small insanitary wood buildings that lacked indoor plumbing with small insanitary brick buildings that lacked indoor plumbing.


1880s house in Naylor Court, just east of 10th Street NW. Photo by the author.

Washington's first tiny house movement ended in 1892 when Congress passed a law prohibiting construction of new houses in alleys less than 30 feet wide and lacking sewage connections. The Washington Post astutely observed that the new health laws would have an immediate impact on the city and its growing suburbs. "Cheap abodes for the poorer class of people within the city limits will no longer be obtainable," the paper reported in April 1892. "Facilities will, therefore, have to be found for transportation to the suburbs, where the man drawing a moderate salary can own a lot, build a comfortable home, and then be able to reach it."

Fast forward 100 years to a Washington that is increasingly unaffordable, with a growing population, and which is struggling with finding ways to reduce reliance on the automobile. The roots of these contemporary urban ills may be seen in the solutions for nineteenth century problems.


Row of houses built in the 1880s, Snow's Court in Foggy Bottom. Photo by the author.

Orange's tiny houses proposal could mean Washington may be coming full circle to embrace the benefits of housing and economic diversity. Though the Washington City Paper compared the potential outcome of Orange's proposal to the creation of new fangled Hoovervilles—"Orangevilles," a columnist called thema more apt comparison would be to housing that was widespread in Washington nearly a century before the Great Depression.

Did you enjoy this article? Greater Greater Washington is running a reader drive to raise funds so we can keep editing and publishing great articles every day. Please help us be sustainable by making a monthly, yearly, or one-time contribution today!

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Bicycling


More than 20% of people bicycle to work in some DC neighborhoods

Over 20% of commuters in Bloomingdale, Mount Pleasant, and Petworth get to work each day primarily using a bicycle. That doesn't even include people who use bikes to reach Metro.


Bike mode share in central DC. Image from DDOT.

This fascinating map is part of the background data DDOT is preparing to study a possible protected bikeway on or around 6th Street NW.

It shows how hugely popular bicycling can be as a mode of transportation, even in the United States. What's more, this data actually undercounts bicycle commuters by quite a lot.

It's originally from the US Census' American Community Survey, which only counts the mode someone uses for the longest segment of their commute. People who bicycle a short distance to reach a Metro station, then ride Metro for the rest of their commute, count as transit riders rather than bicyclists.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Did you enjoy this article? Greater Greater Washington is running a reader drive to raise funds so we can keep editing and publishing great articles every day. Please help us be sustainable by making a monthly, yearly, or one-time contribution today!

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time
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Links


Breakfast links: Too close for comfort


Photo by philliefan99 on Flickr.
Close call: An Orange Line train ran a red light signal and came within 150 feet of another train on the platform at the Smithsonian station last Friday before the Rail Operations Control Center intervened and stopped the train. (NBC4)

Bike lane battle: Three Shaw churches said they are open to compromise over a proposed bike lane in the rapidly changing neighborhood in a meeting on Saturday. But the United House of Prayer is holding firm in its anti-bike lane stance. (WAMU)

Unresolved problems: WMATA missed a deadline to submit plans on improving smoke detection in Metro tunnels and other serious items to the FTA. The agency also rejected WMATA's plan to address reduced resources for walking track inspection. (WTOP)

More flair, please: The future Reston Town Center Metro station will basically look the same as the other Silver Line stations. Local officials would have preferred a design with more "artistic flair." (Reston Now)

A bold, new strategy: The DC Taxicab Commission is considering creating Xclass, a ride-hailing service similar to UberX that will require drivers to undergo background checks and follow DCTC regulations. (WAMU)

Some justice served, finally: The MPD arrested 13 robbery suspects last week, and seven of them were juveniles. Chief Lanier says a small number of people are responsible for a large share of recent robberies. (DCist, Post)

New hope for Prince George's?: Prince George's County residents hope a proposed federal office complex near several Green Line stations could be a catalyst for economic development that they feel the county has long missed out on. (Post)

Fire station compromise: The Montgomery County Planning Commission reached a compromise on the redevelopment of the Bethesda Fire Dept. station that will allow for a 70-foot maximum building height and mixed-use "floating zone." (Bethesda Beat)

More rail for BWI: The FRA approved plans to add a fourth track to a section of the Northeast corridor around BWI. The project hopes to reduce congestion and improve safety with new platform and pedestrian bridge. (Capital Gazette)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.

Did you enjoy this article? Greater Greater Washington is running a reader drive to raise funds so we can keep editing and publishing great articles every day. Please help us be sustainable by making a monthly, yearly, or one-time contribution today!

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Pedestrians


Walkers were left out in the cold after the blizzard

If you try to walk around in many parts of our region, particularly in the suburbs, it's easy to get the feeling that you're an afterthought, at best. Governments' actions in the recent "Snowzilla" blizzard show even more clearly how being "multimodal" is more lip service than reality.


Photo by Fionnuala Quinn.

In Fairfax County, sidewalks in neighborhoods and along major arterial roads were impassable a week or more after the storm. Schools in Fairfax, Arlington and other jurisdictions closed for seven consecutive weekdays, putting many parents in a bind. Children lacked safe routes to school and safe places to wait for buses.

This was no simple issue of having to prioritize; as Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova told residents, the Virginia Department of Transportation, which plows all of Fairfax's public roads, was not going to clear the sidewalks, and the county had no plan to either.

Continue reading my latest op-ed in the Washington Post.

Did you enjoy this article? Greater Greater Washington is running a reader drive to raise funds so we can keep editing and publishing great articles every day. Please help us be sustainable by making a monthly, yearly, or one-time contribution today!

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time
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Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
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Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

Meta


You helped us build a townhouse in 2015! Will you do it again in 2016?

We didn't actually build a townhouse. But you did give Greater Greater Washington enough last winter to beat our 2015 "townhouse thermometer" goal and raise $18,517 to help keep this blog going.


Our 2015 "townhouse" thermometer. Original photo by ekelly80 on Flickr.

Thank you for investing in Greater Greater Washington! Now's your chance to do it again.

Today is Greater Greater Washington's 8th birthday, and we're kicking off our 2016 reader drive. Between now and March 8, will you help us reach this year's goal of $25,000?

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time
Greatest supporter—$250/year
Greater supporter—$100/year
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Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
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Great supporter—$50
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Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

Last year, your financial contributions helped make Greater Greater Washington the "Best Local Blog in the Washington Area," according to Washingtonian Magazine!

Your support also allowed us to:

  • Publish more than 1,200 articles that reached 1.53 million unique readers
  • Host live chats with Paul Wiedefeld and Leif Dormsjo
  • Educate residents and policy-makers about important issues in housing, transportation, education, and more
  • Get a two-year grant and private donation to expand our work
  • Hire two full-time staff
In 2016, your gifts will help Greater Greater Washington:
  • Continue to bring you more, awesome content
  • Push for more content about Maryland, Virginia, and areas east of the Anacostia while keeping up everything we're already talking about
  • Host "How to Blog" workshops to train new contributors
  • Organize even more happy hours and other social events to connect the Greater Greater Washington community offline
  • Experiment with new forms of content (maybe a podcast or video?)
We have grown a lot in the last year, thanks in large part to your financial support. Even though growing up means a bigger budget and funding from foundations and other sources, your financial support is still vital to Greater Greater Washington's success.

Our foundation grants which will help us launch a new housing effort don't cover all of what we need to run the blog, and in fact were based on an expectation that our support from readers would continue to grow. So if you enjoy Greater Greater Washington, please give today!

Did you enjoy this article? Greater Greater Washington is running a reader drive to raise funds so we can keep editing and publishing great articles every day. Please help us be sustainable by making a monthly, yearly, or one-time contribution today!

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time
Greatest supporter—$250/year
Greater supporter—$100/year
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Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
Greater supporter—$100
Great supporter—$50
Supporter—$20
Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

Links


Worldwide links: Cheap(ish) houses

Cheaper housing is doable, but it's about way more than just construction costs, strict rules are killing Sydney's night life, and a potential light rail line from Brooklyn to Queens. Check out what's happening around the world in transportation, land use, and other related areas!


Photo by Hans Drexler on Flickr.

A house, on the cheap: Auburn architecture students have developed a house that costs $20k to build and that, by conventional standards, is very nice. But building costs are only one challenge to affordability; remaining hurdles include formidable zoning codes, trouble securing mortgages, and finding a knowledgable contractor. (Fast Company Co-Exist)

Say goodnight, Sydney: Regulations that restrict alcohol servings and bar hours in some key entertainment districts are killing Sydney's night life. From 2012 to 2015, foot traffic dropped by 84%, and 42 businesses in the night life industry shut down. (Linked In Pulse)

Big Apple transit: New York City is considering a 16-mile light rail line that'd run between Queens and Brooklyn. The Mayor hopes that it will connect places on the waterfront but the idea is getting mixed reviews from residents and pundits. And those on Staten Island wonder when their time for investments will come. (New York Times)

Even on trains, voices carry: Thanks to new technology, it's now less likely that a train operator or bus driver makes an announcement on a transit system, and more likely that it comes from a pre-recorded or even non-human voice. That can mean more consistency, but matters like pronunciation have left some riders unhappy. (Guardian Cities)

Consider the flip side:Do the usual anti-transit suspects make you want to pull your hair out? Jarrett Walker, the author of Human Transit, says its worth considering the good points they make even if they're buried in bad ones. (Human Transit)

Alley cats: Hong Kong's alleyways can be cluttered, messy, smelly... and beautiful. Cleaning them up, says photographer Michael Wolf, can lead to a feeling of "sterilization" that dismisses character and charm. (Smithsonian Magazine)

Quote of the week: "Soon enough, the park could be growing trees from trash and rats would no longer have a buffet of garbage to feast on every night." - Cole Rosengren writing about a future in which vacuum tubes take our compost away. (Fusion)

Did you enjoy this article? Greater Greater Washington is running a reader drive to raise funds so we can keep editing and publishing great articles every day. Please help us be sustainable by making a monthly, yearly, or one-time contribution today!

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time
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Greatest supporter—$250
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Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

Photography


Goodbye, pretty snow in the Flickr Pool

Here are our favorite new images from the Greater and Lesser Washington Flickr pool, showcasing the best and worst of the Washington region.


Rush hour on 15th St NW. Photo by John Sonderman.


Photo by nevermindtheend.


Photo by Beau Finley on Flickr.


Photo by charmcity123 on Flickr.


The Washington Post building on 15th Street. Photo by Joe Flood.


Westbound Arrival. Photo by Beau Finley.

Got a picture that depicts the best or worst of the Washington region? Make sure to join our Flickr pool and submit your own photos!

Did you enjoy this article? Greater Greater Washington is running a reader drive to raise funds so we can keep editing and publishing great articles every day. Please help us be sustainable by making a monthly, yearly, or one-time contribution today!

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time
Greatest supporter—$250/year
Greater supporter—$100/year
Great supporter—$50/year
Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
Greater supporter—$100
Great supporter—$50
Supporter—$20
Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

Pedestrians


If students were cars, schools would have opened sooner

Many of the region's schools closed for a full week after the recent blizzard, leaving parents to scramble for childcare and students missing out on valuable classroom time. That's what happens when your storm recovery efforts prioritize making it easy to drive rather than giving everyone a safe way to move around.


Photo by Fionnuala Quinn on Twitter.

The historic storm hit the DC area on Friday, January 22nd. By the time the last flakes fell on Saturday night, just about everything was covered in over two feet of powdery, slippery, transportation-crippling snow.

It was soon pretty easy to drive, but not get around by any other means

As crews throughout the region got to work on their respective snow clearing plans (impressive work for which they deserve a lot of thanks), roads became passable and then completely clear. In contrast, sidewalks, curb cuts, and bus stops were often blocked not just by snow, but also frozen slush.

Some of the area's bike trails were cleared, but access points were plowed in, and the network as a whole was not rideable. Metro returned to service, but getting to stations was a dirty, icy, boulder-climbing adventure and plowed-in bus stops left people waiting often in very busy streets.

Without good options, the only choice left for most people was to drive, clogging our already strained roadways that the remaining snow had narrowed.

As the week wore on and roads became clear, adults returned to work. But faced with the conditions that would have left children walking and waiting for buses in the streets, school officials decided there were not enough safe routes to school, and kept most of the region's schools closed for the entire week.


DC's 5th and Sheridan NW, the Tuesday after the storm. To the right on 5th (the street going left to right) is Coolidge High School. To the left is Whittier Education Campus. Photo by Julie Lawson.

This didn't happen randomly. Arlington is an example of why.

These conditions were a result the fact that our systems for clearing snow focus first on getting cars moving again. People walking and biking are, at best, an afterthought in the region's snow clearing plans.

For example, Arlington posts a clearly thought-out snow operations plan on their snow operations web page:

  • Phase I: During the storm, county crews keep the arterial and collector roads as functional as possible to make sure that emergency access like EMS, fire, police, utility trucks etc. could still get through.
  • Phase 2: Immediately after the storm, they keep working those major corridors, widening lanes so everybody else could start driving again, too.
  • Phase 3: When those are under control they start working their way into residential streets.
Arlington has no unified public plan for clearing the rest of the transportation network - the sidewalks, trails, curb cuts and bus stops that are necessary for people walking, biking and taking transit.

Private individuals are responsible for clearing the majority of sidewalks, and various agencies of the County government are responsible for some routes. Apparently, there are designated "safe routes to schools" that are meant to get priority in snow clearing, but those routes are not made public and are not given priority if the schools are closed. However, many stretches are left without anyone to clear them, unless the County chooses to on an ad-hoc, complaint-based basis.

For example, the stretch of sidewalk along Lynn Street between the intersection of Lee Highway and the Key Bridge is along National Park Service Property. After this storm it took more than a week before the snow and ice were clear along this stretch, which cut off the main sidewalk access between Rosslyn and DC.


Arlington's "Intersection of Doom," at Lee Highway and N Lynn Street, just south of the Key Bridge. People walking and biking would need to climb over this snow/ice mound to get to the iced over sidewalk that leads to Key Bridge. Photo by the author.

When this snow plan was implemented, the streets were cleared, but the sidewalks and bus stops students would have needed to get to school were covered, often in mounds of snow deposited by snow plows. Instead of forcing kids to walk or wait for buses in the street, officials closed most of the region's schools for the entire week after the snow storm, forcing students to lose valuable instructional time at the end of the grading period.

Meanwhile, the region began to get back to work. By Wednesday, after three full days of being closed to allow the region to focus on digging out, most business were open and workers were working.

There are other ways to do this

During and immediately after the late winter blizzard of 1996 that dumped about the same amount of snow as last week's storm, New York City shut down all streets in Manhattan to private cars. The only vehicles on the roads were emergency equipment, garbage trucks, transit vehicles and of course snow plows.

NYC-DOT knew it could never get the city up and running again quickly if they decided that their first priority was to make it possible for everybody to drive their cars again. Roads were opened to traffic only after the sidewalks and bus stops were clear. In New York this took two days.

Arlington could do the same thing: Clear just enough of the roadway to accommodate emergency and service vehicles and eventually transit, but not more. With virtually no cars on the roads, people could at least get around on foot without putting their lives in danger.

And because transit and school bus stops would be cleared and almost no traffic on the road, these buses could actually get through and run on normal schedules. All kids, walkers and bus riders alike, would have a safe way to get to school.

Arlington does transportation well… when it doesn't snow

Fortunately, a good model exists right under our own noses. Arlington's transportation program looks at mobility as a public right, and sees all modes as legitimate. This includes mobility for people in cars, but doesn't leave out people on bikes, people on transit and people on foot.

Arlington's snow operations planners should try looking at mobility the same way when they plan for snow removal.

In this storm we saw a snow removal plan focused on getting cars back on the road. That happened by Wednesday. But cars don't occupy desks at schools.


After snow storms, it'd be smart to prioritize getting schools up and running. Photo by Arlington County on Flickr.

Our public schools closed for a week because there wasn't a safe way for kids to get to them. We need a transportation system that serves the students, whether they drive, ride the bus, walk or bike to school.

We didn't have that after the recent blizzard, so we didn't have school.

Did you enjoy this article? Greater Greater Washington is running a reader drive to raise funds so we can keep editing and publishing great articles every day. Please help us be sustainable by making a monthly, yearly, or one-time contribution today!

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time
Greatest supporter—$250/year
Greater supporter—$100/year
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Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
Greater supporter—$100
Great supporter—$50
Supporter—$20
Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

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