Miami is moving forward with big transit plans, Connecticut towns have a unique model for building affordable housing, and many have trouble seeing LA as urban because of how car-centric its past is. Check out what's happening around the world in transportation, land use, and other related areas!
Sunshine State expansion: Six rapid transit projects are now part of Miami's Metropolitan Planning Organization's long range plan. Many of these lines have been in previous plans, but they're now being made top priorities, which bodes well for their future completion. (Miami New Times)
New Affordability, CT: Cities in Connecticut are required to have 10% of their homes be affordable. If that isn't the case, developers can effectively ignore the zoning code as long as they build 30% affordable. This has led wealthier communities pushing for affordable housing. (New York Times)
Dirge for dingbats: The "dingbat," an infamous Los Angeles architecture form that's basically just a box-like apartment stuck on top of an open carport, is slowly disappearing for more aesthetically pleasing, dense, and safe structures. Are they worth restoring and preserving? (LA Weekly)
Edge City redux: Outside of Miami, the Atlantic Ocean and the Everglades make it so there isn't space to keep sprawling out, so buildings are going upward. Translation: Urban city centers are going up in the suburbs. (The Economist)
LA through #nofilter: Many still see Los Angeles as an ugly ode to cars and endless concrete, even as the city shifts toward becoming more traditionally urban, dense, and walkable. Why? It's hard for people to see beyond LA's built origins as a car-centric city. (Colin Marshall)
Uber exit: Uber is threatening to leave Houston if the city does not repeal regulations that require drivers get fingerprints taken and go through a licensing process. The company has already left three cities in Texas and is threatening to leave Austin as well. (Texas Tribune)
Tashkent trams: The capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, is shutting down its tram system. Opened in 1912, it is one of the oldest in central Asia. A lot of locals say the city is losing both a convenient and green form of transport, and a piece of its charm. (BBC)
Quote of the Week
"The idea is that by using a cryptographically secured and totally decentralized authority that can work at the speed of a computer, we should be able to keep power distribution, water treatment, self-driving transportation, and much more from ballooning beyond all practical limits as cities continue to grow." Graham Templeton on using Bitcoin Blockchain to run smart cities. (Extreme Tech)
Until the end of last year, Greater Greater Washington operated out of coffee shops and David Alpert's basement office. As the staff grew, so did the need for more permanent space. We moved into one in November!
With a small budget of $1,800 a month, we set out to find bright, centrally-located space in DC that could accommodate four people, and offered access to conference space. After looking at a half dozen potential options including co-working spaces, private spaces, and shared office space, we found what we were looking for.
Since November, we've called suite 810 at 1100 Connecticut Avenue NW home.
Here's a tour of our offices
We rent two offices and share the use of a small and large conference room with our suite mate, Olender Reporting.
Jonathan Neeley, our staff editor, and David Whitehead, our housing program organizer, share one office.
On any given day, you'll find Jonathan busy at his DIY sit-stand desk editing contributors' posts. David on the other hand, is in and out of the office, often meeting with people who want to help Greater Greater Washington support more attainable housing for more people in DC and the region.
David Alpert and I share the other office.
You'll find David here on Wednesdays and Fridays, meeting with staff about the blog, our housing program, and strategic directions of the organization. During the rest of the week, David is engaging in a research sabbatical of sorts: he's taking a deep dive into the economics of housing, development, and growth to better understand the forces that shape housing costs and identify the most promising solutions for making housing more abundant and attainable.
I am here in the office most days and spend my time supporting staff and volunteers, fundraising to keep the blog and our growing housing program going strong, and keeping track of our finances.
Meet our interns
Having dedicated space also meant that we could welcome two interns from Arizona State University!
Skyler Daviss and Megan Kelly set out to do a semester in DC to learn about international development and advocacy. When their original placement fell through in March, we made a quick decision to welcome them for their final five weeks. They've been a great addition to the team these past few weeks and we'll miss them when they wrap up their internship this week. Thanks, Skyler and Megan!
And our neighbor
Olender Reporting's Corey Nichols occupies the other office in our suite. We've piqued his interest in urbanism, and he even joined us at the Nationals game a few weeks ago and met some of our contributors.
Now that you've seen where we work, let us know if you want to come visit! Whether you're a contributor who needs some space to work on a post, or a reader who has a great idea you'd like to tell us about, come on over.
Want to know more about your daily bus ride? Have you ever noticed how many different Metrobus models there are out there, and need help distinguishing between buses that look quite similar? Become an expert at identifying Metrobus with this handy guide!
Our region has one of the most diverse transit networks in the country, and even within only the Metrobus system, there's a level of variety that you may not have noticed.
Using some of the info I collected when I started making posters of transit projects from around the country, I put together this guide to each vehicle of the Metrobus fleet.
In total, the bus fleet consists of 1525 buses of these various different types. Some of these service different purposes (i.e. articulated vs. short buses), and others are meant to expand the fleet or replace aging equipment.
According to Metro, the Metrobus fleet transported over 130 million passengers in 2015.
The buses service over 11,100 bus stops and another 2,500 bus shelters, from 288 routes and 174 lines.
The Metrobus fleet is ever-changing, as WMATA replaces about 100 buses a year to keep the fleet operating smoothly. New buses arrive every week, as part of the current five-year order with New Flyer (previously NABI).
DC's shortage of affordable housing options touches lots of permanent residents, but summer interns struggle with the problem as well. Below are three ways to find a place to stay when you're only coming to DC for the semester.
Each season, a new wave of unpaid interns in search of work experience floods the nation's capitol. And before interns even arrive to DC, the search for housing acquaints them with the city's high cost of living. The housing market is already short on affordable options, and the need for short term leases and access to public transportation means even more barriers.
As most interns in DC are unpaid, the main qualifications for housing are that it's cheap, close to transport, and a short term lease. These three requirements can make for a lengthy and exhausting housing search within the current DC housing market.
Here are three go-to options for interns who are on the hunt:
1. Get housing through your school or program
Some lucky students' universities pick out housing out for them, usually in a building specifically designed for students. Because of the demand, many apartment complexes in DC are starting to specialize in short term leases for these students interning in DC. Universities sending students to DC frequently use this option, but interns searching for a short term lease can use it as individuals as well.
One example is where I currently live, Washington Intern Student Housing, aka WISH. WISH, along with Cheap Intern Housing and Cassa Housing, are some of the options for students searching for apartments with short term leases mostly occupied by students. At the WISH Woodley Park location, interns are offered a convenient location, but at a steep price: Places start at around $1,000 a month, and that's in a three-bedroom apartment where you're splitting a room.
2. Stay in a local college dorm
Another option for summer interns are the university dorms from schools like American, George Washington, and Georgetown. This option offers students a chance to experience life at an University in DC, but for a price ranging from $310 to $450 a week for shared rooms.
These universities have web pages (linked above) dedicated to attracting and informing students about their summer rates and availability, along with contact information or an application for housing.
3. When all else fails… try Craigslist
The third option for interns is the exasperating Craigslist search. This option is not for the faint of heart, especially during the summer when the demand is the highest. I have some friends who sent dozens of emails to potential roommates, but even after weeks of trying never found a place to live.
In a Craigslist search, make sure to respond to a listing as soon as possible, but also be wary about your potential roommates. If your Craigslist search is not successful many interns might just turn to option one intern apartments, even though they can be a higher price.
It's possible to feel at home even if you're only here briefly
Once you find housing, be aware that life as an intern can be tough. It's not uncommon for city dwellers to have to make lots of maintenance requests, for everything from rat removal to broken refrigerators. It can also be hard to assimilate, as you're in DC for much longer than a tourist, but you aren't here for good.
But the benefits to interning in DC outweigh the cost and stress of housing. In DC you have the opportunity to explore countless museums (for free), attend enlightening events, and network with inspiring people. And when it comes to feeling at home in your apartment, try making and spending time with friends, decorating, and cooking family recipes.
Do you have any tips for interns coming to DC?
Jonathan Neeley isn't just our editor. He's also a top ultimate Frisbee player and a member of the DC Breeze, a team in the professional American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL). We're going to their next home game, on Saturday, May 7 against New York. Join us!
Photo by Kevin Wolf.
The Breeze play at Gallaudet University's Hotchkiss Field, their football stadium. The game starts at 6:30. Gates open at 5:15, and our Managing Director, Sarah Guidi, will be there to give you your tickets. We'll all be sitting in a block, so you can meet other GGWash readers, commenters, contributors, and editors while enjoying what should be a very fun game.
We've gotten a group rate for tickets, which are usually $12.50. Thanks to Don and Kellen with the Breeze for making the group discount available to GGWash. If you want to come support Jonathan in his game and also in a tiny way help us pay his salary, you can pay the same $12.50 for your ticket and some of that will go to our organization to fund him. Or, you can buy a ticket alone for $7.50.
To participate, you need to buy your ticket by 4 pm on Friday, May 6. You can get it by clicking the button below:
Once you buy a ticket, look for an email from Sarah on Friday evening with details on where and how to meet her to get your tickets.
Aside from a chance to watch some very talented athletes, games are a great way to spend time outside and enjoy the community. You can buy both beer and food there (and for cheap!), and there's a live band that starts playing soon after the gates open. Kids 12 and under get in free, and there's also a free clinic to teach kids to play that runs from 5-6 pm.
The field is about a 15-minute walk from NoMa Metro. The 90s buses run past the campus along Florida Avenue, and the D4 and D8 just to the east, and the university runs a shuttle from Metro. There is a Capital Bikeshare station right on Gallaudet's campus, near the field, and drivers can buy daily parking passes.
Hope to see you there!
On Tuesday, we posted our eighty-second photo challenge to see how well you knew Metro. I took photos of five Metro stations. Here are the answers. How well did you do?
This week, we got 27 guesses. Nine got all five. Great work Peter K, JamesDCane, Justin..., Chris H, AlexC, Dillon the Pickle, FN, Solomon, and Stephen C!
Image 1: Tysons Corner
The first image is the view of Tysons Corner station from the plaza adjacent to the Vita building. Given the unique Silver Line architecture, you should have been able to easily narrow this down to the two "Gambrel" style stations. But Tysons Corner station isn't in a median, like Greensboro is, so this can't be Greensboro. All but one of you got this one right. Great work.
Image 2: Fort Totten
The second picture shows the top of a memorial plaque in the mezzanine at Fort Totten. The "Y OF" that is visible is part of the phrase, "in memory of," and is a memorial to the nine people killed in the 2009 Metro crash just north of the station.
Additionally, the windows and angles here are indicative of the mezzanine shape of Fort Totten. From this vantage point, we're looking toward the two escalators connecting the mezzanine to the Green/Yellow platform.
Twenty knew the correct answer.
Image 3: Van Dorn Street
The third image shouldn't have been too hard if you know the architecture of the system. The presence of three Blue Line trains on the PIDS tells you that this is almost certainly a Blue-only station, of which there are only three in the system. This picture was taken on a Saturday, but even though you didn't know that, there are times (weekends and off-peak), when Van Dorn and Franconia are not served by the Yellow Line.
Two of the three Blue-only stations can be easily eliminated. Arlington Cemetery is depressed in an open cut (so the trees wouldn't be visible) and doesn't have a canopy at all. Instead, it's only covered where Memorial Avenue crosses it. Week 8 gives you a sense of what that looks like. Franconia/Springfield, on the other hand has a very different canopy and the PIDS signs have a different format at terminal stations (BLUE LINE | LARGO CENTER | LEAVING 3 MINS).
But even if there had been only one Blue Line train on the board, you still could have solved this. That's because the canopy visible here is a "Gull I" design. And the only Gull I station served by the Blue Line is Van Dorn Street.
Twenty-five figured it out.
Image 4: Wheaton
The fourth image was a little trickier, and required you to take a second look to figure out that this was Wheaton. Many of you went with your first instinct, but closer inspection should have revealed this to be a twin-tube station. One clue is the presence of "can" lights hanging from the vault, which aren't present at the higher single-vault stations.
The perspective here is clearly looking through the doors of an elevator. Some downtown stations do have side platforms with the elevator in an alcove off to the side like this. But all of those stations have the "waffle" design, not the taller coffer "arch"-style. None of the "Arch I" or "Arch II" stations have side platforms. And that means this has to be one of the twin-tube stations.
It can't be Forest Glen because, as several of you noted, the elevators there all land in a common lobby and are farther from the tracks. At Wheaton, however, the solitary elevator lands not in the escalator lobby, but in an alcove at the far northern end of the Shady Grove platform.
Ten came to the correct conclusion.
Image 5: Capitol Heights
The final image was even more challenging, but there was enough information to figure out that it's Capitol Heights.
Like with image 3 above, you can tell that this station is served only by the Blue and Silver Lines (since the Orange Line isn't listed on the sign). There are only two underground stations that are served by the Blue and Silver, so even without additional information, you could have made a guess with a 50/50 probability of getting the right answer. Some of you did that and got lucky.
But there was a way to be 100% certain, and it involves knowing that while Benning Road and Capitol Heights are nearly identical, they're mirror images of each other. In week 56 we also ran a set with a similar signage clue and noted in the answers post the difference between the two stations.
At both stations, the single mezzanine is at the far end of the platform. At Benning Road, the mezzanine is at the east end. At Capitol Heights, it's at the west end. That means that when you descend to the platform at Capitol Heights, you're facing east. And if you're facing east, trains going eastbound to Largo are on your right, and trains going west toward downtown are on your left.
One final note: The reason you know this sign is at the bottom of the escalator when you arrive is because this is a fairly typical application of WMATA's signing in this case, since this is a decision point and because anywhere else on the platform, the column would also include a strip map of farther stations reached on the appropriate track.
Nineteen came to the correct conclusion.
Thanks for playing! We'll be back in two weeks with our next quiz.
Every year, thousands of up and coming leaders come to DC to intern. Knowing how to get around can be difficult at first, but if you follow this advice, you'll steer clear of lighter pockets and grumpy mornings.
In early January, I arrived in DC with two suitcases and a small budget for transportation. Being a full time student and an unpaid intern who lives just a mile from work, I spend most of my time walking.
There are, however, a lot of times when I take Metrorail. Irvine, California, where I'm from, doesn't have a subway system, so using Metro ("Metrorail" is the official name, since there's also Metrobus, but everyone just calls the train system "Metro") has been a new adventure filled with ups and downs.
Now that I've been here for a while, I can tell you ten things about Metro that will help any intern who's new to DC:
1. Understand the map: DC is divided into quadrants that center on the US Capitol—
2. Prepare for traffic: The Metrorail crowds can be a big hassle. Go towards the ends of the platforms, as commuters tend to group towards the middle.
3. Different time, different price: The students in my internship program who take the Metrorail every day, spend around $40 per week. However, the fares vary by station and during peak times, they're more expensive. On weekdays, these are in effect from 5:30 AM to 9:30 AM, and 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM. On the bright side, the trains will arrive more frequently at this time of day.
4. Consider a Metro pass: If you use the Metro enough, a SelectPass can save you time and money. This calculator helps to determine which pass will save you the most. Even if you plan to walk or use Capital Bikeshare to get to work, there are going to be times when you'll want to use Metro, and for those, it's important to have a SmarTrip card.
5. Register your SmartTrip Card: Don't forget to register your Metro card just in case it is misplaced or stolen. This is especially important if you've loaded a large amount of money on to it.
6. Know to behave on the Metro: A lot of Metro stations have long escalators. If you're standing while riding them, stay to the right to allow room for those who would prefer to walk. Also, Metro doors do not operate like elevator doors, so putting your arm out to keep the door open will not end well.
Once you're on a Metro car, be sure to move towards the center to make room for others. If you're inside an already packed train, don't underestimate another rider's ability to force their way in too. After being shoved into the armpits of several tall strangers, I've learned to position myself away from corners in order to prepare for the "sardine can" type of morning.
7. Running Late? Metro vs. cab: During my second week of interning, I woke up 10 minutes before work started and figured that taking a cab would be the quickest option. Unfortunately, I was stuck in traffic for twenty minutes. Lesson learned: cabs and ride hailing aren't necessarily the solution when you're running late—
8. The weather can affect your commute: This past February, I experienced my first snow storm. I had often heard jokes that DC residents panic at the mere thought of snow, yet I was still surprised by how cautious the city was about transportation during the blizzard. During this time, the Metro didn't service my area for nearly a week. If you'll be in DC during the winter, frequently check Metro alerts to see if there are any operational changes to the Metrorail.
9. Ask your supervisor for a transportation stipend: As an unpaid intern, every penny counts. Since DC has some of the highest fares of transit in the US, I suggest that interns at least ask if their work sites offer a transportation stipend. At my previous internship, I received $150 at the start of every month to cover my estimated transportation costs, which helped significantly. A friend of mine kept receipts of her fare purchases, gave them to her supervisor, and was compensated at the end of each month. Some internships, like those on Capitol Hill, do not offer this option. But it never hurts to ask!
10. Know your options: Capital Bikeshare will let you get some exercise while you commute, but it's also often just as fast as Metro, or even driving. CaBi allows you to rent a bike from over 300 solar powered stations in the DC area. You can also enjoy a view of the city and save a few bucks by riding the bus—
Got any transportation advice for people that are new to DC? Comment below.
Paris has one of the world's great subway systems. Beyond its truly impressive coverage and service quality, here are eight wonderful details about how it operates that US systems would do well to mimic.
1. Door knobs speed trains
In DC and in many US subway systems, when trains pull into stations passengers wait for the train operator to open the doors. That adds a few seconds to every stop while the train idles on the platform, doors shut. Waiting passengers tap their feet and cross their arms.
All those seconds, at every station, every trip, all day, add up. The result is not only less happy riders, but also slower trains that come less frequently and carry fewer people than the system's theoretical maximum.
In Paris, those delays don't happen. Each door has a manual knob or button that passengers can push to enter or exit at their own pace. For safety, the doors are all locked while the train is moving quickly. But as it comes to a halt the doors unlock, and passengers can immediately open the doors to exit trains.
Here's a video, showing how the whole operation makes exiting a train noticeably faster than on WMATA:
WMATA did have automatic doors up until 2008, which were faster than the operator-controlled doors of today. But that was eight years ago, and there's no indication they'll be fixed any time soon.
Although the issues for a streetcar are different than a subway, this is one detail DC's streetcars share.
2. Full platform seating works
Why do WMATA station platforms have so few seats? Especially at side platform stations, why not just line the entire platform with one long bench?
Check out Paris' Chatelet station, where that's exactly the layout:
Most Paris stations aren't like Chatelet. Frankly, with sub-five-minute headways most of the time, a lot of seating isn't as crucial there as it is in DC. But there's been many a day I've stood for 15 minutes in a WMATA station wishing it had this feature.
3. Flip-up seats add capacity
The first row of seats inside Paris' train doors flip up. On sparsely-populated trains, riders can sit in the seats comfortably. On especially crowded ones, riders can stand, creating more space on the train.
Yes, riders in Paris sitting on these seats do seem to usually get up and create more space when the train gets crowded. It seems to be part of Paris transit etiquette, like standing on the left on DC escalators. Not everyone does it, but enough do to make a difference.
This arrangement also makes it easier for people in wheelchairs to ride without blocking the aisle.
4. Open gangways really do work
US transit systems are slowly beginning to catch on to the benefits of longer open-gangway trains. If passengers can move from front to back of trains without getting off, that makes trains less crowded and boosts capacity.
All new or recently refurbished lines in Paris have open gangways. And they're wonderful.
5. Great late night service is possible with only two tracks
Paris' metro lacks express tracks just like DC's, and it runs basically comparable hours to WMATA. It's also decades older than Metrorail. It must have at least similar maintenance needs, and no more time in the day to accomplish them.
Yet somehow Paris manages to run frequent trains late into the night.
I have no idea how they do it. When do maintenance workers do their work? How do they keep up tracks with trains coming every four minutes?
I wish I knew. If you know, send Mr. Wiedefeld an explanatory note.
6. Els can be public art
Talk about elevated rail in the US and most people visualize either Chicago-style steel monstrosities or Tysons Corner-style concrete ones. Neither are particularly endearing images, except maybe to transitphiles and architecture buffs.
In Paris, even the el train is beautiful.
And though a bridge over the Seine is a special place, Paris' els have nice aesthetic touches elsewhere too.
7. Wayfinding can be beautiful
"If you can make something pretty, why not make it pretty?" My wife and I kept coming back to that thought as we explored Paris. These signs, telling riders which direction their metro train is headed are one example of why.
8. Location-specific maps help riders navigate
Going to the airport? Rather than only a tiny icon on the main system map, how about helping riders with a dedicated airport transit map?
In DC we already put location-specific bus maps and neighborhood maps inside every Metro station. Why not unique maps for destinations to which infrequent riders often travel, like airports and stadiums?
What details like these have you noticed on other countries' transit systems, that you'd like to see imported to the US?
- 8 lessons about great transit I learned riding the Paris Métro
- After the FBI moves, Pennsylvania Ave could be reborn
- National Links: From Florida to California
- 10 things my internship taught me about transportation in DC
- Metro's new displays do a better job of sharing info
- Get to know all the buses in the Metrobus fleet
- Lisbon is a rail transit mecca
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