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System maps on the ceilings of cars? Color blind-friendly dots on sign posts? These are the last 2 MetroGreater finalists!

You have a few more days to vote for your favorite MetroGreater finalists before voting closes at midnight on Friday, August 26th! We've told you about eight of the ten finalists over the last few weeks. Here are the last two: System map decals for ceilings of cars and color-blind friendly dots on sign posts.

Photos by Mr. T in DC and thisisbossi on Flickr, respectively.

System map decals for ceilings of cars

Many people who submitted ideas for small, quick fixes to make riding Metro better wanted to see improvements to signage. This finalist idea proposes to add more system maps to rail cars by putting them on the ceiling. Although Metro has made ceiling space available for advertising on some cars, they could make room for some maps.

Original photo by Mr.T in DC on Flickr.
Read Janet S.'s original submission:
Place decals of Metro system Maps on ceilings of the cars, preferably in between doors. This will encourage tourists to move to middle of car, away from doors, if they are able to see a system map that is not near a door.

Ceiling system maps will also be helpful to regular riders who are having to make detours during Safe Track surges.

A few commenters think this is a great idea. Daniele notes that because she is 5'3", "it can be EXTREMELY difficult to see the Metro map! By putting it on the ceiling, I would no longer have issues seeing the map!" Rick agrees that this is a good idea, but thinks that adhesive system maps might make for tempting souvenirs. He recommends that WMATA "make sure that they can't be peeled off" too easily by people wanting to take them home!

What do you think? Should system map decals for the ceilings of rail cars be the winning idea? Vote at and share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Make the dots on sign posts more color-blind friendly

Many people with color blindness experience unique challenges when trying to navigate Metrorail. Difficulty or the inability to distinguish between colors means that system wayfinding tools based solely on color are confusing for some people with colorblindness. This MetroGreater finalist idea seeks to assist people with colorblindness by adding text to the rail line dots on sign posts in Metro stations.

Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

Diana B.'s original submission explains:

On all sign posts, print the word color (ex. Blue on blue dot) so color-blind people can tell what line it is.

People who are color-blind have trouble determining which line is which, because they can't tell the color of the circles. My son-in-law has to ask people which line is which and sometimes gets no help because people just tell him to look at the posts.

Commenters agree with Diana. As someone who seems to have color blindness herself, Lori "support[s] this 100%." She shares that if she didn't already know where she was going, she would have a hard time navigating based on colors alone.

To make wayfinding easier for people who are colorblind as well as those who may not read English, Mark suggests making "giant colored dots with white colored text words" in the center in both English and French. Rick, on the other hand thinks less is more and recommends "dots with the single capital letters in them, (B) = Blue, (G) = Green, (R) = Red, etc." to reflect some of the new system maps.

Do you support adding text to the colored dots on sign posts? Should it be the winning MetroGreater idea? Vote and tell us your thoughts at


Think you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 90

It's time for the ninetieth installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Below are photos of 5 stations in the Washington Metro system. Can you identify each from its picture?

Image 1

Image 2

Image 3

Image 4

Image 5

We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun.

Please have your answers submitted by noon on Thursday. Good luck!

Information about contest rules, submission guidelines, and a leaderboard is available at

Public Spaces

Arlington has a great new park, and it was easy to build

What if you turned parking space in your neighborhood into the area's newest park? Staff members from a handful of Arlington County agencies recently did just that, creating a new "pop-up plaza" near Courthouse Plaza. It only took paint, plantings, outdoor furniture, and two days of work.

Though the County may have borrowed this idea from New York City, it has recently shown an ability to get innovative in transforming public spaces using inexpensive materials: in May, tape, paper, and potted plants were all it took to build a temporary bikeway.

The pop-up plaza calls to mind the temporary "parklets" that pop up on Park(ing) Day each September, but it's great to see these innovative spaces being created at other times of year.

Hopefully this plaza will remain a permanent fixture of the Courth House neighborhood (at least until the entire parking lot is reclaimed and transformed into a park).

Where do you think Arlington's next pop-up plaza should go?


Breakfast links: Bigger selection for SelectPass

Photo by Mr.TinDC on Flickr.
More SelectPass options: Metro's SelectPass program just got better for everyone. Riders can now select a variety of fare price points between $2.25 and $5.90 for the flexible monthly passes. (Post)

You're still fired: Metro and its biggest union are fighting over the firing of a tunnel inspector who allegedly falsified a report related to last January's fatal smoke incident. Metro says it would be incredibly dangerous to reinstate the employee, but the union says Metro is using the employee as a scapegoat. (Post)

California housing plan crumbles: The California governor's plan to allow more housing construction without community veto has failed to get support in the state legislature. This also puts $400 million in housing funding, which was part of the proposed deal, in jeopardy. (SFist)

Bikeshare comes to Baltimore: Baltimore's long-awaited bike share system is set to open in October, with over 400 bikes at 50 stations by spring. 40% of the bikes will include electric pedal assist. (Baltimore Business Journal)

Bethesda Metro's brand new mural: The Bethesda Metro station is getting a huge mural. DC artist Juan Pineda was selected from a pool of more than 50 artists to create his Mayan-inspired piece. (Bethesda Magazine)

The ethics of rent-to-own homes: Rent-to-own homes make home ownership possible for a lot of lower-income folks, but are they a good deal? Predatory loan terms and undisclosed issues mean a lot of people lose a lot of money. (NYT)

And...: A special bike bridge will connect a key bike route over a 6-lane interstate in Portland. (Streetsblog) ... Uber's CEO says self-driving cars won't take away jobs. (Vox) ... DC's Department of For-Hire Vehicles is preparing for a future with automated vehicles. (DCist)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.


Compass rose decals? More direct priority seating signs? Here are two more MetroGreater finalists.

This week is the last week to vote on your favorite MetroGreater finalists! Before voting closes at midnight Friday, we're telling you about each finalist idea. Today's featured finalists: Compass rose decals at station exits and more direct priority seating signs.

Photos by the finalists.

Compass rose decals at station exits

Have you ever been disoriented upon exiting a Metro station, unclear which way you need to go to reach your destination? This finalist idea offers a solution: install compass rose decals outside stations. A compass rose is a figure which indicates the orientation of north, south, east, and west cardinal directions. Installing compass rose decals outside stations with multiple exits could help Metrorail riders get their bearings after exiting a station.

Photo by finalist Robert B.

Here's the original submission:

Exiting at an unfamiliar metro station, but know the direction you need to head next? Use a compass rose to quickly orient yourself.

Keep sufficiently far away from station exit that tourist won't stand over and block escalator exits. In fact, if decals are 10 feet forward from exit, it could draw unfamiliar visitors forward and out of the way of escalators as they orient themselves.

Decals would be best if they gave primary prominence to the north direction, so they could be read from a distance and were not dependent on reading the letters.

Robert B. shares that "downtown [DC] stations can be especially confusing since there are often multiple exits and infrequent riders may not realize that they are exiting at a different exit than they took last time." He thinks installing compass rose decals at certain station exits would help. Commenter "thm" agrees."Start with Farragut North! I always get confused when exiting there because it's 17th street on both sides of Farragut Square, and occasionally I've wanted to walk towards 16th street but made it halfway to 18th street before I got my bearings."

Robert foresees some potential challenges with this idea, but offers proactive solutions. To avoid having passengers clog up the exits by stopping to look at the directional decals, Robert suggests placing them away from the escalators to "pull visitors forward." Also, some commenters have suggested including local landmarks or neighborhood attractions on the decals. Robert thinks that's a great idea, but, taking the long view, he notes that "one of the advantages of the compass rose is that north won't be changing direction anytime soon, while construction and destruction of roads and landmarks could leave the decals out of date."

What do you think? Which stations would benefit from compass rose decals? Vote at and share your thoughts in the comments section below.

More direct priority seating signs

Federal law requires that rail cars have signs which designate certain seats as priority for people with disabilities and seniors. These priority seating signs should also indicate that other passengers give up these seats if asked to do so.

This finalist idea proposes stronger language on Metro's priority seating signs to make sure that able bodied people relinquish their seats to those who need them more.

Photo by finalist Matt F.

The original submission explains:

While traveling in Portland and Seattle last year I noticed that the priority seatings signs used much stronger language than those on Metro. Portland MaxRail says you are "required" to give up your seat for someone who needs it.

I see a lot of people on trains and buses unwilling to get up from their seat for someone who is elderly, pregnant or could otherwise use a seat.

Metro has tried to address Matt F.'s concerns about priority seating in the past. In their 2009 "If trains were planes" video about Metrorail etiquette, the animated attendant notes that "all seats are not created equally." She notes that passengers should make the designated priority seats available to seniors and people with disabilities.

This video appears to be part of a campaign Metro rolled out in 2009 to remind riders to make priority seats available to people with disabilities and seniors. In January 2015, Metro worked with the Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC), which represents the needs of elderly people and those with disabilities, to encourage people to keep priority seats open for these folks through an ad campaign.

Making priority seating available to those who need it seems to be a perennial problem on Metro. Perhaps, changing the language on the signs can help keep priority seating open for those who need it?

What do you think about this idea? Tell us with your vote at or in the comments below.

You can also check out the other finalist ideas we've profiled here, here, and here.


Join us for happy hour, learn to write about housing, and other great upcoming events

Tuesday night is our next happy hour in Mount Rainier, featuring Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker. Also, do you want to learn to write blog posts like the ones on Greater Greater Washington? Are you interested in talking about housing? We'll teach you!

Photo by Tinker*Tailor loves Lalka on Flickr.

Blogging is a powerful way to discuss our region's issues with a greater community. To help you learn, we're hosting a writing workshop with a focus on housing on Wednesday, September 7th at 1919 M Street NW.

Join us to find an outlet for your ideas on housing in the region, and to build your skills and network. The free workshop is at the College Board, 1919 M St NW, Suite 300, from 6:30-8:30 pm. Space is limited, so sign up early—we want you to come!

Besides the writing workshop, there are some other great events coming up:

Tuesday, August 23: Join Greater Greater Washington staff, supporters, and special guest County Executive Rushern Baker for happy hour in Prince George's County from 6 to 8 pm at Bird Kitchen + Cocktails (3801 34th Street). There are many transit options to Mount Rainier, and if you'd like to bike, we have a bike group leaving from Brookland at 5:45 pm. We hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 24: Netwalking is an organization that gets people out in the community, walking for fitness, and learning about important issues. Join the next Netwalk to tour U Street and learn about effective strategies for effective community engagement. Meet at the corner of Vermont St and 10th Street, NW at 6 pm.

Next Tuesday and Wednesday, August 30 and 31: Raise a glass with the Coalition for Smarter Growth team at one of two happy hours. Get the scoop on the Purple Line and BRT on Route 1 at the Montgomery Happy Hour on Tuesday at 6:30 pm at Fire Station 1 (8131 Georgia Ave) or join us and Shaw Main Streets on Wednesday at Right Proper Brewing (624 T St NW) at 6:00pm to get the latest on our DC policy work and hear about what we have on tap for the fall.

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


When airports give your kids a place to play, traveling is far less stressful

If you're a parent, flying out of Dulles International Airport will soon be a somewhat more bearable experience. That's because the airport recently opened a children's play area in Concourse B, where many international flights leave from. The contained space—known as the "FunWay"—has airport-themed climbing structures and a video console with 100 games.

The FunWay at Dulles Airport. Photos by the author.

This is a good thing. A very good thing. And it's actually a bigger deal than you might think.

A few months ago, I wouldn't really have given a kid's play area in a local airport much thought. But after a recent visit to Switzerland with my wife and two-and-a-half year old daughter to see relatives, it became painfully obvious to me that compared to most of Europe, the US doesn't really consider the needs of families—especially those with young children—when it comes to how we get around.

We started our trip at Dulles in mid-July, a few weeks before the FunWay was finished. We had a few hours to kill, so we play zone defense the best we could: one of us would rest while the other took off running as my daughter sprinted down the concourse and into just about every nook and cranny Dulles has to offer. (There's lots, and a toddler will find them all.) To her, it was new and exciting, and she got to explore it all. But for us as parents, it was exhausting and, at times, stressful. There was no easy way to contain her, lest I put her in front of a screen. (Certainly not beyond me, but we were saving that for the 8-hour flight.)

But when we landed in Copenhagen, our five-hour layover was significantly easier. That's because the Danish airport not only has communal strollers for parents to use (we had checked ours in Dulles, and it wouldn't get to us until Zurich), but also a large play area. She got to run around and play with toys in a safe and contained space, while we got to sit back and relax as we waited for our next flight.

And so it went for the rest of the trip. The inter-city trains in Switzerland had designated cars for families—and those cars had small playgrounds for kids. The buses in Berne, where we stayed with family, allowed parents to park strollers in the area designated for passengers in wheelchairs. Even the highway rest stops in Switzerland had playgrounds.

A playground in a train in Switzerland.

This isn't to say that some US airports haven't been ahead of the curve. Chicago O'Hare, San Francisco and Boston Logan are regularly ranked as some of the most kid-friendly in the country—and even compete with some of the better airports internationally. But that hasn't really been the case locally.

Until now, Dulles had nothing for kids—but it did have multiple smoking lounges, not to mention four designated pet relief areas. (Don't get me wrong—I love pets. But I'd bet more kids travel than do pets.) And on Metrobus, you're required to fold up a stroller and carry it. It goes without saying that it's probably a distant hope that Amtrak—not to mention MARC or VRE—would ever consider a kid-friendly car. (Per its website, the best Amtrak offers is the suggestion that parents should "download a train-themed movie for your little ones to watch while they ride the real thing!")

Don't get me wrong: There are far bigger things the US could tackle to make the country more friendly to new families. We're nowhere near Europe—much less most of the world—when it comes to paid family leave, for one. But that's not an excuse not to tackle the smaller things, most of which would be far easier to implement anyhow.

Those small things send clear signals about what we collectively prioritize. Cities that prioritize bikes have great bike infrastructure; just the same, cities and countries that prioritize kids and families will build things like a play area in an airport or have a designated car for kids in a train. Kids are accommodated, not avoided.

And for anyone who thinks I'm just an annoying parent trying to bend the world to my needs and decisions, consider this: the happier kids are anywhere they go, the happier we all are. No one likes a bored, screaming child, least of all their parents. Accommodating children in small ways during travel is cheap—and has a big payoff for everyone.

On our way back to the US earlier this month, our flight was delayed by nine hours. We were all tired and bored, but there was one saving grace: We were delayed in Copenhagen, and we knew we had a place to take my daughter.

Full disclosure: Dulles Airport has provided underwriting for my employer, WAMU 88.5. And to be honest, I only heard about the FunWay when it came up in one of their underwriting spots on our air last week. The idea for this piece predated that spot, though, and I've received no compensation from Dulles Airport for writing this.


Breakfast links: A dream of affordable housing

Photo by Lindsay Buckley on Flickr.
Hard road to affordability: The supply of affordable housing in DC is so low that any serious efforts to tackle the problem would likely require billions in spending; low-cost solutions like inclusionary zoning aren't certain. (The Atlantic)

City prices outpace outside: Housing prices in DC are jumping way ahead of those in Maryland or Virginia. DC homes now cost 27% more than ones within the Beltway but outside District lines, and are 44% pricier than outside the Beltway. (WAMU)

More jobs for the 'burbs: The DC area is home to some of the fastest-paced job growth in the nation, and it's mostly concentrated outside the District. Northern Virginia saw the most new jobs, but Maryland is starting to catch up. (Post)

Green light for practice facility: Events DC selected construction companies Smoot and Gilbane to build the planned Wizards practice facility in Ward 8. But there's still a lot of controversy out there regarding the project's $65 million price tag. (City Paper)

More transparency, please: Organizations in favor of open government are worried that the current bill to create a new Metro Safety Commission would allow the group to keep information secret instead of sharing it with the public. (WTOP)

Transit center's birthday wishes: A lot of hard work went into making the Silver Spring Transit Center possible, and as long as the space immediately around it remains unused, its value to residents and commuters will be limited. (Post)

Designs to beat the heat: Architecture might be a more efficient way to beat the summer heat than air conditioning, and other elements like shade trees, solar collectors and better ventilation systems can make a difference. (Post)

Bikes on the hill: Maryland Avenue NE in Capitol Hill will get bike lanes and a "road diet." Some urbanists say the bike lanes aren't enough, but other neighbors don't want anything to change at all. (WABA) ... Bike lanes are also in the works for New Jersey Avenue SE and E Street/South Carolina Avenue SE. (WashCycle)

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DC's Edgewood neighborhood is set to get more affordable housing and connections to the Met Branch Trail

Plans for a massive new development planned along Rhode Island Avenue NE include affordable housing, new connections to a large nearby apartment complex, and links to an important bike trail.

An elevation showing the first phase (completed, on the right) and later phases (outlined in white) of the planned Rhode Island Center development. Image by MRP Realty.

Rhode Island Center is a roughly 1,600-residential unit mixed-use development that will rise on the site of the Big Lots and Forman Mills between the Metropolitan Branch Trail and 4th Street NE.

This is the ideal transit-oriented development for the region: lots of housing, both affordable and market rate, a block from the Metro on a site that is currently a suburban-style strip mall. To top it off, it includes needed pedestrian and cycling improvements to the surrounding area.

Developer MRP Realty plans to include about 128 units in the District's Inclusionary Zoning program, build new stairways up to Edgewood Commons on the hill above it, make improvements to the MBT, install two new Capital Bikeshare docks and provide residents $225 in incentives towards alternative transportation options, like a bikeshare or carshare membership, a benefits package submitted to the DC Planning Commission on 1 August shows.

Affordable housing

The project will be built in phases, with the first two buildings fronting the MBT scheduled to open in 2019, confirms MRP's vice-president of development Michael Skena in an email. Phase one will include about 450 units, with 8%, or about 36 units, set aside for affordable housing.

Looking south at the first phase of Rhode Island Center from the MBT. Image by MRP Realty.

Half of the affordable units will be for households of four earning up to $54,300 a year, or 50% of the DC region's area median income (AMI), and half for similarly sized households earning up to $86,880, the DC Department of Housing and Community Development's (DHCD) 2016 inclusionary zoning schedule shows. Rents for two-bedroom apartments are capped at $1,222 a month and $1,955 a month, respectively, for the two income groups.

The affordable housing in Rhode Island Center's later phases will see slightly more units going to needier families, with 5% for those in the lower income bucket and 3% in the higher one.

The income levels for both the first and later phases of the development will be set if they are approved by the Zoning Commission on September 12, says Skena, even if the DC Council passes a pending change to the IZ program lowering the maximum household income level to 60% of AMI.

However, commissioners from ANC 5E, which oversees the area including Rhode Island Center, declined to support the development unless MRP includes nearly double the number of units, 14% of the total, in the IZ program at 60% of AMI, in a letter to the Planning Commission dated July 7.

While further changes to the affordable housing component in the development are possible before the September hearing, they are unlikely to include any units at the lower household income level sought by the ANC.

In July, the DHCD objected to a proposal that affordable units be available to households earning up to 60% of AMI in the Eckington Yards development. While the main objection was to a request by the developer to administer the units itself outside of the agency's IZ program, the agency emphasized a need for developers to be held to all the District's existing laws and regulations.

Current regulations require that units in the IZ program are available to households earning up to either 50% or 80% of AMI.

Stairways and connections

MRP promises to build two new stairways between Edgewood Commons and Rhode Island Center. This would provide residents of the apartment complex with a new direct connection to the MBT and Rhode Island Ave Metro station, eliminating the current about half-a-mile journey through the existing shopping center and up 4th Street.

The planned stairway connecting Edgewood Commons to the MBT. Image by MRP Realty.

The first stairway, which would be located in the northeast corner of the development adjacent to the trail, would be built with the first phase. The stairs would be closed between 1 am and 4:30 am on weekdays, and 3 am and 6:30 am on weekends.

Easier access to the Metro and trail would benefit residents of the mixed-income Edgewood Commons community. It would improve connections between the complex and the east side of the neighborhood, and potentially increase economic opportunities for residents. For example, the time it takes to walk to the shopping center with Giant Foods and Home Depot would be cut in half.

Connections to the MBT are a big part of the Rhode Island Center proposal. The central artery through the project will stretch from 4th Street NE to a new plaza where the trail and bridge to the Rhode Island Ave station meet, and include a new protected bike lane.

Looking east down the central corridor through Rhode Island Center towards the MBT. Image by MRP Realty.

The developer will realign the MBT so it passes under the stairs to the bridge to reduce pedestrian conflicts in the planned plaza, and make other signage, wayfinding, landscaping and lighting improvements.

The benefits package also includes $10,000 for the connection between the MBT and Franklin Street NE, which was included in the NoMa Business Improvement District's MBT Safety and Access Study earlier this year.

MRP will install two new bikeshare docks as part of the package. One next to the trail near the planned plaza and one on 4th Street NE between Bryant Street and Franklin Street.


Metro 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.

Union Station. Photo by Jordan Barab.

42 bus, Dupont Circle. Photo by nevermindtheend.

Gallery Place-Chinatown. Photo by SounderBruce.

Photo by SounderBruce.

Photo by J P.

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!

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