Greater Greater Washington

Cyclists more often get the blame if they die in a crash

Over 100 Washington area cyclists have died in motor vehicle crashes since 1987. Previously, I mapped out their locations. What about the outcomes? Police fault cyclists and drivers equally, except in Prince George's County, where they overwhelmingly blame cyclists.


Photo by The Bike Fed on Flickr.

Cyclists are found at fault more than drivers

I collected data on fatal crashes involving both a cyclist and a driver in the region since 1987. The data came from media reports and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

I was able to determine who was found at fault in 83% of the crashes. Cyclists got the blame 58.9% of the time. This could be because cyclists are just more reckless than drivers, but it could also be that there is a failure in the reporting itself.

There's a big discrepancy between the two sources. Of all of the cases in which fault was assigned, 34.4% relied only on data from a FARS report. In these cases, cyclists got the blame 74.1% of the time. In contrast, where the details of the crash came from a media report or from both a media report and a FARS report, cyclists only got the blame in 30 out of 59 crashes, or 50.8% of the time.

Prince George's finds cyclists at fault far more often

Prince George's County has has the most bike fatalities of any jurisdiction in the area. It's also the place cyclists are most often found at fault.

Cyclists got the blame in 76.7% of Prince George's fatal crashes, compared to 52.9% in Northern Virginia, 50% in Montgomery County, and 48% in DC. In fact, outside Prince George's County, drivers and cyclists in the region share fault 50-50.

Could police bias explain these discrepancies?

Responding police officers are responsible for filling out FARS reports, so police bias might be a factor.

For example, in several cases the only contributing factor was "Walking/Riding With Or Against Traffic, Playing, Working, Sitting, Lying, Standing, Etc. In Roadway." This could mean a lot of things, including something as simple as the cyclist riding in the road.

The inherently one-sided interview can also play a role. Often the only living witness, the driver, has a strong incentive to blame the cyclist, and perhaps the police do not do enough to challenge these claims.

On the other side of things, it's possible that the media only reported on crashes where the driver was to blame. My data set has far more news stories on the investigation, subsequent trial, and verdict when the driver was criminally at fault. Perhaps stories where the driver is at fault, such as the recent fatal crash near Baltimore, are more appealing to the media.

In addition to asking why the county is so deadly for cyclists, Prince George's County needs to ask the question of why cyclists who die there are so much more likely to be blamed. Are Prince George's cyclists worse? Do the roads there invite risky cycling? Is there a difference in the way police and journalists investigate and report crashes in Prince George's?

If it's bias, someone needs to address it for the sake of both justice and safety. If it's cyclists riding dangerously, then the county needs more education and enforcement. If it's road design, the county needs to change the roads. Being such a negative outlier should be cause for alarm.

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Breakfast links: Purple Line hopes and fears


Photo by dan reed! on Flickr.
Purple Line signs: Earlier this month, Larry Hogan received $47,000 from a fundraiser with Purple Line opponents in the Columbia Country Club. Maryland's acting transportation head Pete Rahn is keeping an "open mind" about the Purple Line. (Post)

Add value off the bus: Starting in April, Alexandria will not allow DASH riders using a SmarTrip to add value on the bus, which officials say contributes to bus delays. (Post)

DC's own Kirby Delauter: Kathy Henderson, a commissioner for Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5D channeled Frederick's Kirby Delauter by objecting when Frozen Tropics a resident filmed two public ANC meetings. (Frozen Tropics)

Different rules for Uber: Virginia lawmakers struck a deal to legalize ride-hailing services, but cab drivers from across the state rallied to demand Uber & Lyft drivers get the same background checks and insurance that taxis must. (WAMU)

Free parking myth: How much does cheap parking actually cost? According to a Ph.D student at Simon Fraser University, retail purchases in stores with free parking nearby have an invisible 1% sales tax to cover the cost of free parking. (Post)

Free transit myth: In theory, free public transit should entice people to stop commuting by car. But it didn't work in Rome, Denver, or Trenton because the step drew misbehaving young people that deterred wealthier commuters from riding. (CityLab)

And...: Bystanders kicked in windows to help passengers out of a smoke-filled Red Line train... on the Boston T. (Globe) ... What should you do if there's a runner in a bike lane? (City Paper) ... There are 31 candidates running for two open DC Council seats. (DCist) ... Delaware Senator Tom Carper will introduce a new DC statehood bill. (WAMU)

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Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 36

On Tuesday, we posted our thirty-sixth photo challenge to see how well you know Metro. I took five photos in the Metro system. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

We got 22 guesses this week. Six of you got all five. Great work Chris H, Peter K, MZEBE, Spork!, Mr. Johnson, and FN!


Image 1: McLean

The first image shows McLean station from the bridge over Route 123. You should be able to tell fairly easily that this is a Silver Line station based on the triangular shapes and the tan brick (we featured all five in week 16). The grating through which I took the photo is also unique to the Silver Line. You can also tell that the roof type is "Tysons Peak," which narrows this to McLean or Spring Hill. Spring Hill, however, is in the median of Route 7, not off to one side like McLean is. Sixteen of you knew this one.


Image 2: Takoma

The second picture shows the end of the platform at Takoma. A primary clue here is the bank of escalators. Takoma is the only elevated station to have three escalators side-by-side (featured in week 32). Another clue is the "Gull I" canopy, which extends beyond the platform, creating a very high ceiling above the mezzanine below. The blue clock to the left also helped some of you narrow this down to Takoma. Fourteen of you got this one right.


Image 3: Tysons Corner

This image shows art at Tysons Corner station. We showed this art installation when introducing the Silver Line. Several of you guessed Largo, likely because you confused this art with the similar "Largo Beacon" sculpture that we featured in week 4. Twelve of you guessed correctly.


Image 4: White Flint

The fourth image shows the end of the canopy at White Flint. There were two primary clues here. The first is the tapered "ribs" on the underside of the canopy, which is unique to White Flint (featured in week 20). The other clue is the flat glass roof over the escalators. Of the "General Peak" stations, only Grosvenor and White Flint have this feature, and Grosvenor has a modified canopy that is distinctive. This proved to be this week's hardest clue. Only nine of you got it right.


Image 5: College Park

I took the final picture from the second level of the parking garage at College Park. If you look closely at the left side of the picture, you can see that the station has a "General Peak" canopy, which narrows the field considerably. College Park is the only one of those stations with a parking garage so close to the platform. Fourteen of you got this one.

Thanks to everyone for playing! Great work. Stay tuned. We'll have five more images for you next Tuesday.

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Bills in the Virginia General Assembly would hurt and help transit and cyclists

As the Virginia General Assembly session heats up, there's a lot percolating on smart growth and transportation. Key bills on congestion metrics, funding, and bicycle and pedestrian priorities are up this week.


Photo by Virginia Guard Public Affairs on Flickr.

Congestion metrics

For years, highway advocates and others hostile to transit have tried to make roadway "congestion reduction" metrics the primary way we choose which transportation projects get funding.

HB1470 and HB1915/SB1314 would do just that for the Northern Virginia regional transportation plan, local comprehensive plans, and new transit projects.

If passed, these bills would have serious impacts on Virginia's transportation planning. In effect, when selecting new projects to build, Virginia officials would have to ignore the many benefits of transit for moving more people and building strong communities, and focus solely on how a project affects the capacity of existing highways to carry cars.

Undermining pro-transit jurisdictions

Another bill, HB2170, would merge the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, which funds and manages Virginia's portion of Metro, into the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, a broader agency that includes more of the outer suburbs, and has a multimodal focus rather than transit-only. Combining them would reduce the voting power of transit-dependent jurisdictions to control transit decision-making.

Funding and oversight

Comprehensive "transportation omnibus" bill HB1887 is receiving a lot of attention because it would partially fill a hole in state transit funding and increase funding for structurally deficient bridges, deteriorating pavement, and local transportation needs. It's a huge bill with a ton of provisions, some good and some bad.

Another bill, HB1886, would reform the Public Private Transportation Act (PPTA), establishing new oversight and accountability for public-private partnerships in transportation projects. This is particularly important following debacles like Hampton Roads' Route 460 project, which wasted $300 million in taxpayer funds without having permits in hand.

Bicycling and pedestrian priorities

Delegate Riley Ingram (R) of House District 62 (outside of Richmond) has introduced HB1746, a "mandatory sidepath" bill, which would prohibit bicyclists from riding in the road wherever there's a sidepath or bike lane available. Obviously, this bill would have major negative impacts on the many Northern Virginia cyclists who use bicycles for transportation.

SB781, which would make it legal for cars to cross the double yellow line to pass bicyclists, with the required three foot safety distance, has passed in the Senate and is headed to the House. Another bill, SB882, would make dooring illegal, and would also make it easier for cyclists to be compensated after being injured by dooring.

HB1402/SB952 would make sure local jurisdictions don't lose state funding if they implement road diets, with bike improvements on local streets. Under current law, replacing a car lane with a bike lane reduces a jurisdiction's road funding, because the state funding formula is based on car lane miles.

SB1279 would ban use of any personal communications device while driving, unless that device is hands-free or the vehicle is stopped.

More information

The Virginia Bicycling Federation has an excellent online spreadsheet which they update regularly, detailing the status of bicycling bills this session. And the Coalition for Smarter Growth has a take-action tool to help Virginia residents contact their state legislators to support or oppose these bills.

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DCPS spotlights the needs of African-American and Latino males

DC Public Schools has announced a new initiative that will train a "laser-like focus" on African-American and Latino males, two groups that fare worst on many measures of academic achievement. But the effort, which includes a new all-boys high school, will inevitably leave some students in relative darkness.


Photo of student from Shutterstock.

DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson recently unveiled a three-pronged program targeted at the 43% of DCPS students who are males of color. Spending $20 million over the next three years, DCPS plans to recruit 500 tutor-mentors, fund school-level programs aimed at engaging and supporting black and Hispanic boys, andmost ambitiouslybring in a successful Chicago charter network to replicate its prep school model in DC.

Many details are still unclear. DCPS is already recruiting volunteer tutors for the four well-regarded tutoring programs it is partnering with, but at least one of them uses only paid tutors. More fundamentally, it's not clear exactly where the $20 million will come from, although DCPS hopes to raise at least $7.4 million of it from private donors.

Another question is whether Urban Prep Academies, the organization that will run DCPS's prep school beginning in the fall of 2016, will enjoy the same degree of autonomy here that it's had running three charter schools in Chicago. Henderson promised that Urban Prep will have "as many autonomies as they need to make it work," but she added that the DC Council may need to change the law to make that possible.

Urban Prep has made headlines for getting 100% of its alumni into four-year colleges since it began graduating students five years ago. Its school uniform, which includes red ties and navy blazers adorned with the school crest and motto"Credimus," Latin for "We believe"calls to mind an elite boys' school like St. Alban's.

But, unlike most of those at St. Albans, Urban Prep's students are black, and many are from low-income families.

Joining Henderson at last week's kick-off event, the school's founder, Tim King, told an inspiring story about a homeless student who "would actually sit on the cold floor in the shelter bathroom doing his homework, because it was the only place there that had the lights on past 10 pm." That student, King added, became class valedictorian and is now a student at Georgetown University.

Snaring Urban Prep was a coup for DC, according to Henderson. "Let me be clear," she said. "Everybody in the country wants Urban Prep Academies to open a school in their city."

One reason DC won out might be that Henderson and King have known each other since their undergraduate days at Georgetown, where King was assigned to be Henderson's mentor.

Critics say school has high attrition and low scores

As with almost any successful charter school, Urban Prep has its critics. Some say the attrition rate is high, with the size of a class sometimes shrinking from 150 to 50 students between 9th and 12 grades. (Urban Prep did not respond to questions about this and other topics.)

Another complaint about charters like Urban Prep is that its students are a self-selected group, with more motivated families and a lower poverty rate than students in neighborhood public schools. Although the DC version of Urban Prep will be a traditional public school rather than a charter, the same criticism could apply, since parents will presumably need to take affirmative steps to enroll their sons.

One response to these critiques is that even if Urban Prep doesn't work for all kids, at least it works for the ones who get there and stick with it. But some question even that.

At one of the school's three campuses last year, only 9% of students were deemed ready for college-level work, defined as scoring at least 21 on the ACT. At the other campuses, the figures were 28% and 20%. The average for Chicago public schools is 27%.

Even if one assumes that Urban Prep does change the life trajectory of the young African-American men it serves in Chicago, will it do the same for the young Latino men that are also supposed to be part of DCPS's "laser-like focus"? (Speakers used that metaphor no less than six times during the announcement of the initiative.)

While the DC school presumably won't exclude anyone on the basis of race or ethnicity, the Urban Prep model is clearly geared to black students. And its planned location at some unspecified site east of the Anacostia River, an area that is almost entirely African-American, may make it difficult for Latino boys to attend in any event.

Black and Latino girls need help too

And what about black and Latino girls? While the legality of single-sex education used to be in dispute, the federal government loosened its rules in 2006, and since then single-sex schools and classes have proliferated.

Research has been equivocal on whether single-sex education produces better results. But some data indicate that it's most likely to benefit poor and minority students, although it's not clear why.

Single-sex charter schools like the Chicago version of Urban Prep are free to operate with no restrictions. But when a single-sex school is part of a traditional school district, federal policy requires the district to make another school of "substantially equal" quality available to the excluded gender. That other school can be either coed or single-sex.

Will black and Latino girls have a "substantially equal" option? That could become a matter for debate, and possibly even litigation.

Aside from legality, the plan for Urban Prep and indeed the whole "Empowering Males of Color" initiative raise questions of equity. On DC's standardized tests last year, the proficiency rate for black girls was about 45%, and for Latinas about 57%. That's better than the rates for black and Hispanic boysabout 35% and 49%, respectively. But it's way below the 90% proficiency rates for white students.

Of course, efforts that elevate the needs of one group almost always have an adverse effect on others. And in the case of young men of color, you can make a case that it's justified.

Perhaps a bigger problem is that Urban Prep, in combination with DC's many charter schools and its several application-only DCPS high schools, will further drain off the more motivated male students from neighborhood schools, leaving behind a higher concentration of those who are hardest to educate.

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The neighborhood where everybody "jaywalks"

When I moved to East-West Highway in South Silver Spring last fall, I quickly noticed one thing: people cross the street without using crosswalks all the time. Even as the surrounding area becomes more urban and walkable, this street remains a relic of its industrial, car-oriented past.


Drivers stop to let a man and his dog cross East-West Highway. All photos by the author.

East-West Highway was built in the 1920s to connect Bethesda and Silver Spring and provide an alternative to Military Road in the District. (An extension to Prince George's County came later.) Industrial uses like bottling plants, commercial bakeries, and repair shops sprouted up along the road in Silver Spring. When the Blairs complex was built in the 1950s, the developers purposefully faced it away from East-West Highway because it was so unattractive.

When the redevelopment of downtown Silver Spring took off about 10 years ago, those buildings gave way to apartments and condominiums. More recently, businesses including Denizens Brewing Company, Bump 'N Grind, a coffeeshop/record store, and Scion, a restaurant based in Dupont Circle, have flocked to the area.

South Silver Spring is now one of the region's youngest neighborhoods, with a large number of transit commuters. Even the owner of the Blairs is embarking on a redevelopment plan to face the street again.


Parents run across East-West Highway with their kid.

As Silver Spring redeveloped, it became more walkable. But East-West Highway never caught up.

Even though it's fairly narrow, it's still designed like a high-speed commuter route, even as more and more people are walking and bicycling in the area. In some places there are no sidewalks, and the two crosswalks between Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road are each a quarter-mile apart, at least a five-minute walk. Even when you get to a crosswalk, the signals are timed to move cars through, making pedestrians wait for up to two minutes to cross.


People line up to cross East-West Highway at one of the few stoplights.

So people choose to cross where it feels convenient, or safer. In four months of non-scientific observations, I noticed that everyone seemed to cross in a few specific places. I started crossing there as well, and realized that most drivers will stop for you. And when I drove out of my building's garage, I always waited before turning, knowing that someone might be crossing.


Where to cross East-West Highway. Stoplights are in red, popular informal crossings are in blue. Click for an interactive map.

But this isn't ideal. A century of training people not to walk in the middle of the street means that nobody, including drivers, expects this to happen. Thus, informal crossing points aren't as safe as formal, designated places to cross that pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers can all recognize. And the unpleasant experience of walking in South Silver Spring depresses foot traffic, which hurts both existing businesses and prevents new ones from opening.

Even if it wasn't built for walking, East-West Highway became a place with lots of walkers. It's time for this street to adapt. More crosswalks would be a good start, as would filling in the missing gaps of sidewalk. More stoplights, or pedestrian-only signals called HAWKs, would be even better, as would a median where people could wait while crossing.

Yes, these things might cause additional delays for drivers. But as one of those drivers, I'd rather have a slower, safer street with more places to shop and hang out. As its surroundings become more urban, East-West Highway is a highway in name only.

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Breakfast links: Inequality hits home


Photo by Julian Ortiz on Flickr.
Inequality grows in DC: The wage gap between DC's rich and poor is at its highest since 1980, new research shows. Wages at the bottom of the spectrum have decreased since the recession, while top wages have risen. (DCist)

Stay or go: DC is still a transient city. 77% of new single tax filers in 2004 either moved or got married by 2012. But 55% who had a child were still on the tax rolls in 2012. Poorer households were slightly more likely to leave. (City Paper)

Weekend woes: Metro's trip planner doesn't know about track work, so it's not really useful on weekends. Now, halfway through the rebuilding program, Dr. Gridlock asks, is the pain yielding any gain? (Post)

MoCo CaBi: Capital Bikeshare in Montgomery County exceeded revenue projections in its first full year. About 35,000 trips were taken from October 2013 to October 2014. Usage, not surprisingly, picked up in the spring and summer. (BethesdaNow)

Powerful women: Women are a powerful force in DC politics and have been for a long time. In fact, the DC Council first had a female majority in 1979. Women have long held powerful positions at all levels of District government. (City Paper)

Not free to be free range: Montgomery child protection officials won't drop their investigation against the "free-range parents" who let their children walk alone near their house in Silver Spring. (Post)

Firefighters win lawsuit: DC lost a legal battle with the firefighters union over overtime pay, and it could cost the city up to $50 million. The settlement adds to the city's budget gap for next year. (WAMU)

London commits to bikes: London plans to spend over $60 million to construct a continuous 5.5 mile protected bikeway through its urban core. 84% of residents supported the project in a recent survey. (Streetsblog)

And...: You can weigh in on DC's proposed height and density restrictions in row house zones until 3 pm today. (NADZ) ... Here's a map where you can fly your drones. (Marty Z) ... Arlington board member Walter Tejada will not seek reelection. (Arlnow) ... MARTA has turned itself around from crises earlier this decade. (CityLab)

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Ask GGW: So you're looking for a planning job in the DC area?

Are you looking to get into the planning field in the Washington region? In this week's AskGGW, our contributors suggest three ways to make it happen: meet as many people in the field as possible and do lots of networking, look for internships or volunteer opportunities (like writing for GGW!) that let you delve into a topic of interest and gets your name out into the world, and get a master's degree.


Photo by Paul B. (Halifax) on Flickr.

Reader Colin Brown wrote the following:

How can recent graduates find foot-in-the-door opportunities in this field? Are there best practices for young people looking to find that first work opportunity in the area?
Dan Malouff bases his advice on his personal experience:

The hardest part of any new career path is getting your foot in the door. You've got to know people in the industry, and you've got to have produced work somewhere that people can look at, to get a sense of what kind of work you'll do for them.
The traditional way for new people to accomplish that is via an internship, often unpaid. And yeah, that works. Do that if you can.

But anything you can do that both gets your name out there and produces planning-related work is good for your job-seeking cause. And there's no easier way to do both those things simultaneously than to blog. And there's no better way to make sure a lot of people in the DC planning field see your blogging than to get it published on GGW.

This is no mere theory. It's exactly the path that several of us on the GGW team have taken. At least three or four of us, and maybe more.

Adam Lind shares his story:
I had no background in planning before going to grad school at Virginia Tech in 2010. I went to planning school after a personal interest in sustainability started to grow at the end of my undergrad business school life in 2008. From there, I went into transportation planning as I figured that was the best way to make an impact on sustainability and improving the environment by promoting alternative transportation.

I got an internship the summer after I graduated with my masters and ended up getting a job offer in Chapel Hill, but wanted to live in a "real" city. I just kept applying and got an interview with Fairfax County for a Planning Tech II job.

I thought I was overqualified but figured it was a good career move to get into the area, and eventually an opening above me in the bike planning department opened up and now I'm doing my dream job. Sometimes it's better to just be in the right place at the right time.

Aimee Custis, who constantly screens job applications at work, suggests the following three steps:
1. Have the necessary technical credentials. That's a prerequisite. So all that stuff about "get a planning degree" and "suck it up and take an internship" are true. And a bare minimum. Until you have done these things, full stop: nothing else I have to say will get you past this step.

2. Get to know EVERYONE you possibly can in the field, and demonstrate to them how amazing you are. Most job openings I hear about come by word-of-mouth, so making sure people think of you when they hear about a job opening is key. Call and email people, tell them you're interested in a planning/transportation career, and ask if you can pick their brain over coffee.

Come prepared with a thoughtful list of questions to ask them, and be sure to have your pitch about who you are and what you're looking for polished. Ask those people to introduce or refer you to other people. Leave them with an awesome impression of you. Rinse and repeat.

3. When a job opening does come your way, apply promptly, completely, and put your best foot forward. If writing isn't your strong point, have someone help you with your cover letter and resume. For Pete's sake, CUSTOMIZE your cover letter (and preferably your resume) to the position you're applying for. If you don't have the attention to detail and thoughtfulness to do that well, what would make me as a prospective employer think you'd do your job thoughtfully?

Whether in your cover letter or in your interview, be ready with a polished, well-considered answer about what you bring to the position that makes you a better candidate than the dozens of similar candidates who are applying?

Oh, and last thing: remember those people who you got to know in step 2? Reach out to them. Tell them you're applying, and thank them for their good advice. If you can, gently drop that if they know anyone at the employer, you'd love if they'd put in a good word for you.

Associate Editor Jonathan Neeley heartily seconds Aimee's recommendation to "ask to pick their brain over coffee," adding "If someone is in a position you're in, you should ask them if you can have a conversation with them, and then you should ask them all about what they do and the path they took to get there. If someone loves their job, they'll also love to talk about it."

And Abigail Zenner adds:

I would add that it is important to follow up with your contacts. Don't just send one email, but check in again to see if the person saw it. People get a lot of email and sometimes they intend to write back but it gets lost in the shuffle. Don't read too much into that. Don't be shy and don't be afraid to contact people who are agency department heads or other "important people."

Another important piece is to try your best to figure out what it is you want to do. Do you want to be a planner? An advocate? A policy analyst? Do you want to work in communications or politics? What policy area would you like to focus on? Take the time to find yourself so you know what kinds of jobs you are looking for. That self searching will also help inform a decision about graduate school.

Payton Chung, who has also reviewed thousands of resumes, says "it's amazing how many boring candidates are out there." He has the following advice:
Your portfolio should describe and show off achievements, not tasks, in a way that's relevant to the challenges and concerns that people are hiring for. Your cover letter should be grouped around your skills, not chronology. Your interactions with potential employers should be about them and their needs, not yours; everyone loves talking about themselves. When you do get a chance to talk, personal convictions and interests always make for more fascinating (and memorable!) conversations than shop talk. Share your opinions, and be prepared to back them up.

And that brings me to another point: whenever I've hired people, I've always looked for people whose own initiatives demonstrate a genuine fascination with, and understanding of, the cities and communities they'll be serving. For someone at the entry level, that's not always paid. But it can be illustrated through volunteer or academic or travel experience. Choose interesting and timely topics for your class papersor for posts you submit to GGW!

Especially in the DC market, you will need an MA pretty soon. In many other cities, 30% of people have college degrees; here, 30% of people have graduate degrees. Most of the local programs are available part-time, and they're a great way to get some self-directed experience in the topic.

Claire Jaffe asked a follow-up question about what to look for in a master's program, and Adam Lind responded:
From my point of view, from being a recent master's graduate and doing the job search, you're going to need a master's degree at some point, so the sooner the better. The bigger question in my opinion is to do it full time, or do it while working. If you can get a planning job and do grad school at the same time, that would be my recommendation.

If you can find an arrangement where you get a job, conditioned on taking classes, then yes, go for that too. I just know when I was looking to get in the field almost every job ad said master's degree required or highly recommended, and if you have no experience and no master's degree, you're starting way behind the rest of the field. The past few years there have been A LOT of planners looking for a few jobs. I know job ads that regularly receive 100+ candidates, many of whom are well overqualified.

Tracy Loh comments on the specific dynamics of the planning profession:
Within the planning sector, I think it's important to distinguish between agencies and nonprofits. Understand the different roles each play and think about which is a better fit for your personality and perspective.

In the DC area especially, I think many agencies have a strongly technocratic bent, where it's about skills, experience, jargon fluency, etc, and Payton's advice about being expert enough to have opinions and back them up is right on the money. I would perhaps rephrase it as "being able to express opinions without making them sound like opinions."

I want to second another thing Payton said, about volunteering. I work at a nonprofit. I see job applications from people all the time where they swear up and down in their cover letter that they love our mission and are personally committed to it... and then there is no volunteer experience on the resume. I'm not even talking about working for free, like with internships; that is a privilege that not all people have. But planning is all about being engaged with a communitywhen I was in grad school, I waited tables some nights and went to community meetings other nights. I learned a lot about how the development process works and I showed my seriousness about the issues. You need to engage, even if it's just when you're done making rent.

A lot of planning is really about people, even when superficially we are talking about transit, or stormwater management, or whatever. What are your people skills and how do you want to put them to work? What kinds of situations energize you, and what drains you (or would you rather avoid)? Seek out positions that are a good fit and make the case for that fit in your cover lettershow that you really understand what the role requires.

This is hard only inasmuch as many organizations (whatever the sector!) do not know what they actually need when they are hiring. You're not going to find a dream job, but you might be able to make one. Look for openings and opportunities to do so and see the cover letter and interview as your chance to make a pitch about what you would turn the job into.

Dan Reed offers a reminder that those looking for planning jobs should brush up on skills that are useful in any sector:
Whether you're in the public or private sector, good planners generally know how to:
  • Express ideas clearly and succinctly through writing.
  • Speak to particular audiences (whether it's an agency, a community group, businesses, etc.).
  • Craft a narrative (about a community's past, present, and future).
  • Work with many different people (often across different agencies, companies, and also the general public).
  • See things for what they can be, not just what they are (have a vision!).
  • There are other more specific disciplines, like graphic design or engineering or public policy, that relate to planning and often come up in a planner's work. But I think they all go back to those general ideas.
    The final thought comes from a contributor who asked to remain anonymous:
    I'll give anecdotal evidence as to the power of contributing to GGW. I had an interview a few weeks ago for a planning position. I don't have GGW listed in my resume, but it was literally the first thing that the interviewer brought up, either because he reads GGW or because my GGW bio is the first thing that pops up if you Google me. Either way, it was definitely seen as valuable experience. I'm still waiting to hear back, but fingers crossed.
    If you do want to write for Greater Greater Washington, check out our contributor guidelines for information on what to think about and how to get started.

    Do you have a question? Each week, we'll post a question to the Greater Greater Washington contributors and post appropriate parts of the discussion. You can suggest questions by emailing ask@ggwash.org. Questions about factual topics are most likely to be chosen. Thanks!

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    See the world's subways evolve as time goes by

    Alexander Rapp created a set of diagrams for subway systems around the world. Each shows the system's geographic layout, all to the same scale, at various points in time. You can step forward and backward throughout history and see how, and when, each one evolved.

    Washington
    2010 map
    Boston
    2010 map
    Chicago
    2010 map

    Click here or press the 'a' key to move all of the maps back five years. Click here or press 's' to move ahead five.

    New York
    2010 map
    London
    2010 map

    Rapp chose which lines to show in each city by where there is frequent midday service, significant grade-separated areas, and closely-spaced stops (to exclude commuter rail) as of the end of the listed year. (Here's more on his methodology).

    His maps are 10 pixels per kilometer; I've selected a representative set of cities and shrunk Rapp's maps to half their original size (5 px/km) so you can see more of them at once. You can look at the full size versions and all of the cities here.

    Madrid
    2010 map
    Paris
    2010 map
    Moskva
    2010 map

    Some of the maps aren't available for all dates. The ones below don't have maps for years ending in 5 at all, or only have them after some date.

    Beijing
    2010 map
    Guangzhou
    2010 map

    México
    2010 map
    São Paulo
    2010 map
    Mumbai
    2010 map

    What do you notice on the maps?

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    What's the best way to protect a bikeway? How about a bikeshare station?

    How's this for a natural idea: Locate bikeshare stations between a street's protected bikeway and car lanes.

    That's exactly the arrangement in Crystal City, where the Capital Bikeshare station at 23rd and Eads helps to form part of the bikeway's protective barrier.


    23rd and Eads. Photo by Euan Fisk on Flickr.

    DC has at least one example, on 6th Street NE next to Union Market. You can also find this arrangement in New York, Paris, and a ton of other cities.

    It's just a nifty, straightforward idea that's too sensible not to use.

    Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

    Greater Greater Washington relies on support from readers like you to keep the site running. Support us now keep the community going.

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