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Landover is not the place for the FBI

The owners of the Prince George's County land where Landover Mall used to sit are lobbying to locate the FBI headquarters there rather than near the Greenbelt or Franconia-Springfield Metro stations. But a site not easily accessible by Metro isn't the best location for the FBI.


Photo by Jonathan on Flickr.

While building the project in Landover might be cheaper to start, the long-term costs to local governments and regional workers, including added traffic and longer commutes, would be far, far higher.

Prince George's Metro stations are the least used in the system (averaging 4,716 daily boardings per station in 2012, compared with 8,478 systemwide). While other counties promoted walkable development around their stations to maximize their investment in Metro, most Prince George's stations remain isolated parking lots with little or nothing to attract activity and train rides.

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

Intelsat building gets a greener, but not more urban front

The former headquarters of Intelsat, a space-age building on Connecticut Avenue near the Van Ness Metro, will get a new entrance. The change will soften a harsh corner, but it won't fully repair this non-urban building's relationship to the street.


the new proposed entry. Bottom: the plaza today. Image from VOA via NCPC.


The existing plaza. Image from Capital City, yeah! on Flickr.

The current entrance on Connecticut Avenue is set back far from the street and up a huge flight of steps. It's not ADA compliant, and it's a pretty bleak, bricked-over expanse. The building's new owner will remove the plaza and replace it with a garden, fountains, and a more visible entrance.

How this building came to be

The building, rebranded "4000 Connecticut Avenue," is a product of DC's unique relationship with the federal government. The State Department owns the land as part of the International Center, a campus meant for embassies and governmental buildings. It leased it to Intelsat when that was still an international treaty organization.

After Intelsat went private, Congress changed the law in 2008 to legalize Intelsat's lease. That opened the door for the 601 Companies to acquire the lease and reposition the building as an office building.


The existing site plan with pedestrian improvements. The main entrance is at the right. Image from VOA via NCPC.

Opened in phases between 1984 and 1988, the building is one of the more notable modernist buildings in DC. Its architect, John Andrews, was an influential Australian architect who made his name designing dramatic brutalist buildings in Canada.

By the time Intelsat ran a competition to design its headquarters in 1979, the two energy crises had put the focus on efficiency. Architects worried that the new expectations would smother exciting design under layers of insulation. And so Andrews' building won heaps of praise for delivering the large, energy efficient buildings corporations wanted without losing any of the expressive geometry he was known for.


Sectional diagram showing the ideal air flow. Image from the October 1985 Architecture Record.

One thing that earned Andrews particular praise is the way he repeated the same three or four elements, like the octagonal blocks, round towers, and courtyards, to create different effects. The main entrance on International Drive looks like a Battlestar Galactica set. The south entrance is a quiet corporate park. And the north entrance, at Van Ness and Connecticut, closest to the Metro and points downtown, echoes the monumental entries of neoclassical federal buildings and their brutalist successors.


Section through the main entrance, showing the steep climb.

What didn't work, and what will get better

Unfortunately, like most grand entries of the period, the entry comes across as stark and intimidating. So it makes sense that 601 Companies wants to make it more welcoming and visible as it becomes the main entrance of the building.

The changes, designed by VOA Associates, will also improve pedestrian circulation around the building, especially the green area along Connecticut which is apparently called "Squirrel Park."


The new entryway will get rid of a large decrepit plaza. Image from VOA via NCPC.

More openness of the park areas is great. Like a suburban office park, the grassy areas around Intelsat are unwalkable or underused. These changes will make them more into an asset to the community. To me, new entry area is definitely an improvement, aesthetically, making it much more inviting. There are more places to sit, the high-end granite and marble will be nice additions, and the front door details are more humane than Andrews originally planned.

But it still feels like a more ambitious alteration would be appropriate. The accessible entrance is still separate from the main one, and the renovation does not fix the fundamental error of the building, one that goes back to when the site was the secluded campus of the National Bureau of Standards (now NIST).

Now, the site supports an office building that is part of the city. Andrews's building has a lot of value architecturally, but its value to creating a distinctive place around a Metro station is equally important. The site deserves a bolder adaptive reuse, one that will fill in some of the unusable green space, correcting its outdated disconnection from the neighborhood, even as it preserves the existing building. A good adaptation would make the geometry of original building even more powerful.

But for now, this is okay.

Architects try to spruce up NoMA's underpasses

Projectors could shine interactive art or sign language shapes on the walls of NoMa's underpasses. Large sculptures made of LEDs could give visual interest to the ceilings and walls. Ten teams of architects envisioned ways (some dubious) to illuminate and enliven the tunnels where K, L, and M streets and Florida Avenue cross under the railroad tracks.


Image by Citelum US.

The NoMa Parks Foundation, which is affiliated with the local BID, is conducting a design competition for the underpasses. Now, these are dark and unexciting spaces; while they will still be underpasses, NoMa hope to make them more appealing ones.

If successful, they also could help knit together both sides of the railroad tracks by creating some concrete sense of place adjacent to the urban fabric on either side, instead of just a dead zone. Some of the architects seem to have devised interesting ways of doing that; others perhaps missed the mark.

K Street

K Street is one of the hardest. It has narrow sidewalks flanking four lanes of car traffic. Relatively few pedestrians cross here.

Some of the designers seem to have embraced the car-oriented nature of this underpass and don't really try to create a pleasant pedestrian space, while others think more broadly.


All photos from the NoMa BID created by the respective architect teams.

United Visual Artists proposes linear lines of light that visually extend the street grid through the underpass. It's simpleperhaps too simple.

Thurlow Small Architecture + NIO uses the many columns which hold up the bridge between the lanes of traffic to create a moving zoetrope effect. This seems like a terrible idea as it only works at high speed, making it clearly geared to the driver and not the pedestrian, but at the same time, would distract drivers who need to be watching the road.

Some cities including New York, San Francisco, Mexico City, and Kiev have put images like this in their subway tunnels (sometimes as ads). That seems like a much smarter location since riders aren't operating the train.

CINIMOD + Studio LDVC + TALL designed a series of arcs around each end of the underpass which gradually line up to form a geometric ovoid shape as you approach the underpass. This seems like it would work well at pedestrian scale and speed and give more of a sense of the underpass being something to go to instead of merely through.

L Street

In contrast to K Street, L Street has very wide sidewalks but just two lanes of traffic. This creates far more opportunities to do something with this space. This also is the underpass with the most submissions (five).

A rendering from the NoMa Public Realm Plan showed the area packed with good-looking stock photo people like a rave is going on or something. In reality, this will still basically be a sidewalk between places, but the teams tried to make it a sidewalk you want to go to.

Narduli Studio devised a clever idea: a series of cameras that take photographs of the pedestrians and cyclists walking by, then project silhouettes of them on the wall that gradually fade over time. This would create a continuity between who is here now and who was here before, populating the underpass with the people from the past. When trains rumble overhead, the light pattern will add waves to represent sound.

Future Cities Lab (top above) and Mik Young Kim both created variants on the "make something artistic out of LEDs." Future Cities designed a weaving truss while MYK shaped them into a tree that will change color. The tree idea could give some natural feel to a place that is very utilitarian.

Thurlow Small Architecture + NIO, the people who also suggested the zoetrope, suggest suspending rods overhead that will sway back and forth to make it look like it's raining. I fear making people feel like they're out in the elements in bad weather is not a good way to make an underpass a welcoming space.

Lancaster + Matthew Schreiber's idea is to turn a wide sidewalk into what's effectively a much narrower one by building a big wooden structure with vertical poles that make a gentle arc. It's visually interesting, but makes both the center and side sections vary in width, constraining pedestrian and bicycle flow.

M Street

All three of designs for M Street are based on LED light strips.

Lancaster + Matthew Schreiber have another of their space-eating wooden structures.

Synthesis + Architecture & Moritz Waldemeyer would suspend some long lines of webbing. This also seems to cut down significantly on the space available for walking.

Meanwhile, Mik Young Kim (which proposed the tree of light for L Street) suggests an undulating "energy field" along the ceiling and wall, with sections popping out to form benches.

This one looks interesting, so much so that their rendering shows all of the pedestrians gawking at the ceiling but getting in the way of others. Also, apparently people would take photos of models on bicycles inside the underpass.

Florida Avenue

Citelum US's proposal, called "Luminous Aether," does the most to link the underpasses to the concept of parkland (which is very scarce in NoMa and was part of the impetus for the competition). Projections on the walls would rotate between the concepts of air, water, earth, and fire, each interacting as people walk past.

The proposal by Dulio Passariello + Ray King would project six hands on each wall making the American Sign Language letters for F-L-O-R-I-D-A. A background projection would change color throughout the day as speakers play the music of Duke Ellington and the sounds of a Florida beach.

This, especially the hands, goes the furthest to relate to the actual surrounding community as Florida Avenue connects the Metro station to Gallaudet University. Unfortunately, the Gallaudet community has not been involved in the process thus far, so this might need changes to comply with guidelines about the light and color necessary for deaf persons to see each other sign in the underpass.

Which do you like?

Overall, the CINMOD light circles (K Street), Narduli persistent mural (L Street), Mik Young Kim energy field (M Street), and Passariello sign language mural (Florida Avenue) seem best. I also really like the Citelum "Luminous Aether" projections, and perhaps that could go on one of the other underpasses (like K Street, whose designs aren't the most exciting). It's also worth considering using the Mik Young Kim tree instead of the energy field for M Street if there is room.

It's a little disappointing that so many of the designs focused on LED light strips or projections. While it's perhaps natural that designs for underpasses would be about light, they also could do more to create actual places for people to go.

Update: Tony Goodman, ANC commissioner for the area, wrote in an email:

In general I think that the designs should be brighter and more cheerful, while avoiding new obstructions that block pedestrian and bicyclist flow. For L & M Streets there should be more opportunities for people to sit, linger talk and sign as M Street especially is an increasingly popular meeting place for people in the neighborhood.

This project is entirely within public space and paid for with public money, so it's essential that the community is more involved in the implementation than they have been in this RFP process so far.

What do you think?

See Metro's architectural types appear over time

Yesterday, I introduced you to Metro's eleven types of station architecture. Now, you can watch the designs as they appeared with the growth of Metro in this animated GIF.


Image by the author.

In 1976, Metro opened with just two architectural types, the Waffle for underground stations and Gull I for aboveground ones. Today, it's grown to eleven basic styles and six unique designs.

In some cases, expansion brought many stations of the same type, like the 1984 extension of the Red Line from Van Ness to Grosvenor which added four new Arch I stations. But in other cases, the types were somewhat mixed, such as the 1991 tunnel for the Yellow and later Green Line from Gallery Place to U Street.

To learn more about these styles, see the original post.

Metro has eleven types of station architecture. Learn them all with this one interactive map.

Metro is well known for its distinctive vaulted station ceilings, but not all stations are the same. There are eleven different basic architectural station designs in the Metro system. Let's see where they are.


Click the circular icons at the top to highlight the stations with that design.
Click anywhere on the map to return to the original view.

Waffle Arch I Arch II Twin Tube Gull I Gull II Alexandria Peak General Peak High Peak Tysons Peak Gambrel Unique

Note: For the purposes of this discussion, I'm using some of the station type names from the Washington page of NYCSubway.org. In other cases, I'm using my own term.

First, the underground stations.

Waffle

By far the most common station type is the "waffle" style vault envisioned by the CFA and Harry Weese. This station type is present at 32 stations, including most of the downtown stops. These vaults are characterized by the smaller rectangular coffers that line the walls, making them look somewhat like a waffle wrapped around the train room.

Most of these stations were constructed using the pour-in-place method, though Dupont Circle was constructed using precast panels.


U Street. All photos by the author.

The waffle design first appeared when the system opened in 1976. The final two waffle stations, Waterfront and Navy Yard, opened in 1991 when the Green Line started running.

Arch I

Following the waffle designs, Metro started using a different design with precast sections to save money. These stations, which NYCSubway.org and I call "Arch I," are somewhat similar to the waffle design, but instead of featuring several rows of narrow rectangular coffers, this design places just two coffers on each half of the vault.


Tenleytown

These stations only appear on the Red Line's western end. They first appeared in 1981 with the extension from Dupont Circle to Van Ness. The final time was three years later with the extension to Grosvenor.

Arch II

Similar to the Arch I stations along the Red Line, the "Arch II" stations were built using the precast method. These stations have three coffers on each half of the vault rather than just two.

There are only a few of these stations, mostly in the newest subway stations in the system. Strangely, Mount Vernon Square, which opened in 1991, has an Arch II design, despite opening at the same time as other waffle stations at Shaw and U Street.


Columbia Heights

Twin Tube

The final type of underground station is the twin tube design. This style is used at the super-deep Wheaton and Forest Glen stations, which were bored out of seperate tubes. Instead of one broad vault for a platform and both tracks, each track has its own smaller chamber, connected by a corridor near the center.


Forest Glen

The lower level of Fort Totten has a somewhat modified version of the twin tube style, even though it's not very deep. In fact, half the platform is open to the elements.

The stations at Wheaton and Forest Glen opened in 1990. The lower level of Fort Totten opened in 1993.

Aboveground stations

In addition to the four underground station styles, there are seven aboveground station types. They fall into three categories: gull wing, peaked, and gambrel. The curving gull canopy types contrast with the more angular peaked styles. The gambrel canopies are more evocative of the underground vaults than the aboveground canopies.

Gull I

The original aboveground station type is the "Gull I" design. The roof looks like a seagull in flight. The canopy is exposed concrete like the underground stations, and the curve of the arch is reminiscent of the underground vaults.


Rhode Island Avenue

This station type has been around since day one of Metro in 1976. This roof type was most common in the aboveground stations that opened in the late 1970s.

This type most recently appeared in 1993, when the lower level of Fort Totten opened. The canopy on the lower level matches the one on the upper level (opened in 1978), but it was not constructed until the Green Line was built. The last completely new station with this canopy type was Van Dorn Street, which opened in 1991.

Gull II

After Metro completed the 1968 Adopted Regional System with the extension to Branch Avenue in 2001, the agency decided to make a break with the brutalist style of the older stations. Three stations opened in 2004, all beyond the original 1968 vision for Metro.

There are notable differences in color, materials, and motif elements. But the design is similar enough to Gull I to look like a modernized version. So I refer to this type as "Gull II."


Largo

The other big change in direction is that these stations don't include the Vignelli-designed platform pylons that are Metro icons.

Alexandria Peak

Two of the stations that opened in 1983 included a different canopy, largely because the city of Alexandria was worried the gull style would clash with the architecture of Old Town. These "Alexandria Peak" stations appear at Braddock Road and King Street.


King Street

The Alexandria peak stations have a simple triangular roof with a transparent pointed skylight running the length of the platform. The canopy at King Street is broken so that it does not interrupt the viewshed of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.

General Peak

This style first appeared in 1980, when Addison Road opened. These stations feature a flat concrete roof that tapers toward the tracks and a glass peaked skylight running along the platform. The style is very different from the Gull I style, but the materials are similar. This style was fairly common in aboveground stations that opened in the 1980s and 1990s.


Greenbelt

High Peak

These stations are similar in style to the General Peak stations, and in fact, I haven't always counted them in separate categories. But what I'm calling the High Peak stations are quite different, especially in scale, with a canopy that towers above the platform.


Southern Avenue

While the General Peak stations have a roof not much higher than the top of trains, the High Peak stations have a roof that is higher than the mezzanine and never drops to a lower level. It makes for a dramatic space above the platform, though it offers less protection from the elements.

This canopy type became more common in the final few stations of the Adopted Regional System. It's only present at Franconia-Springfield and three of the stations that opened in 2001 with the extension to Branch Avenue.

Tysons Peak

The Silver Line stations also offer a break from earlier designs, as the 2004 stations did. These canopies are lighter and feel more modern than the brutalist Gull I, General Peak, and High Peak stations.

These canopies are similar to the General Peak type, with tapering toward the tracks and a transparent peak along the platform. But the materials harken back a little to the Alexandria Peak stops.


Spring Hill

Gambrel

The Gambrel style also appeared with the Silver Line's opening this summer. The high vaulted canopies at these stations also feature metallic, lighter materials.

The high, arching vault-like superstructure is a tribute to the original vaulted subway stations, though these are all above ground.

The "Gambrel" name comes from the gambrel roof, which is a two-sloped type of roof, common in some barns.


Tysons Corner

Unique

In addition to the eleven basic station types, six stations have unique designs that are not replicated anywhere else in the system. The unique designs are sometimes the result of geographic constraints but in other cases were the result of design decisions.


Huntington

Anacostia

Huntington and Anacostia are both unique stations due to geography. Between Eisenhower Avenue and Huntington, the Yellow Line runs on a viaduct over a broad valley (and the Beltway). But after crossing Huntington Avenue, the line intersects a steep hill, and the south end of the station is actually underground. Because it's elevated at one end and underground at the other, Metro used a unique design.

Anacostia is unique because the water table meant the station couldn't be very deep. So there wasn't enough room for a high vault above the tracks. Instead, the station has a bunch of smaller vaults running perpendicular to the tracks.


National Airport

Arlington Cemetery

National Airport opened in 1977 with a modified version of the Gull I design, necessary because the two platforms are very narrow. When the new airport terminal was constructed, a new northern entrance was created, and Metro built a full-length canopy over each platform. But the canopy extension didn't match the older roof or any other in the system.

Arlington Cemetery is a very simple station. The only section of the platform that is covered is the part directly below Memorial Avenue. Another interesting feature is that while the station is at ground level, the mezzanine is below the tracks, rather than above as is usually standard.


Prince George's Plaza

West Hyattsville

Prince George's Plaza is built in an open cut. Unusually, the parking garage sits atop the station and serves as the canopy. It's a quite unique design, and the hedges growing along the exposed walls west of the garage give a nice aesthetic.

West Hyattsville, which opened in 1993 along with Prince George's Plaza, is also unique. It's a pretty standard side platform station like Eisenhower Avenue and Cheverly. But Metro did not use the modified Gull I canopies as at those stations. I'm not sure why a different design was used here, but I think it looks fairly sleek for a brutalist station.

Events roundup: Streetcars, tech, tours, and more

If you're a streetcar fan, bike enthusiast, history buff, or social media nerd, heads up! There are terrific events coming up that you should check out. Do some family biking, speak up at a hearing, or have a drink and nerd out about social media.


Past Transportation Techies meetup. Photo by Ted Eytan.

All that and more is coming up our events calendar in the coming days, so read on and mark your calendar.

Overhead wires: Care about the K Street Transitway and DC Streetcar? Head over to Carnegie Library tonight at 6 pm to share your views with DDOT and FHWA. Some elements are contentious, especially whether to allow overhead wires anywhere along the route.

Tech for transit: The monthly Transportation Techies Meetup is also tonight, at 1501 Wilson Blvd. Hear about three local projects and their impact on local transportation: Conveyal and Arlington County's Transit Tech Initiative, Boontrek, and TransitIQ. Doors open at 6:00 with pizza and drinks, and the presentations start at 6:30.

DesignDC: The American Institute of Architects continues its DesignDC conference through Friday. The event is pricey, but there's a great student discount, and you can also register for just the closing plenary, which promises to be pretty cool: Stephen Chung, host of PBS's Cool Spaces: The Best of New Architecture is speaking.

PechaKucha: Friday night, get your (brief) talk on in Silver Spring at a PechaKucha Night (co-hosted by GGW's own Dan Reed). If you've never experienced it, a PechaKucha is a speaking event where each presenter has 20 slides, and 20 seconds per slide. You won't be bored! Plus, for just $5, snacks, beer, wine, and sodas are included.

Bring your little ones: Saturday at the Deanwood Rec Center, check out the second annual Let's Move! DC Children and Families Health Expo. Check out cooking demonstrations, fishing and dance lessons, music, games, a farmers market, clinics by the Street Basketball Association, and a lot more.

Ride with WABA: Curious about the growing trail network in Southeast DC? Saturday at 1:00 pm, join WABA to pedal through a tour of about 10 miles, looking at the Suitland Parkway, Oxon Cove Trail, and the planned-but-unbuilt South Capitol Street Trail.

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

How to sculpt a skyline: Arlington planners rethink Rosslyn

Do skylines matter? Planners in Arlington say they do, and are re-planning Rosslyn to give it a better, more sensible one.


Possible future Rosslyn skyline. All images from Arlington County.

Rosslyn is the most prominent cluster of tall buildings in the Washington region, and with more development coming it's only going to get more substantial. To get Rosslyn right, planners must grapple with how the height and form of such tall buildings affects their surroundings.

Realize Rosslyn will be Arlington's plan to transform Rosslyn from a dense but historically car centric area to a more pedestrian friendly place. Among other things, the plan will delve into how building scale, mass, and views affect aesthetics, light, air, open space, and walkability.


Another scenario for a possible future Rosslyn.

What's at stake?

Existing policy in central Rosslyn is to taper building heights so the tallest buildings are near the center, with shorter ones on the edges. That keeps the greatest building heights closest to the Metro station, and makes for a gradual transition from quieter nearby streets.

But the existing taper policy isn't perfect. The rules aren't specific on how the taper should occur, nor do they prescribe lower densities in areas with shorter buildings.

And then there's the hill.

Rosslyn is on a steep hill, sloping up away from the Potomac. Between the hill and the taper, some buildings may not be able to simultaneously meet their permitted densities while satisfying the taper rules.

In short, two different policies are pushing development in Rosslyn in two different directions.

Meanwhile, existing policies also need to work economically. If new buildings can't go tall enough to make it worthwhile to knock down an older building on the same site, property owners may not redevelop at all.

That may stand in the way of achieving the community's goals for a more walkable, up-to-date Rosslyn. To meet those goals, county planners need to develop better rules to allow them to happen, rather than rules that work against each other and don't work economically.

That means looking strategically at where and how taller buildings might be appropriate.

And of course, it's still more complicated. Skyline planning is a balancing act. Taller buildings still need to comfortably transition to adjacent neighborhoods, and maintain views from the public observation deck atop the future CEB Tower, and minimize shadows. All in addition to the normal things planners have to get right, like sidewalk retail and walkable design.

Three scenarios, next steps

For Rosslyn, planners are developing multiple alternate scenarios looking at the effects of different building masses. There are scenarios for individual sites, and collectively across central Rosslyn.


Three potential development scenarios for the same property.

These images are a sneak peek of preliminary work, but more details will be available to the public when planners present their initial modeling work at a meeting on Tuesday, September 30.

Later this fall, the community will use the modeling work to help formulate specific recommendations for Rosslyn's form and massing.

The Circulator could go more places and be more frequent

The DC Circulator could soon go to Howard University, Southwest Waterfront, Congress Heights, and the Cathedral. But to do that, it'll need more buses. More than that, it needs more buses now to actually deliver on the service every 10 minutes that is a key hallmark of the Circulator.


Circulators in central DC. Image from DDOT. Click for full map.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) released an updated plan for the Circulator system. That plan emphasizes that the Circulator is more than just "a nicer and cheaper bus," but it means some specific things which couldn't apply to any bus route, like:

  • It connects key activity centers that have all-day transit demand (as opposed to, say, neighborhoods of mostly commuters);
  • Buses run every 10 minutes, all day (which makes sense only because of the activity centers);
  • The routes are easy to understand
  • (Also, the bus is nicer and cheaper)
But as for "every 10 minutes," the Circulator is not really achieving that now. The wait is more than 15 minutes 20.47% of the time, according to the plan. It doesn't even say how often the wait is more than 10 minutes, because the metrics have been set to consider any wait under 15 minutes "on time." (I've asked DDOT to clarify why that is and will update the post when I hear back.)

On the Dupont Circle-Georgetown-Rosslyn route, "actual headways average over 11 minutes, and up to 13 in the PM peak period." 11 is the average on Union Station-Navy Yard as well. On Potomac Avenue-Skyland, the time between buses is more than 15 minutes one-third of the time.

But enough about the piddling task of actually running the existing buses efficientlywhere will they go next?

The Mall: The Circulator will go on the National Mall in 2015, in partnership with the National Park Service (and thanks to some revenue from meters on the Mall). In the first year, DDOT estimates 880,900 people will ride this line.

The Cathedral: Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3) put money in the budget to extend the Circulator on Wisconsin Avenue from its terminus at Whitehaven Street to the Cathedral. On a survey, 60% of people said this was an important destination, but DDOT says, "the extension itself performs very poorly, with only 13 boardings per hour, high subsidy per passenger, and low farebox recovery ratio."

In the longer run, DDOT proposes splitting this route into two. One would go from Union Station to Georgetown alone, while another route to the Cathedral would only go as far east as McPherson Square. This would make the routes more reliable since a very long route is hard to keep on time.

U Street and Howard: The Circulator from Rosslyn to Dupont Circle would continue past the circle, up 18th Street to U Street and then in a loop on 8th, Barry, and Florida at Howard. This gives DDOT an opportunity to put a Circulator stop under 300 feet from my house (or more likely about 500), which is of course the main reason this is the best extension. But seriously, the line with the extension would serve an estimated 1,790,000 rides a year, most of which won't be me, including a lot of people who don't ride Circulator today.

Congress Heights: The Potomac Avenue-Skyland route was a political creature, started by politicians who wanted the Circulator to go east of the river for appearances' sake. While more transit is welcome everywhere, and people in wards 7 and 8 absolutely deserve great transit service even at higher cost, improving existing buses (for example, by implementing these recommendations from Ward 7 transit experts) probably would have done more per dollar to help people.

The line is very long (the longest in the system) and has low ridership (but, actually, not as low as the Union Station-Navy Yard route, which goes through a lot of areas that just don't have very high density). It duplicates a lot of WMATA Metrobus service, and most of the riders along the route take transit to commute rather than for all-day car-free activity. (The fact that the waits between buses are long can't help, either.)

The council funded an extension to Congress Heights on the southern end, which DDOT feels will help the route by offering a "much stronger southern anchor" at a current (and growing) activity center.

Southwest Waterfront: The Union Station-Navy Yard line would continue just a little bit farther along M Street to Waterfront Metro and the growing activity center there.


All planned and future Circulator corridors. Image from DDOT.

Longer-term: The plan also lists several corridors for future service some more years out. One would restore a north-south Circulator between the Convention Center and the Waterfront (at least until a streetcar maybe plies that corridor). That route was part of the original Circulator but discontinued in 2011.

Another would connect Dupont Circle to Southwest Waterfront through the National Mall. Both this and the north-south line would give Mall tourists another way to get to interesting places that aren't actually on the Mall and spend some of their dollars at taxpaying DC businesses, as well as more ways to get to and from the Mall.

Finally, DDOT wants to study a line from Columbia Heights to the Brookland Metro (via Washington Hospital Center) and then down to NoMa. The areas in the middle of this corridor, like planned development at the McMillan Sand Filtration Site and Armed Forces Retirement Home, aren't yet all-day activity centers, but in the future they well could be.

Besides these, DDOT officials considered a wide variety of other routes like Adams Morgan to H Street, Dupont to Petworth, Fort Totten to Friendship Heights, H Street to Congress Heights, Tenleytown to Columbia Heights, and the Abe's to Ben's route some Foggy Bottom and Dupont leaders suggested.

DDOT didn't advance these because they duplicate existing Metrobus service, the activity centers don't have enough all-day demand, or otherwise don't meet the criteria for Circulator in particular. See page 66 of the plan for a detailed explanation for why DDOT didn't pick your particular Circulator idea.

Making these routes happen will of course require money. Phase 1 (the Mall, the Cathedral, U Street/Howard, Waterfront, Congress Heights, and splitting the east-west line) will require 23 buses and $8.7 million in operating subsidy. This budget season, the DC Council chose tax cuts over investing in transit; upcoming budget seasons will tell us what priority the next mayor and members of the DC Council put on giving residents high-frequency, easy-to-understand bus service to connect key centers across the city.

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