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Posts in category Public Spaces

Transit


So you've got a friend in town and they're really into trains. Here's where to take them.

Last year, we published lists of toys you could give to a young train buff and places you could take them to visit. But what about the railfans who are all grown up? Where are the best places to take adult friends to hang out, do some train spotting, and learn some rail history?


The Dew Drop Inn. Photo by Jonathan Neeley.

Restaurants and bars are a good start

Payton Chung suggests a few places in DC to check out. The Dew Drop Inn, located in the Edgewood neighborhood near Brookland, is named for a number of "Dew Drop Inns" across America. Housed in a rustic stone industrial building that was used as a workspace for stonemasons and metal workers, you can get a great view of the CSX, MARC, and WMATA tracks on the Red Line between the Rhode Island Avenue and Brookland stations when you're hanging out on the porch.

Along the H Street corridor, there's Maketto, a communal marketplace that's made up of two buildings with a courtyard, roof deck, and a catwalk that connects the spaces together. The catwalk has retail, a Cambodian/Taiwanese restaurant, and a café and bakery on the second floor where you can get a great view of the DC Streetcar.

In Maryland, Julie Lawson says to check out Lotus Cafe, a Vietnamese restaurant located in Downtown Silver Spring at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Sligo Avenue that overlooks the CSX, MARC, and WMATA tracks as they cross over Georgia Avenue. She says her son "loves to watch the trains there so I would assume grownup railfans might enjoy it for dinner too."


The view from Lotus Cafe. Image from Google Maps.

A short walk from Lotus Cafe, there's Denizens Brewing Company, located on East-West Highway on the opposite side of Georgia Avenue near the rail overpass. Dan Reed mentions that the place as an appropriately-named beer called "Trainspotting".

Walk around and explore

If you live near a rail line and feel like doing a little bit of exploring, a simple walk around is always a best bet.

Jonathan Neeley says there's plenty to see in his neighborhood, Brookland:

I like going on walks, and a lot of my friends do too, so I'd probably go with something simple like being sure to walk over the Michigan Avenue and Taylor Street bridges by my house, where you can watch trains come and go from far away. I'd probably also take them on a ride on the Red Line between Rhode Island Ave and Silver Spring just to see the graffiti.

Looking south from the Taylor Street bridge. Photo by Jonathan Neeley

The Washington DC Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society has a list of "railfan hotspots" located within two hours of the beltway that have a lot of rail activity and history.

One of these hotspots is Long Bridge Park in Arlington, which has an extensive railroad history and a name that's a reference to the railroad bridge connecting Washington with Northern Virginia. Chris Slatt mentions that the esplanade is a "top notch spot for viewing CSX freight trains, Amtrak trains, and VRE trains."


The esplanade at Long Bridge Park in Arlington, Virginia. Photo by Chris Slatt.

Another hotspot, this one suggested by Canaan Merchant, is Burke Lake Park in Fairfax County. The park has an attraction that young railfans, and even some grown ups, can enjoy. The Miniature Central Pacific Huntington Steam Engine is a new version of the original one-third scale replica that makes the rounds on its own narrow gauge 1.75 mile track.


The Miniature Central Pacific Huntington Steam Engine at Burke Lake Park. Photo by Fairfax County Department of Parks.

David Cranor adds "there are several rail trails in the area, but the W&OD really does the best job of celebrating that. There are old train cars set up along it and lots of historical information/markers about the railroad too." Payton also mentions that "a ride along the Metropolitan Branch Trail is also a good option; it even parallels the Acela tracks for a bit."

Our region also has quite a few museums and other attractions around that are good bets for taking train aficionados or folks who just want to learn more.

Canaan points us to the Fairfax Station Railroad Museum in its namesake location in Fairfax County. This museum has displays, activities, and events that help preserve local history and promote railroading—even "a couple of cars you can go inside." The station itself played a critical role in the American Civil War as an important supply and medical evacuation site where Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, assisted in relief and evacuation efforts during the Battle of Bull Run in 1862.

The National Museum of American History in DC and the National Capital Trolley Museum in Colesville in Montgomery County are also great options for railfans who want to learn more history.

The new National Museum of African American History and Culture will have an exhibit dedicated to transportation and race, exploring how Jim Crow laws affected streetcar and railroad travel, as well as the history of Pullman porters and railroaders behind the scenes.

Are there any other places in the area you know of that would be good spots to take a railfan? Let us know in the comments.

Transit


In San Diego, an example of how "within walking distance" does not always mean "walkable"

I like to ride the San Diego Trolley when I visit family there, but the mile walk from the station to their house is so, so awful that it always makes me think twice about riding the train. Here at home, my walk to the Metro is the same distance, and I do it happily all the time.


The walk along Jackson Drive in La Mesa isn't very inviting. Image by the author.

The 1.1-mile walk from the Grossmont Trolley station in the San Diego suburb of La Mesa to my family's house takes you through a strip mall parking lot, along the six-lane major arterial Fletcher Parkway and then up the overly wide four-lane Jackson Drive before you turn into their neighborhood. It's not pleasant, as the picture above shows.


The route of my walk in La Mesa. Image by Google Maps.

As a result, my family only drives to the station when they ride the Trolley, and I—someone who likes to ride transit—think twice about making the walk when I'm there.

The crazy thing is that this is a comparable distance to what I walk a couple of times a week from the Shaw-Howard U Metro station to my house in Eckington.

What's the difference? The walk in DC is along leafy streets lined with rowhouses in the Le Droit Park and Bloomingdale neighborhoods. Yes, I cross three major roads—Florida Avenue, and North Capitol Street and Rhode Island Avenue where they meet—but it is just two intersections, and I do not walk along either street for very long.


I use T Street NW when walking from the Shaw Metro station to Eckington. Image by Google Maps.

Street design and development patterns matter

Much of the residential development surrounding the Grossmont Trolley station, including where my family lives, was built during the post-war suburbanisation of the 1950s and 1960s. Miles and miles of single family ranch houses built for people that get around in a car.

Retrofitting this suburban, auto-oriented built environment for pedestrians is difficult. The basic infrastructure, including sidewalks and crosswalks, exists in La Mesa.

However, there are also a number of missed opportunities when it comes to changing the built environment to make the walk more pleasant. These include wider sidewalks, barriers between passing cars and the sidewalk that increase pedestrians' perception of safety, and streetside land use that is inviting to pedestrians, like store or home fronts, instead of strip mall parking lots and driveways.

Ellen Dunham-Jones, author of Retrofitting Suburbia, talked about turning major arterials into tree-lined "boulevards" as one example of a suburban retrofit in a 2010 TED talk. Transit access can be a catalyst to such retrofits, she noted.

La Mesa is trying. The 527-unit Alterra and Pravada apartment complex is immediately adjacent to the Grossmont station, built atop its parking lot.

But even the Alterra and Pravada building is not the most inviting pedestrian environment. The ground level lacks retail and is instead dominated by entrances to the parking lot.

DC, at least in its older neighborhoods, benefits from having a pedestrian-friendly streetscape already in place. However, the region faces many of the same issues at some of Metro's more suburban stations, for example in Tysons and White Flint.

Better walkability means more transit riders

PlanItMetro has found that a larger "walkshed"—the area around a station that is easily walkable—to a Metro station directly correlates to higher ridership. Shaw, which has a Walk Score of 97 out of 100, saw an average of 5,087 Metro riders on weekdays in 2015 compared to Grossmont, which has a Walk Score of 76 out of 100, that saw an average of 5,707 Trolley riders on weekdays during its 2016 fiscal year that ended in June.

However, Grossmont is a transfer station between the Trolley's Green and Orange lines, which boosts ridership numbers. San Diego measures ridership by the number of people who get on or off a train, versus the number of entries and exits to a station as DC's Metro does.

The Metro system handled an average of 712,843 weekday riders and the Trolley system an average of 122,157 weekday riders in 2015, data from the respective transit agencies shows.

La Mesa is a reminder that simply building transit is not all that it takes to make a suburban neighborhood walkable and generate new transit ridership. A fact that is applicable in many city's around the country, including in the DC suburbs, as they build out their own light rail systems to previously auto-oriented suburbs.

Public Spaces


This square in Philadelphia is everything DC's Franklin Square could be

Many celebrate Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square as one of America's best small urban parks. I visited this summer and found it alive with activity. It's a great model for DC's similarly-sized Franklin Square, which the National Park Service is currently redesigning.


Rittenhouse Square. Photos by the author unless otherwise noted.

Rittenhouse Square has long had a reputation as an exceptional park. Jane Jacobs lionized it, highlighting the park's wide variety of users over the course of a typical day, in her famous 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. She said that the fact that many different types of users with different schedules passed through the park was essential to making it feel like a safe and appealing environment, unlike the other Philadelphia parks she described as "a pervert park" and "a skid row park".

I visited Rittenhouse Square in the early afternoon on a Friday in late July, and while I didn't stay long enough to see a change in the park's users, I did see quite a variety of people there, including businesspeople in suits eating lunch, people walking dogs, several people doing yoga and other exercises, a couple of buskers, teenagers socializing, and an artist painting the scene.


Rittenhouse Square.

This wide variety of users is supported, in part, by the diverse uses in the neighborhood directly abutting the park. A number of small restaurants line the streets facing the park, as do a church, a hotel, a large Barnes & Noble bookstore, a clothing store, and condominiums. The neighboring blocks include several other large churches, but also a wide variety of restaurants and stores and a number of condominiums and office buildings.

Could Franklin Square become DC's Rittenhouse?

Although DC contains plenty of parkland—much of it controlled by the National Park Service—a common complaint is that the city has a shortage of good urban parks that attract a variety of users from the local community.


Franklin Square. Photo by Dan Malouff.

Franklin Square, which consists of just under five acres between K and I Streets in downtown DC, is similar in size to Rittenhouse Square, which is seven acres a few blocks south of Market Street in downtown Philadelphia.

However, despite their similarities in size and location, the two parks couldn't be more different. They both date to the early 1800s and were both vibrant urban parks in the early 20th Century, but Franklin Park began to decay and fell into disuse as the rise of the automobile changed land use patterns in the District. Rittenhouse Square, on the other hand, continued to be well-used.

Part of the reason for the difference in the parks' fate may be the differences in their neighborhoods. While Franklin Square is located in a dense downtown neighborhood, it is largely surrounded by office buildings and businesses that cater to office workers, such as restaurants that are mainly open for breakfast and lunch. This means that while it does attract office workers looking for an outdoor location to eat lunch, few others have reason to go there. A lack of nearby residences, shopping, and public buildings means that there is little to draw people to the park on weekends, or on weekdays outside of the lunch hour.


Franklin Square. Photo by Mr.TinDC on Flickr.

The differing state of maintenance of the two parks likely plays a role as well. Franklin Square's last major redesign was completed in 1935, when the current fountain, plaza, and pathways were installed. There was one major refurbishment in 1976 for the Bicentennial, but the park has not been well-maintained by the National Park Service, which owns and maintains the property, since.

Rittenhouse Square, on the other hand, has been well-maintained. The park is owned by the City of Philadelphia, but many recent improvements, including better lighting, landscaping, restoration of the park's fountains, and the installation and stocking of dispensers for bags that dog owners can use to pick up after their animals have been projects of a non-profit called Friends of Rittenhouse Square that works with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to maintain and operate the park.

Franklin Square redesign plans

Although little can be done about the disadvantages of Franklin Square's location—-the high demand for downtown office space produces high rents and pushes out most other uses—-there is hope for improvements to the park itself.

An $18 million joint project between the National Park Service, the DC government, and the Downtown Business Improvement District to renovate the park and provide year-round programming is set to begin construction in January 2017. The planned renovations include a cafe, improvements to the fountain at the park's center, and a play area for children.

One day, Franklin Square might look like this:


Rendering of Franklin Square from the National Park Service.

Public Spaces


NoMa's first underpass park is almost here!

Work to brighten the otherwise-drab underpass on M Street NE is underway. Crews have begun installing "Rain," the first of what will eventually be four underpass parks in NoMa.


Installation of "Rain" has begun in the underpass on M Street NE. Image by the author.

Rain is designed to make the underpass on M Street safer and brighter, as well as knit the neighborhood on either side of the throat tracks to Union Station together, lead designer Andrew Thurlow said in 2015. Thurlow is a partner at Thurlow Small Architecture, which partnered with NIO on the underpass.

The installation is made up of 4,000 LED light rods that will be hung from ceiling of the underpass in a series of vaults, and react to people moving through the space.


Rendering of Rain. Image by the NoMa BID.

Rain is just the first of four underpass parks NoMa plans for the K Street, L Street, M Street and Florida Avenue in the neighborhood. Work on "Lightweave," a series of undulating, cloud-like lights hung from the ceiling in the L Street underpass, is also expected to begin later this year.


A rendering of Rain's vaults. Image by NoMa BID.

NoMa Business Improvement District (BID) director of parks projects Stacie West says she expects Rain to be finished in November barring any delays from other construction projects.

One such delay could be WMATA's SafeTrack work that is scheduled to close the Red Line between the NoMa-Gallaudet station and the Fort Totten station from October 29 to November 22.

The NoMa BID will hold a community meeting on its park plans on October 25.

Bicycling


Until someone cleans up this landfill, people are taking a shortcut. Can we make the shortcut better?

A new segment of the Anacostia River Trail takes a long route through the Kenilworth area. A second segment will go straight up the river, but work on it can't start until the National Park Service cleans up the land, where illegal dumping was once allowed. People are using a shortcut in the meantime, and there are ways to make it shorter and easier to use.


New segment of the Anacostia River Trail. All photos by the author unless otherwise noted.

The new, four-mile long segment will create the first connection between two key trail systems: Maryland's Anacostia Tributary Trail System, which is a 24-mile-long network of six trails that connects Silver Spring, Greenebelt, College Park, Bladensburg, Adelphi Park, and the District; and the District's Anacostia River Trail, which runs along both banks of the Anacostia River, from Pennsylvania Avenue to Benning Road.

South of Pennsylvania Avenue, the trail connects to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, which runs along both banks all the way to South Capitol Street, with a connection to the Southwest Waterfront. This new segment finally creates a continuous trail the length of the Anacostia to the river's source in Hyattsville.

Since early 2014, construction crews have been working on on the new segment that will create a connected network of nearly 70 miles of trail. The project has been broken up into two phases. The first phase, which is the purple dotted line on the map below, connects Benning Road with Bladensburg but uses the longer eastern route, meant to connect the Mayfair nieghborhood (which is located between the river and the Anacostia Freeway) to the trail and the river.

The second phase, which is the the white line, will create an alternative route along the river in DC's Kenilworth Park, with a connection to a new bike and pedestrian bridge across the river to the National Arboretum. Work on the second phase will start once part of Kenilworth Park gets cleaned up. In the meantime, many trail users have been taking the shortcut illustrated by the green line.


Kenilworth Trail Segment Map courtesy of DDOT

Kenilworth Park, which sits between the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and an old power plant, started out as a tidal marsh that the Army Corps of Engineers later filled in. It served for decades as the Kenilworth Open Burning Landfill, DC's principal solid waste dump. Shortly after home rule, it became a sanitary landfill before closing in 1970. The site was subsequently covered with soil, revegetated, and reclaimed for recreational purposes.


Kenilworth Park Landfill Site courtesy of NPS

Mystery Mountain

In 1997, the National Park Service (NPS) allowed two contractors to dump an estimated half-million tons of waste on the Kenilworth South site, the portion in the map above that is south of Watts Branch, an Anacostia tributary stream.

So much debris came in that a pile 26 feet high went up on 15 acres of land, and locals dubbed it "Mystery Mountain." The second phase of the new trail is supposed to run overland impacted by Mystery Mountain.

The cleanup is still years away

Despite an NPS statement that the site would be addressed as early as 2001, it still has not been cleaned up. The agency put together a feasibility study and plan for the cleanup in 2012-2013, but has since indicated that it will restart the process because subsequent studies show that less work is needed. This means that neither the cleanup nor construction of the second phase of the trail will happen any time soon.

In the meantime, people have already started using the new trail segment. Since it doesn't take a direct route through Kenilworth Park, users have been cutting through a long-closed section of Deane Avenue and a short construction drive to travel directly to where the trail rejoins the river. Unfortunately, Deane, while passable, is significantly degraded, and furthermore, it's blocked at Watts Branch. The construction road's surface is even worse.


Construction road connecting Deane Avenue to the Trail.

The District Department of Transportation's Anacositia Waterfront Initiative project is building the new segment instead of the the usual Bicycle Program staff, and it's doing so with the approval and partnership of NPS. It is set to officially open soon, and users are likely to keep taking the Deane Avenue route until the second phase is complete. A great next step for DDOT and NPS would be for the agencies to make the shortcut a formal, temporary route.

Until NPS finally cleans the park up and the second phase can go in, there's a lot that the trail partners can do, if NPS will allow it, to make a shortcut like this more useful for people looking for a direct path. Separating the concrete barriers that block the road at Watts Branch to create a gap large enough for cyclists and pedestrians to pass through would be a great first step.


Barricades on old Deane Avenue over Watts Branch.

Also, paving or repaving an 8-10 foot wide section of Deane Avenue through the park, as well as the construction road, and adding signs along the routes, would make the trail far more useful, especially for those using it for transportation.

History


F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald are buried just a block away from the Rockville Metro station

A ride on the Red Line might take you closer to Jazz Age royalty than you'd think. The final resting place of acclaimed author F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda is located in Rockville, just a few blocks away from the Metro station.


Photo by ehpien on Flickr.

I learned about the gravesite from Atlas Obscura, a geography website. The Fitzgeralds' graves are in the "Third Addition to Rockville and Old St. Mary's Church and Cemetery" historic area, which includes several Victorian residential buildings, the 1817-built Old St. Mary's Church, and the former Rockville B&O Railroad station. This historic center of Rockville reflects the time when the railroad station was the gateway to the city.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was born into a prominent Maryland family: his father, Edward, was a distant cousin of Francis Scott Key, for whom Scott was named. But Fitzgerald was born in Minnesota and raised mostly in New York due to his father's job. After graduating from Princeton and marrying Alabama socialite Zelda Sayre, he went on to write several of the most quintessential novels of the Jazz Age, including This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, and The Great Gatsby.


Photo by Mr.TinDC on Flickr.

Unfortunately, although Fitzgerald was an iconic writer and one of the biggest celebrities of 1920s society, his success and health had greatly declined by the time of the Depression era. He died in Hollywood in December 1940, at the age of 44. Although he hadn't left explicit instructions for where he would like to be interred, his estranged wife Zelda insisted that he be laid to rest in his family plot in Rockville.

As detailed in a 2014 Post article on the subject, St. Mary's Church initially refused to bury Scott in the Fitzgerald family plot because he was not a practicing Catholic at the time of this death. He was thus interred about a mile east at Rockville Union Cemetery, where Zelda would join him when she was tragically killed in a hospital fire eight years later. It was not until 1975 that the Fitzgeralds' daughter Scottie successfully petitioned for her parents to be moved to the family plot in St. Mary's Cemetery.


Photo by sikeri on Flickr.

Zelda and Scott's resting place is inscribed with the closing lines of his most famous novel, The Great Gatsby: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

To learn about some other obscure and interesting locales in our region, check out the Atlas Obscura guide to Washington, DC.


Arts


Festivals like Saturday's Art All Night are great for cities

Local DC performing and visual artists and installations will invade seven DC neighborhoods Saturday night as part of a free program called Art All Night. This year's festival, and events like it, are great for fostering urbanism.


Artist Monsieur Arthur mixes paints for a live feed projection on the front of the Carnegie Library at Art All Night 2015. Photo by Victoria Pickering on Flickr.


Art All Night includes dozens of individual events in seven neighborhoods that are part of the DC Main Streets program: Shaw, Dupont Circle, H Street, North Capitol, Congress Heights, Tenleytown, and Van Ness, from 7pm to 3am. (The full schedule of events for each neighborhood is online here.)

Art All Night started in Shaw in 2011, inspired by the Nuit Blanche festival in Paris. This year it features almost exclusively local DC artists (with a few invited international guests), "in celebration of the Made in DC initiative," according to event organizers.


Shaw Shaws installation at 2015 Art All Night. Photo by Victoria Pickering.

Festivals make us consider the urban fabric in new ways

Art All Night founder Ariana Austin has described it as an opportunity for the community to get exposed to local and international artists and "encounter the city in a new way."

That's true, but it only scratches the surface on why festivals like this one are a boon to communities.

GGWash contributor David Meni went to the Art All Night exhibits along North Capitol Street in the Truxton Circle/Bloomingdale area last year. He says nearly all of the art installations and concerts there took place in vacant lots that would be fenced off at any other time.

"These are spaces that would normally be overlooked or even intentionally avoided. I think one of the biggest values of Art All Night, at least in that area, was to get folks from the community and neighborhoods nearby engaged with those spaces and envisioning their potential. There's a particularly large vacant lot at the intersection of Florida and North Capitol, but for this one night it was active with artists and music and food vendors—I'm sure that got a lot of people thinking about how that lot could be used in ways that bring the community together year-round."

"An arts festival is akin to a parade, marathon, or any other big urban event," adds contributor Abby Lynch. "They can draw people to a new part of the city, let us experience it in a different way. They can also take a busy area and activate it at a different time—I'm guessing that Van Ness isn't typically that busy at 2 or 3 am, so this is bringing new activity to the area in that sense as well."


Photo by Victoria Pickering on Flickr.

They can be an economic opportunity, too

Van Ness Main Streets sees art and cultural programming as an opportunity to use art for business revitalization. "Our Jazz @ VN series was developed to showcase our local restaurants and create an activity to highlight our restaurants as well DC's vibrant jazz scene," says Theresa Cameron, the organization's executive director.

These sorts of events can provide mini-breaks to an overly restrictive zoning scheme too, points out contributor Canaan Merchant. "Mini businesses that may not make sense in a brick and mortar space can still flourish in a festival space and the great thing is that the brick and mortar places do well as well, which makes me think that a rising tide lifts all boats."

Abby also adds that festivals like this "compliment the activities of brick and mortar institutions, too. They can concentrate programing to draw a big crowd in a way that a performing arts center with two stages and shows every Thursday through Sunday just can't. That big crowd is also a good way to showcase lots of artists (or arts groups) for a broad audience, providing them exposure in a way they wouldn't get if they were to produce a show on their own. And a healthy creative community is a good thing for a city."

In fact, some urbanists have argued that cities should focus less on museums as a development magnet and more on festivals. Why? The flexibility and overhead of festivals can provide a greater return on investment than capital-intensive museums. Certainly, that doesn't mean DC should jettison the Smithsonian, but it's an interesting argument.

Transit


Why can't Metro label escalators "walk left, stand right" or label where doors will stop on the platform?

Over 1,000 Metro riders submitted ideas for our recent MetroGreater contest. Two came up most often, but are sadly not possible: Signs or markings to encourage people to stand to the right on the escalators, and decals to show where the doors will stop on the platforms. Here's why they couldn't be winners.


Photo by Benjamin KRAFT on Flickr.

In New York, for instance, markings like the ones above show where the doors will stop and urge riders not to stand right in front of the doors.

The obstacle is simple: On the new 7000 Series trains, the doors are not in the same place as on the older trains. Metro plans to run 7000s on all lines and gradually replace all trains with them, but it will be a long time before any line has no older cars. Therefore, markers wouldn't be in the right spot for all trains.

Here's a comparison between the 7000 series (top) and older cars (bottom) by Sand Box John:


Image by Sand Box John. Note that the exterior design of the 7000 ended up somewhat different than in this sketch made from early plans.

It's too bad the markings aren't possible, but moving the doors closer to the center on the 7000 series does make some sense, as they could better distribute crowding between the middles and ends of the cars. It would have been even better to build them with four doors per side, but perhaps in the future. (If so, however, that will push off the day even further when these markings might be an option.)

Walk left, stand right?

Most of us stand on the right side of an escalator, if we're not walking up or down it, and walk on the left side. Thirty-three separate people submitted variations on the idea of educating people about this custom. It could be a sign, like this one that entrant Kristoffer Wright mocked up:


Image by Kristoffer Wright.

Or, what about footprints, as in this idea by London designer Yoni Alter:


Photo by Yoni Alter.

There's one straightforward problem with the footprints in DC: Many Metro escalators sometimes run up and sometimes down (though many do not). On those, at least, the footprints would make no sense with the escalator reversed. Not only would the feet be facing the wrong way, but the "walk" footprints would then be on the right side, giving people the wrong suggestions. ("You should walk backwards down the wrong side of this escalator"?)

As for signs, reversibility isn't the issue, but safety is. According to WMATA Assistant General Manager Lynn Bowersox, people walking on escalators "is the single biggest point of customer injury, and Metro does not want to endorse that." They know people walk on the escalator as an "informal commuter practice, but it is a safety concern and we do not want to encourage walking or running on moving conveyances."

Transit agencies around the globe have a wide range of views on whether this is a safety issue. Ryan Young, one of the people who submitted the idea, pointed out a few worldwide examples. Chicago, for instance, officially recommends "walk left, stand right":


Image from Chicago CTA.

Toronto, on the other hand, ended the practice in 2007 for safety reasons. Young also found this Polish article showing a "walk left, stand right" sign in a Warsaw department store and advocating for similar ones in the subway.

We could quibble with Metro's decision, but the fact (right or wrong) right now is that Metro's safety is under a microscope. We have people like US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx insisting that safety is the only priority and that he'd sooner shut down the Metro than have any safety problem whatever. In that climate, doing something on escalators that could be a little less safe, even if the change is slight, is probably not wise.

Personally, I still will be walking on the escalator and politely saying "excuse me" to people who stand on the left.

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