Posts by Dave Murphy
|Dave Murphy is a Geographic Analyst for the Department of Defense and a US Army veteran. He is also a part time bouncer. He was born in Foggy Bottom and is a lifelong resident of the DC area. He currently resides in the Eckington neighborhood of Northeast.|
Last week, I argued that that Capital Bikeshare can and should be as integral DC's suburbs as it has become to the city. One suburb well-suited for such a transformation is the city of Hyattsville.
Much of this Prince George's County city of about 17,500 is highly conducive to biking already. It boasts quiet streets with slow traffic, bike paths and parks, and numerous destinations at convenient biking distances from residents and transit stations.
West Hyattsville already has the highest bicycle mode share of any Metro station. It is a prime candidate to become a bike sharing hub.
2 Metro stations and a MARC (Camden Line) station serve Hyattsville. Unfortunately, none of these stations serve the core downtown area along Route 1 near EYA's Hyattsville Arts District development. It and three other shopping centers have a healthy mix of retail and residential, but the Metro, MARC, and several bus lines do not converge at any one of them.
College Park Metro, a few miles north, is such a hub. Unfortunately, it is surrounded by spread-out office parks and low-density residential. If bike sharing existed throughout Hyattsville, it would enable travelers to reach all major destinations in the city from any mode of mass transit without neccessitating a transfer up in College Park.
Though potential exists to create a highly bike-friendly environment across Hyattsville, infrastructure improvements would be neccessary along the axes connecting West Hyattsville, Prince George's Plaza, Riverdale Park, and the Hyattsville Arts District. A simple fix would be to add bike lanes or a cycle track to Queens Chapel Road, which was restriped a few years ago from a
four six-lane road to a two four-lane one.
Making this a bike corridor would directly connect West Hyattsville to Prince George's Plaza and Riverdale Park. This, along with bike lanes along Route 1, Jefferson Street, and Queensbury/Belcrest Road would form a bicycle network that would connect all major destinations within the city.
Certainly the transit stations would be top candidates for Capital Bikeshare station locations if the system were to come to Hyattsville. Prince George's Plaza and West Hyattsville Metro stations are obvious, but Riverdale MARC and a future Purple Line station in nearby Riverdale Park are also prime contenders.
CaBi stations at University Town Center, the Arts District, the Mall at Prince George's, and shops along major roads would grant transit users convenient access to retail. Civic institutions such as schools, the District Courthouse, and major parks could also host stations. Fill in the gaps with stations in in the heart of residential areas, and a bike share network in Hyattsville might look a little something like this:
Click for an interactive version.
By virtue of the city's permeable street grid layout, the excess roadway on Queens Chapel Road, and its multiple transit, shopping, residential, and other destinations, Hyattsville might be the best place in the DC area to set up a suburban bike sharing network. Assuming Capital Bikeshare expansion within the District brings the system up Rhode Island Avenue towards Mount Rainier, this system could help link the entire Route 1 corridor together while reducing congestion along this well-traveled route.
Capital Bikeshare has proved to be a roaring success and is inspiring similar systems across the country. Though there's typically popular demand for more stations in DC's core, CaBi's eventual expansion to the region's suburbs could be a boon.
CaBi's success has sparked bike sharing networks in Denver, Miami Beach, and Boston. Though CaBi is currently the largest bike sharing system in the United States, huge programs are planned for Chicago and New York in the not-too-distant future. And it won't be long before West Coast cities get on board. The highly publicized success of CaBi has given major cities across the nation confidence to explore bike sharing systems.
Locally, CaBi's success has called for expansion outside of DC and Arlington into Alexandria and Rockville. Even expansion within DC and Arlington will be pushing towards the edges of those cities. At some point, probably not too far in the future, other area suburbs will probably consider the implementation of bike sharing.
Over the next few weeks, I'm going to make the case for bike sharing in some of our suburbs. Places all over the Washington region have the right environment to support bike share. And it's only a matter of time before the red and yellow bikes we know and love start appearing far from the urban core.
Suburban jurisdictions will likely face different issues than their core-city counterparts, but with a well thought-out placement, they should thrive just as well and provide an essential form of transportation in suburbs. We should probably focus on several important areas outside of the core:
Around Metro and commuter rail stations. Obviously, CaBi is a great approach to addressing the "last mile" problem of commuter transportation systems. Stations placed near suburban Metro, MARC, and VRE stations could be complemented by bike share stations within a two-mile radius. These would be best placed along bike trails and bike-friendly arterial roads. The major potential for these stations is connecting residents to Metro stations, allowing for a viable car-free commute into the city. They can also connect suburban workers to jobs near Metro.
Along major corridors. Major arterial roads that radiate from the city often bring a continued urban corridor with them. As the region adds bike sharing in the suburbs, placing stations along existing corridors could prove to be a winning proposition. This would undoubtedly necessitate infrastructure improvements along many of those corridors to make them more conducive to increased biking, but the payoff could come in the form of decreased traffic along the routes.
In business and retail districts. Main streets and shopping areas exist in the suburbs, too. Some of them are just a bit too far from transit centers for the causal walker. Bike sharing could fill in the gaps of local bus and train networks and encourage a safer environment in those areas.
At campuses. Colleges, high schools, trade schools, and even middle and elementary schools could all provide fertile ground for bike sharing. Educational institutions would benefit greatly from the increased safety, and would help encourage students to bike to school using personal bikes. This could have a major impact on traffic around campuses and potentially save school districts money in busing.
In job centers. The "last mile" commuter issue is most poignant at a suburban office park. Generally secluded from transit stops, office parks could benefit from bike sharing, encouraging commuters to explore car-free methods combining mass transit and biking.
Certainly suburban bike sharing would best be complemented by improved bicycle infrastructure and biker-friendly policies. New bike lanes and paths and traffic management would help maximize the benefits of bike sharing and biking in general. It would take cars off the road, which means less congestion, less pollution, and more safety. It could also connect otherwise isolated suburban residents to jobs and amenities. Bike sharing has been a resounding success for the city, but if properly implemented that success can stretch into the region's suburbs.
The Department of Defense is now promoting alternatives to to the more than 5,800 employees relocating to Fort Meade in August due to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) changes.
The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) headquarters is moving from the Pentagon in Virginia to Fort Meade in Maryland, and represents a substantial number of the relocated jobs. Unlike the the Pentagon, which is adjacent to Metro's Blue and Yellow lines and one of the largest bus hubs in Arlington, Fort Meade is nearly transit-inaccessible.
Approximately 25 MARC trains (PDF) on the Penn Line stop daily at nearby Odenton Station Monday through Friday. Several organizations on Fort Meade offer shuttle service from the station to their facilities, which are about two to five miles from the station.
Virginia-based DISA workers certainly have no reason to celebrate their commute being lengthened up to 30 miles each way due to the move. But the commute might not be as daunting as expected thanks to a couple of commuting options that DISA and other DoD Agencies are pushing to their employees.
For commuters who live near VRE stations, there is a cross honor agreement with MARC, allowing riders on inbound VRE trains a free transfer to outbound MARC trains.
If, for instance, riders are coming from Woodbridge and going to Fort Meade, they only need a ticket to Union Station, where they can then board an outbound MARC train to Odenton for free. This is still long commute with two transfers (VRE to MARC, MARC to shuttle), but with the federal mass transit subsidy recently being raised to $230 a month, it can be done for no additional money out-of-pocket.
For those who can get to Union Station via Metro or bus, MARC has the Transit Link Card (TLC). For $102 in addition to a MARC monthly pass ($125 for Union Station to Odenton), the TLC will offer unlimited monthly ridership on any service that accepts SmarTrip or Charm Cards.
The monthly cost for those going to Fort Meade via Odenton is $227, which again can be covered in full by the federal mass transit subsidy. Additionally, the TLC card can be used on weekends and holidays, making it fiscally advantageous for Fort Meade commuters to potentially give up their cars all together.
MARC's TLC can be used with Metro, Metrobus, DC Circulator, the future DC Streetcar, ART, CUE, DASH, Fairfax Connector, Loudon County Commuter Bus, OmniRide, Ride-On, TheBus, the Baltimore Subway and Light Rail, and any MTA bus. This connectivity makes it a highly viable option for Washington and Baltimore commuters to other BRAC sites, including Aberdeen Proving Grounds, which is also served by the MARC Penn Line.
Currently, MARC's TLC is the only way to get an unlimited use pass from Metro. MARC's TLC is the only pass that allows unlimited rides on multiple modes. Non-MARC Metro riders can use rail and bus passes which are fairly limited; several have recommended creating more flexible passes.
Will these services prevent a traffic nightmare from occurring? Probably not. MARC service is limited and does not run on weekends, and many employees relocating from Virginia are probably not keen on 2-hour commutes with multiple mode shifts.
DISA's move to Fort Meade isolates the agency from DoD headquarters and other related agencies in DC, Arlington, and Alexandria, which in turn means more and longer commutes for meetings and conferences. This will also be the case with most agencies that are moving from the DC core to transit-poor exurbs in the BRAC as land in the city core sits undeveloped.
Nevertheless, the fact that the DoD is beginning to recognize the importance of mass transit's role in providing an efficient way for employees to reach their facilities is an important step in the right direction.
Downtown Silver Spring has been championed for its revitalization and become a hub of transportation, commerce, and residential development. With every new building that goes up, the town becomes a little more walkable. Some areas, however, have yet to catch up.
The Silver Spring Metro station is adjacent to two superblocks which break up the street grid and urban form. Superblocks are large tracts of development lacking interior transportation arteries, even for pedestrians.
This pattern of development is largely a product of car-oriented design. It often has the effect of creating fast-moving, unimpeded roadways between superblocks. This is inappropriate for an area adjacent to an urban rail station.
Compared to places like Columbia, these superblocks are certainly not the most car-oriented. The blocks on either side of East-West Highway between Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road host a mix of residential, office, and retail in close proximity. But because of the variety of walking destinations and adjacent transit center, the lack of transportation permeability inherent in a superblock is even more inappropriate here than in an office park in the exurbs.
On the south side of the street, a narrow sidewalks runs along a steep hill with no fence or guardrail between the pedestrian and a potentially nasty spill. On the north side of the street, several parking garage driveways act almost like street intersections, only without three-way crosswalks. Drivers pouring out of these garages at rush hour often do not yield pedestrians the right-of-way, as they should, which adds to the treacherousness of walking this stretch.
The roadway itself, however, is a long, wide, virtually unimpeded straightaway. The 30 mph speed limit hardly matches the road design, and there are no speed cameras to discourage unsafe speeds. This further endangers pedestrians, even at marked crosswalks.
To make matters worse, construction has inconveniently closed sidewalks on several occasions. On the corner of East-West Highway and Blair Mill Road, a notorious sidewalk closure has drawn a great deal of ire from residents.
In early March, a crane working on the Silver Spring Transit Center shut down the north sidewalk between the NOAA building and the Metro entrance. There is no crosswalk where the sidewalk was closed. When there are so few crosswalks, these closures are particularly disruptive for the hundreds of residents and workers walking to and from retail and Metro.
Pedestrians walking from their apartment buildings to the Metro had to double back to get to a crosswalk, or cross illegally where the sidewalk was shut down. The weekend of March 12-14, surface work at the NOAA garage entrance forced pedestrians to walk in the street for a short stretch. Montgomery County, of course, is no stranger to pedestrian safety problems at construction zones.
The south block, bounded by East-West Highway, Colesville Road, Eastern Avenue, and Blair Mill Road, contains a mix of high-density residential and commercial structures. It is somewhat disorienting to navigate, even for a resident. Ten apartment buildings rise up from the block, many of them surrounded by parking lots. In the center there is an interior-facing shopping center with an enormous surface parking lot. The few pedestrian connections that exist are circuitous, dumping the pedestrian off in the middle of the parking lot. This area was not designed with the pedestrian in mind.
One of the key aspects of walkability is a permeable system. Silver Spring needs a safe, well-lit, well-constructed pedestrian tunnel to Ripley Street or Silver Spring Avenue that cuts through the north block. A tunnel would likely come with a very large price tag. The south block, however, could be broken up with better pedestrian and vehicular connections, much like the planned improvements coming with the redevelopment of Falkland North just across Colesville Road.
Silver Spring is an example of successful infill designed, for the most part, to be walkable. People love living there because of this. If the leftover pock marks could be addressed by the time the new transit center; opens, it would propel Silver Spring towards the top of the list of pedestrian friendly suburban communities.
The Calvert Street Bridge is the only connection between Adams Morgan and the closest Metro station, Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan. It's not unusual to see a steady stream of pedestrians crossing the bridge on weekends. But that may change if Metro cuts late-night service.
Throughout the debate over whether or not Metro should cut the service for financial reasons, owners and managers at bars, clubs, and lounges in DC and beyond have been concerned about what impact such a change would have on their businesses and way of life in the region.
Cronin worries that lost tax revenue to the city will exceed the amount WMATA will save if service is cut. "I want to see the numbers make sense," he said. He predicts his business will probably drop 20% on Fridays and Saturdays, and that a number of the city's establishments will go under. "The whole District will be damaged by it," he worries.
Cronin predicts such a dramatic loss because weekend parking in Adams Morgan is already at critical mass, and there will be no method of transportation to replace Metro. "It's a horrible parking situation," he laments, "We do a valet, but the valet fills up."
The Woodley Park station, about a half-mile away from one of the top club districts on the East Coast, is one of the most utilized Metro stations between midnight and 3 am. Cronin also expressed concerns over drunk drivers, and taxi shortages plaguing Adams Morgan come last call. "This is the capital of the free world, and to have a Metro that doesn't run past midnight is just embarrassing."
Just outside the District, the concerns about cutting Metro's late-night service are not tied to losing business. At Union Jack's in Ballston, operations manager Anthony Murphy actually believes business will increase if the changes take effect. (Full disclosure: I am a former bouncer at Union Jack's in Bethesda and Anthony Murphy is my brother.).
Even with the potential for more business, there are concerns about the changes. Murphy worries about drunk driving. "If a bar can be held accountable for a drunk guy getting behind the wheel of a car, then the Metro should also be held accountable if they make this change."
Union Jack's will also likely close their kitchens earlier. "Many of our back-of-the-house employees depend on Metro to get home," Murphy said, "This change could create a lot of unemployment in the industry." Murphy's wife, Paige, also relies on Metro to get to her job as a bartender at the Chesapeake Room on Barracks Row near the Eastern Market Metro station.
The increase in business, it seems, is just not worth the added liabilities. "Metro should do a bake sale or a car wash or whatever they have to do to get the funds to not keep the Metro from shutting down earlier, but also maybe have it stay open later," said Murphy, calling the service cuts an "irresponsible move."
Indeed, bar owners throughout the city are weary. If the late-night service cuts happen, it could mean drastic changes in revenue, increased liability issues, and difficulty for employees getting to and from work.
In the meantime, Metro will continue to serve tens of thousands of customers during weekend late nights. And for hundreds of gussied up bar patrons, the late night parade across the Calvert Street Bridge will remain a staple of the Adams Morgan night life experience.
The highly controversial and much anticipated Silver Line has its faults. But it has the potential to profoundly impact Washington area transportation well into the future.
Undoubtedly this new transit connection has some shortcomings. The elevated design through Tysons Corner will likely have a negative impact on walkability in that area. Its high price tag, well into the billions, could have been applied more economically to virtually blanket Northern Virginia in streetcars and light rail.
It will encourage more development in sprawling Loudoun County instead of areas closer to the regional core. And it will actually decrease Metro capacity on the Blue Line. These issues have long term repercussions that will impact transportation and development for decades. But it is not all bad.
Though I completely agree with Dan M's assessment that the money for Phase II of the Silver Line could have been much better spent on other modes of transportation in Northern Virginia, I don't believe it ever would have, at least not for a good long time.
The introduction of a new "unproven" (in Northern Virginia, at least) mode of transportation would not garner the political support needed for a multi-billion dollar investment. And that is unfortunate. Hopefully with the success of DC's streetcars program, future transit fund appropriations will embrace light rail, BRT, and streetcars. For now, I consider it a victory that billions of transit dollars in Northern Virginia are being spent on something other than highway "improvements".
It is likely the Silver Line will also have a major psychological impact that could garner more support for mass transit investment. In 2007, 24.7 million passengers passed through Dulles International Airport. It is, and for the foreseeable future will be, the primary gateway to the city.
For every traveler, transportation to or from the airport was in some sort of motor vehicle, including a very limited number of bus options. This means that for someone visiting DC for the first time, the first thing they experience when they arrive and the last thing they experience when they depart is a 25 mile drive down an expressway.
With the advent of the Silver Line, visitors to Washington and area travelers alike will be exposed to a greener alternative to reach the region's primary air gateway. Area residents using the airport will be able to opt out of sitting in traffic, parking in a huge lot, trekking from the lot to the terminal, and leaving their automobile unattended for days at a time. Fewer visitors will feel the need to rent a car for their visit, thereby taking even more cars off of area highways.
Once a visitor gets on the Silver Line at Dulles, no further modal shift is necessary, versus, say, taking a light rail train from Dulles and then switching to Metro at Tysons Corner. Visitors who opt Metro for their journey from Dulles to DC will immediately be exposed to the Metro system, increasing their familiarity and comfort with using the train and improving the chances that it they will use it to get around town during their visit.
Furthermore, the Silver Line brings more psychological exposure to mass transit to a corridor that for decades has known nothing but cars and highways to get around. Though most of the outer Silver Line stations will serve primarily as park and ride stations, the presence of an alternative will be there. Suburban automobile sprawl development will not cease without an alternative present, and Loudoun and northern Fairfax counties will finally have that alternative.
Love it or hate it, the Silver Line is coming. Promoting its virtues as a welcome mat for DC and an alternative to driving on Northern Virginia's clogged roads will certainly not fix any of the problems with it. The Silver Line, however, is a net positive for the region in spite of its issues. And when the first trains go rolling up the tracks towards Ashburn, the this will be an even better, more inviting region.
Have you been on the edge of your seats for which streets I'd pick as my ten favorite? Here they are. (Here are #11-20.)
10) K Street NW/NE
Starting as Water Street under the Whitehurst Freeway in Georgetown, it crosses Washington Circle to become a multi-modal corridor. It skirts by Farragut Square, Franklin Park, and Mount Vernon Square before quieting down in the H Street area.
9) 8th Street SE/NE
Perhaps best known for the Marine Corps Barracks at 8th & I, the Barracks Row section of Southeast is perhaps the quadrant's nicest. 8th Street serves as the main corridor between Navy Yard and the H Street area. Eventually, 8th Street will be multimodal, getting a streetcar. The corner of 8th and H will likely be a big hub for the system.
8) Columbia Road NW
West of 14th Street, it transitions into more of a main street. Most notably, it is the axis between the hearts of Columbia Heights and Adams Morgan, connecting two of the hottest night life districts in the city.
7) Pennsylvania Avenue NW/SE
When it comes to monumental, it doesn't get bigger than Pennsylvania Avenue, perhaps anywhere in the world. It is the axis between the White House and the Capitol, but so much more. It begins in Georgetown and runs through Foggy Bottom and Washington Circle.
East of the Capitol, it runs through some of the more prominent neighborhoods of Capitol Hill, including Eastern Market and Barney Circle before heading over the John Phillip Sousa Bridge to Randle Highlands and Fort Davis Park. Of course, it is most famous for 1600, the address we all associate with the home of the President of our great nation.
6) H Street NE
The arts and entertainment district by the Atlas Theatre has seen the opening of eclectic night spots like H Street Country Club, Rock and Roll Hotel, Star and Shamrock, Bier Garten Haus, Palace of Wonders, Little Miss Whiskey's, and Sova, giving the stretch a night life that is beginning to rival Adams Morgan's.
Currently, the ubiquitous construction on the route makes it not much to look at at the moment, but the promise of street cars and vibrant night life has already started to be realized, assuring H Street will be a great street for generations.
5) 14th Street SW/NW
At Thomas Circle, the street becomes a little less monumental and a little more local, while remaining iconic. Brilliant modern buildings have been sprouting up by classic older buildings, creating an interesting and exciting streetscape.
Perhaps most recognizable these days would be the fantastic redevelopment of Columbia Heights, now one of the most vibrant neighborhoods on the east coast. North of there, 14th Street is a little sleepier but nonetheless charming through 16th Street Heights all the way to Brightwood. From national icon to neighborhood main street, 14th has shown the character and continuity of the DC city street.
4) U Street NW
Bars, jazz and rock music venues, and chili half smokes are what you're likely to seek on U Street's prominent corridor between 9th and 16th. But there is a great deal of local history tied to it as well. The African American Civil War Memorial sits at 10th and U.
A few blocks east, U Street runs through historic LeDroit Park. The intersection of 14th and U marks the epicenter of the 1968 riots destroyed much of the corridor among others in the city. It also represents one of the most successful urban revitalization efforts in the United States. 40 years after the intersection was decimated by unrest, it was the site of celebration after the election of Barack Obama.
3) Rhode Island Avenue NE/NW
From there it passes through Woodridge, which right now isn't as charming as it has been in the past or will be in the future, it typifies outer DC residential neighborhoods with a charming mix of bungalows and colonials. From South Dakota to the train tracks, it separates Brookland in the north from Langdon to the southeast and Brentwood to the southwest. The urbanism slowly intensifies up to the Rhode Island Avenue station, which actually has quite remarkable views of the monuments from the platform. The area around the station is also slated for improvements.
Next is Eckington, where you begin to see historic row houses. Shaw is next, including the now-revived Logan Circle, which has become some of DC's choicest real estate. Finally it comes to an end on Connecticut just south of Dupont Circle, surrounded by office towers with a healthy mix of urban nightlife nearby. Rhode Island Avenue showcases just about everything DC has to offer, from quiet suburban Woodridge to the hustle and bustle of the Golden Triangle.
2) Massachusetts Avenue SE/NE/NW
Home to many of the embassies, Massachusetts Avenue is in a way the face of DC to the rest of the world. Starting in the East End amidst some classic brick Federals, it pushes on through the older heart of Capitol Hill including Lincoln Park and Stanton Park, home to many Hill staffers from all over the United States. Anyone arriving by train knows Union Station at Columbus Circle as the grand entrance to the city.
Somewhere in there, the embassies start. Embassy Row, formerly known as Millionaire's Row, is home to some of the most spectacular buildings in the city. 58 Embassies lie on Embassy Row, with 47 of them holding an address on Massachusetts Avenue. Just beyond Ward Circle sits American University, one of DC's many prestigious institutions of higher learning. From there, it passes through Spring Valley to Westmoreland Circle, address of some of DC's finest Colonials. Through three quadrants and numerous neighborhoods, Massachusetts Avenue connects some of the best that DC has to offer, and for many diplomats, politicos, students, and tourists, it is the face of the city.
1) Q Street NW/NE
After the bridge over Rock Creek Park, Q passes just south of Sheridan Circle and just north of Dupont Circle and Logan Circle, by-passing the traffic (and making a nice bike ride) while still basking in the charm of those three distinct neighborhoods.
Between 17th and 16th you have the Cairo, the largest DC residential building, a gorgeous and historic 164 foot tower. It passes through the heart of Shaw before ending in Eckington. The entire length is characterized by some of DC's most beautiful Federals and Victorians, often with charming gardens in front. It is one of the cleanest and friendliest streets in DC, close to just about everything but quiet and less traveled than nearby P Street.
Researching these streets has been fun and interesting. However, there are certainly streets that I haven't yet discovered in this fine city. What are your favorite streets?
- P Street NW: The stately link between Georgetown, Dupont, and Logan Circle
- Benning Road NE: Perhaps not much to look at now, but the promise of streetcars brings much potential
- Kansas Avenue NW: The charming heart of Petworth
- South Carolina SE: Capitol Hill's unassuming beauty
- Kennedy Street NW/NE: Dynamic up-and-coming Vinegar Hill destination
- Wisconsin Avenue NW: Grand corridor between Bethesda and Georgetown
- Reno Road NW: Scenic alternative to Wisconsin and Connecticut
From Georgetown to Anacostia, Waterfront to Brightwood, Chevy Chase to Brookland, The Mall to the Atlas District, Washington, DC has hundreds of fascinating streets that exude the spirit of the nation and the soul of the city's locals. Today let's take a look at some of the best that DC has to offer.
20) M Street NE/NW
19) Minnesota Avenue SE/NE
Anacostia is a neighborhood that has been phenomenally recapturing its historic charm, and that charm is spreading up Minnesota Avenue. From it's beginning at Good Hope Road through quiet Randle Circle, Minnesota Avenue is slowly reaching its potential as one of DC's Great Streets. A master plan for the intersection at Benning Road on up into Deanwood to help further the District's latest success story on recapturing the charm and splendor of its neglected corridors.
18) M Street SW/SE
There is a rather handsome baseball stadium by that old spot, and I have not had to drive to that neck of the woods since the Metro opened there. Waterfront and Navy Yard are still up-and-coming, but what a world of difference the last five years have made for the M Street corridor. Fortunately, its growth it is being well documented.
17) Florida Avenue NW/NE
Excluding a troublesome intersection with New York Avenue and a couple not-so-scenic blocks by U Street, Florida Avenue is a street that exemplifies the beauty and culture of DC. Originally known as Boundary Street, it was the border for the original City of Washington. It hosts many beautiful row houses and charming walk-ups. Gallaudet University faces the homes of Capitol Hill North along the eastern stretch.
But perhaps most notable is the intersection of Florida and T near LeDroit Park, where the Howard Theater sits. Currently languishing in disrepair, a plan is in place to return the historic landmark to its original splendor, putting yet another colorful destination along Florida Avenue.
16) Beach Drive
It passes under regal bridges before ending on the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway in Woodley Park. The best part about Beach Drive is that it is closed to automobiles on weekends so that joggers, walkers, and bikers can enjoy the majesty of this uniquely preserved urban wilderness.
15) Georgia Avenue/7th St NW/SW
Start at Zanzibar on the Southwest Waterfront. Work your way up past the Mall and Gallery Place, beyond the Convention Center. At LeDroit Park, 7th Street is dedicated to Chuck Brown, the father of Go-Go, a uniquely DC brand of music.
North of Florida it becomes Georgia Avenue, the main street for Howard University, Petworth, Vinegar Hill, and Brightwood before crossing Eastern Avenue into Silver Spring. 7th/Georgia is the primary north-south corridor for the city, and truly is one of DC"s most iconic routes.
14) Good Hope Road
13) MacArthur Boulevard NW
This quiet tree-lined boulevard with a grassy median runs from Foxhall past the Georgetown Reservoir and up towards Glen Echo in Maryland. The Palisades neighborhood runs along the southern side of most of the route. Part of me likes passing through a gorgeous neighborhood I know I can never afford. Part of me likes the quiet, lazy pace of this street. Part of me likes the small town feel. Put it all together and you have one of the most pleasant and scenic boulevards in the area.
12) Trinidad Avenue NE
Unfortunately, this negative impression of the Northeast enclave has tarnished the reputation of another up-and-coming neighborhood. Though it may not boast the affluence of other Capitol Hill neighborhoods, but if you're looking for boarded windows and abandoned warehouses, you're not going to find any on Trinidad Avenue. When I take people through Trinidad, they are often quite surprised to see a quiet neighborhood with mature trees and manicured front gardens.
11) Connecticut Avenue NW
Tomorrow: #10 through #1, the champion.
Yesterday, I listed ten of my least favorite streets in DC. Here are the ten that topped the list:high speed interchange that is an affront to the Park View neighborhood, imposing on its view of the McMillian Reservoir. From there, it separates a hospital center fit for Gaithersburg West from a prime tract of real estate that we can't quite seem to develop properly.
And from there, it's all downhill. It runs past a series of sprawling Catholic institutions, including Catholic University, its only intersections being Irving Street and the entrances to the car-oriented facilities. It actually drives over a Metro station, but development of the area has been stymied by neighbors more interested in having industrial parking lots instead of some retail and green space. Beyond 12th Street, it's any other residential avenue to the Maryland Line, where it becomes Queens Chapel Road, another infamous wider-than-it-needs-to-be PG County thoroughfare.
At the other end, it fronts a couple of nasty super blocks that eliminate any street grids. Van Ness Street is fronted by a fence to protect you from the horrible modern architecture. And this is all right on top of Van Ness Metro.
Where to start? The freeway signs hanging over a historic downtown neighborhood? The freeway style set up along the train tracks? The traffic? The lack of a safe pedestrian environment? The cut through at the nameless circle at Montana Avenue? The truck stop urbanism at Bladensburg Road? The failed attempt to improve on that truck stop urbanism? The fact that one of the monumental avenues with vistas to the White House has been transformed into a poor man's freeway? Or the emaciation of the Ivy City neighborhood caused by said freeway? I'll let you pick.
From the southern vehicular terminus, D Street, the first thing you pass on the right are two giant surface parking lots, considered the most offensive parking lots in the city. They sit between the Capitol and Union Station. Apparently we haven't found a more suitable use for some of the most expensive real estate on earth beyond free parking for congressional staff.
North of there, there are steadily improving blocks in NoMa. But just before New York Avenue, the underpasses begin. I can understand one underpass here and there, but North Capitol has three. The worst part is that they make it impossible to cross North Capitol at adjacent blocks.
In Bloomingdale, there's the undeveloped lot at the McMillian sand filtration site, a suburban hospital complex, and then a gigantic freeway cloverleaf that serves no real purpose at Irving Street. Beyond that is basically a freeway to nowhere until Taylor Street, where it eventually becomes a residential artery. This is hardly the monumental thoroughfare it ought to be.
I bet many years before I was born, this was actually a very charming street with breathtaking views of the Capitol. Stand at Delaware and M today, and you get a view of parking lots. There's definitely no view of the Capitol. North of the freeway the road was removed to make way for acres of free parking for congressional staff. And if you're looking for charming row houses, try one of the other 13 Colonies. Everything on Delaware Avenue, including much of the street grid, fell victim to urban renewal. If you enjoy hideous architecture, by all means bring your camera.
5) E Street NW
4) Malcolm X Avenue SE
I have never felt safe driving on Malcolm X Avenue, which is odd because I feel perfectly safe walking on the less secluded, more well lit MLK Avenue it crosses. But what really infuriates me is that instead of a civil rights memorial or an African American history museum, the corner of MLK and Malcolm X has a fried chicken chain across the street from a liquor store. Bad urban planning has never been so racist.
3) Chappie James Blvd SW
Every time I have ever been on Bolling AFB I cringe at the painfully wasteful land use. Had this not been a military base, this would probably be one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in DC. Instead, Chappie James Blvd is the main road through the base, and although it is more than a mile and a half long, and it is not fronted by a single building. This, of course, keeps the views of the snout-fronted servicemen housing wide open.
The rear alley parking setup that seems to work for all the adjacent neighborhoods is not present here. Instead, the Fort Lincoln neighborhood forgoes front lawns or porches for paved parking. They will need those spaces when the big box development at the edge of the neighborhood will not be reachable on foot despite being less than half a mile away. Of course, you can't see any of that from Fort Lincoln Drive itself, because it is not fronted by a single building for its entire length.Freeway fed at the western end and excessively wide with no median, it is hard to decide whether it is more unsafe to walk or drive on Constitution. This certainly isn't the most pedestrian unfriendly road in the area, or even the city, but considering it fronts the Mall, several museums, most of the major monuments and memorials, the Ellipse, and of course the Capitol, this road sees a good deal more tourists and recreation seekers than most others, and it is designed like an urban speedway.
- Firth Stirling Avenue SE: Stark, traffic clogged landscape
- Naylor Road SE: Inconsistent building types and an unsafe feel
- Brentwood Road NE: Blank walls and big boxes next to Metro
- Virginia Avenue NW/SW: Freeway feel in the north, industrial access road in the south
- T Street SW: Surface parking and dead industrial buildings on a riverfront approach
- Blair Road NW: Horrible blank wall along the train tracks
- Klingle Road NW: Freeway interchange to a closed and neglected traffic sewer through the woods
Are these the worst streets in DC? What streets would you say are the worst?
For 30 years, I have been walking, driving, and riding the streets of the District of Columbia. For the most part, they are among the best in the country. But no city is perfect, and DC certainly is no exception.
Here are 20 streets that I find to be dirty, ugly, unsafe, traffic-choked, under utilized, or just plain not doing what they are supposed to be doing. I chose to forgo the interstates, they were a bit too obvious.
20) Riggs Road NE
This road enters the district as a PG County style high speed thoroughfare. What's worse, 25% of it's 0.8 mile stretch in the District is consumed with that ridiculous triangle intersection with South Dakota Avenue at Fort Totten. Fortunately, that is getting fixed, which is why this road is almost off my list.
19) Water Street SW
Get rid of this street, build frontage on Maine Avenue, and create plazas at all the current intersections crossing Maine and Water. Get more people walking around down there. Again, there are plans to improve this area, if they ever get built.
If I am ever Vice President of the United States, I would refuse to live at this address. It is a spattering of buildings across a secluded lot surrounded by most of a circle. The circle doesn't connect all the way around and breaks up the street grid between Wisconsin Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue.horribly complex intersection in the H Street area. Moving north, it provides a horrifically ugly face for the Trinidad and Carver Langston neighborhoods. It then becomes a desolate stretch of freeway despite running between two scenic DC landmarks, Mount Olivet Cemetery and the National Arboretum.
Next is a horribly autocentric intersection at New York Avenue, which is a freeway to the east. The rest of the stretch is dirty, unkempt, and gives a very unsafe feel, even into Maryland as it goes past another historic cemetery. It has a lot of potential, though, and as H Street and Trinidad continue to revitalize, Bladensburg Road should show signs of life as well.
On the north end, it looks like you're driving past military barracks circa Vietnam. On the other end, I'm pretty sure it is chop shops and automobile graveyards. If this street was designed for people, someone ought to tell the business owners that seem to have all opened up some kind of auto shop along the stretch.
15) Howard Road SE
14) 22nd Street NE
The entire road network around RFK Stadium is guilty here. At one end of the Capitol east-west axis sits the Lincoln Memorial, fronted by acres of National Parkland. On the east end sits a moribund stadium surrounded by a spade-shaped interchange and a bunch of grassy lots to fill the void between the traffic sewers. 22nd Street is only good for turning around when you realize you do not want to drive over the Young Bridge.
13) 4th Street SW
12) Harewood Road NE
I used to park on Harewood Road when visiting my sister when she attended Catholic University. It is nothing more than the edge of a couple super blocks. The buildings of the University are not built towards the street, and the southern terminus at Michigan Avenue is flanked by a giant parking lot.cheap garden apartments far from job centers, social centers, or mass transit create a desolate atmosphere for poverty and neglect to fester.
Inexpensive housing does not have to be as ugly, desolate, or spread out as the low rises that front Mississippi Avenue. We need to remember that streets like this are not in Greenbelt or Suitland, they are in the nation's capital, and therefore deserve a higher standard for development than the worst Prince George's County has to offer.
Next: #10 through #1, my very least favorite street in DC.
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