Posts by Matt Johnson
|Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master's in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Greenbelt. He’s a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a contract employee of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. His views are his own and do not represent those of his employer.|
On Tuesday, we posted our eighty-fifth challenge to see how well you knew Metro. I took photos of five Metro stations. Here are the answers. How well did you do?
This week, we got 26 guesses. Fifteen got all five. Great work, Patrick, JamesDCane, Peter K, AlexC, J-Train-21, Jacob G, robwd21, Solomon, dpod, Justin...., Dillon the Pickle, Stephen C, Andy L, David Duck, and We Will Crush Peter K!
Image 1: Friendship Heights
The first image was taken from the Western Avenue mezzanine at Friendship Heights. There are several clues here that should have made this a fairly easy one to solve.
This is a four-coffer Arch I station, a type of station that is present only on the Red Line's Shady Grove branch between Woodley Park and Medical Center. That narrows it down to seven stations. Of those seven, only one station has mezzanines at both ends: Friendship Heights. However, Bethesda will soon have a second mezzanine, constructed as part of the Purple Line.
One additional clue is the globe lights on the platform pylons. Globe lights like these are typical at outdoor stations. But Friendship Heights is the only underground station that has them in quantities like this.
Twenty-three knew this one.
Image 2: Eisenhower Avenue
The next station featured was Eisenhower Avenue. The elevator shaft leading between the mezzanine and the Huntington platform is seen here from the station's bus loop.
The easiest way to figure out that this was Eisenhower Avenue was by noticing that this is a side platform station. There are very few of those in the system (most stations have the single platform between the tracks). Only Eisenhower Avenue is both elevated and has side platforms (West Hyattsville is built on a berm).
Cheverly would have been a close guess, since it's the twin of Eisenhower Avenue. However, at Cheverly, the mezzanine is above the tracks, which are built at ground level.
Nineteen guessed correctly.
Image 3: Silver Spring
The third station is Silver Spring. The view here is looking north from the platform, with the pocket track used to short turn trains at center left. The pocket track is the main clue here, since there are only a few in the system. The only outdoor pocket tracks near a station are at Silver Spring, Wiehle Avenue, and Franconia/Springfield, though the Franconia pocket is not visible from the platform.
Additional clues include the CSX track just to the right of the fence, which indicates that this is in the shared corridor where the Red Line is sandwiched between the eastbound and westbound CSX tracks. 8403 Colesville Road is also visible, and is a fairly distinctive building in the Silver Spring skyline.
Twenty-five got the gold by guessing Silver Spring.
Image 4: Suitland
The fourth image shows a view of Suitland station from the bridge leading to the parking garage.
From the image, you can tell that this is one of the four High Peak stations. You can narrow it down to Suitland because, as noted in week 57, the peaked skylights are very shallow here.
The vantage point also should help you narrow it down. Branch Avenue doesn't have a bridge or parking garage that would allow a view from this angle. And from this angle at Franconia, instead of seeing the bus loop, you'd see the CSX/VRE tracks.
However, at Southern Avenue, the bus loop includes a bridge over the tracks just beyond the end of the platform. Since that's not visible here, by process of elimination, this has to be Suitland.
Nineteen came to the correct conclusion.
Image 5: Columbia Heights
The final image shows artwork at Columbia Heights station. The piece, Woven Identities by Megan Welsh and Casa Del Pueblo Youth, hangs on the wall opposite the faregates, where the corridor branches to escalators leading to either side of 14th Street.
If you've ever shopped at the Columbia Heights Target, you've probably walked past this artwork, and hopefully it's brightened your day. If you took the time to notice it, it probably brightened your score this week.
Nineteen got it right.
Thanks for playing! We'll be back in two weeks with another quiz.
Did you know there's a rhyme and reason to how Arlington County's streets are named? Here's an explanation of Arlington's street-naming system.
While Arlington was originally part of the District of Columbia (until 1846), it was not incorporated in the plan of Pierre L'Enfant. Unlike its larger neighbor, Arlington's streets don't follow a strict grid, but development has still followed a somewhat rectilinear pattern. The street-naming system dates back to 1932, and was undertaken in order to convince the Postal Service to allow "Arlington" as the mailing address for the entire county.
The county is divided into northern and southern sections by Arlington Boulevard, a major east-west thoroughfare which bisects the county.
In contrast to Washington, east-west streets are numbered. Since Arlington does not have quadrants, but instead has halves, most streets are identified with "north" or "south" relative to Arlington Boulevard. The directional suffix follows numbered streets, but precedes named streets. Numbered streets increase with distance from Arlington Boulevard in both directions. Accordingly, it is flanked on the north by First Street North and on the opposite side by First Street South. Numbered streets are usually "streets," but when additional streets fill in blocks, "Road" and then "Place" is used.
Named streets run north-south. Like DC, the first letter of the street name and number of syllables indicates where in the grid a street is located. The origin for the named streets is the Potomac River. The first "alphabet" is made up of one-syllable words, the second of two-syllable words, the third of three-syllable words, and the fourth is just one street: North Arizona Street. As distance from the Potomac increases, letters increase successively.
Instead of using "Place" to indicate a second street of the same letter filling in the street grid as DC does, Arlington just uses another word of the same first letter and syllables. In that regard, Danville Street could be followed by Daniel Street. A look at a progression of successive letters shows the strata of the alphabets in Arlington's street grid.
None of Washington's state-named avenues continue into Virginia, so Arlington uses a different methodology for indicating major streets. Like the street bisecting the county, major east-west roads are typically called "boulevards". Examples include Wilson and Clarendon Boulevards.
Major north-south streets are often called "drives." Examples include Walter Reed and George Mason Drives.
Many roads pre-date the addressing system of 1932, and have kept their historical names. These include "roads," highways," Spout Run Parkway, and Columbia Pike.
This post first ran back in 2009. Since the history hasn't changed, we thought we'd share it with you again!
It's time for the eighty-fifth installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Below are photos of five stations in the Metro system. Can you identify each from its picture?
We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun. Please have your answers in by noon on Thursday.
On Tuesday, we posted our eighty-fourth challenge to see how well you knew Metro. I took photos of five Metro stations. Here are the answers. How well did you do?
This week, we got 29 guesses. Twenty of you got all five. Great work to the winners!
Image 1: King Street
This week, all of the stations featured are stations that are adjacent to active railroad tracks. The first picture was taken along the walkway to the Commonwealth Avenue entrance at King Street. This entrance was added long after the station opened, and it's far enough north that the platform had to be extended. But the extended platform doesn't serve trains (they still stop in the original location), so fences along the tracks keep people back from moving trains.
The presence of this fence, plus the three-track railroad bridge in the background are both clues that this is King Street. Nearly all of you (26) got this one right.
Image 2: Brookland
The second image shows ancillary rooms at the north end of the Brookland platform, viewed from the Michigan Avenue bridge. The main clue here is that the Metro tracks are straddled by a single freight track on either side, which happens only along the Red Line between Brookland and Silver Spring. That means that this could only be one of four stations.
At Fort Totten and Takoma, there's no way to get a view like this, since there are no bridges nearby. At Silver Spring, there is a bridge over the southern end of the station, however, from that bridge, the MARC platforms would be visible, as would many tall buildings, since Silver Spring is so urban.
One final clue is the cleft in the blockhouse at bottom right. That cleft is home to the base of a bridge support from the older Michigan Avenue Bridge. That bridge was still in use when Brookland station was constructed, so the ancillary rooms were built around the bridge support. However, the current Michigan Avenue bridge was constructed and opened shortly after Brookland station opened to passengers. The old base still exists, though.
Twenty-one of you knew this one.
Image 3: Rockville
The third image shows the view northward from Rockville station. Given that many Metro stations are next to railroad tracks, this one was harder to narrow down, but there were some clues. One is the new platform pavers, which are present now at most Red Line outdoor stations, but few stations on other lines.
The buildings around the gentle curve in the distance also may have helped you narrow this down. The one closest to the station is 401 Hungerford, home to Montgomery County's Department of Health and Human Services. Another clue is the adjacent railroad bridge over Park Road, which is fairly distinctive.
Twenty-one figured this one out.
Image 4: Minnesota Avenue
The fourth image shows a view westward from the platform at Minnesota Avenue. There are a few clues. The most distinctive is probably the bridge over DC 295 at center. That bridge leads to a long ramp down to the station's mezzanine, the top of which is visible as well.
A second clue is the catenary masts with missing catenary. The railroad line between Landover and L'Enfant Plaza (via the Virginia Avenue Tunnel) was electrified just like the rest of the Pennsylvania Railroad between Washington and New York. Back then, not only were passenger trains hauled by electric locomotives, so were freight trains. For that reason, electric wires ran above this freight bypass of Union Station, all the way south to Potomac Yard, where the Pennsy handed off freight trains to the Southern Railway and the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac (RF&P).
Conrail stopped running electric-hauled freights in the mid-1980s, so the wires are long gone. But the supporting masts survive. These wire-less masts run alongside the Orange Line between Cheverly and Minnesota Avenue. So that should have helped you narrow this down.
One more clue that may have helped narrow this down is the parked coal hopper. This stretch of track leads into CSX's Benning Yard, where many of the coal hoppers bound for the Morgantown Generating Station and the Chalk Point Generating Station are stored. Parked coal trains are a common sight on this portion of the Orange Line.
Twenty-two got the right answer (dontcha know).
Image 5: Landover
The final image was taken looking south from Landover station. From this vantage point, you can see the electrified Northeast Corridor. Since it's impossible to tell whether the catenary here is still present (due to the foliage), this could be any Orange Line station between New Carrollton and Minnesota Avenue.
With the Amtrak corridor to the right of the image, this must be a picture looking south. It can't be Cheverly, since that station has side platforms. At New Carrollton, the Amtrak/MARC station would be visible at right and there's a bridge within sight of the southern end of the platform.
Additionally, the southern ends of New Carrollton, Deanwood, and Minnesota Avenue have blockhouses with ancillary rooms (like seen in image 2 at Brookland), so the view to the south is not possible. Minnesota Avenue and Deanwood also have freight tracks on both sides of the platform, which aren't visible here.
That leaves Landover, which twenty-two of you were able to correctly deduce.
It's time for the eighty-fourth installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Below are photos of five stations in the Metro system. Can you identify each from its picture?
We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun. Please have your answers in by noon on Thursday.
UPDATE: The answers are here.
On Tuesday, we posted our eighty-third photo challenge to see how well you knew Metro. I took photos of five Metro stations. Here are the answers. How well did you do?
This week, we got 21 guesses. Eight of you got all five. Great work, Peter K, Solomon, FN, Stephen C, AlexC, dpod, Travis Maiers, and We Will Crush Peter K!
Image 1: Navy Yard
The first image shows a platform pylon at Navy Yard station. Many of you decided the cherry blossom sticker must mean that this was Smithsonian station. But during cherry blossom season, these stickers appear all over WMATA on faregates, station booths, pylons, and any other surface they easily adhere to. So in this case, it was a bit of a pink herring.
There were two real clues. The first is the word "Transportation," which in this case is a snippet of the name of a major destination at the New Jersey Avenue end of the station: Department of Transportation. This led some of you to guess L'Enfant Plaza, where USDOT used to be headquartered.
The other clue was the fact that there are two wheelchair icons and arrows pointing in opposite directions. There are only two underground stations in the system that have two entrances that are both wheelchair accessible. The two are Friendship Heights and Navy Yard. We talked about stations with redundant elevators in a post last year.
Twelve figured out that this was Navy Yard.
Image 2: Morgan Boulevard
The second picture is looking up at development adjacent to Morgan Boulevard station. These residences are fairly distinctive, and if you were able to narrow this down a bit, could be spotted on Google Street View.
To narrow it down, note the style of the concrete matches the style used in the three stations opened in 2004 (Largo, Morgan Boulevard, and NoMa). The concrete is split into these rectangles, unlike at other stations.
The white fencing atop the wall is also indicative of newer stations. Up until 2001, when the Adopted Regional System was completed with the opening of the Green Line extension to Branch Avenue, Metro mainly used brown for all metal surfaces. The stations built in 2004 and later have silver finishes.
Fourteen guessed Morgan Boulevard.
Image 3: Twinbrook
The third image was taken at Twinbrook. It's the fourth time we've featured this station in the series.
You can tell from the image that this is a low-lying station with a Gull I style canopy with lots of surface parking.
There are 15 Gull I stations. Seven of those stations are elevated, so that eliminates them as possibilities. We can eliminate Cheverly since it has side platforms. New Carrollton, Deanwood, and Minnesota Avenue have catenary supports behind them (for the Northeast Corridor and formerly electrified Penn Central freight line). Brookland is in an open cut, so it's out as well.
That leaves Van Dorn Street, Shady Grove, and Twinbrook. At Van Dorn Street, the parking lot is on the opposite side of Eisenhower Avenue (and downhill) from the station. At Shady Grove, from this angle, the parking garages would be visible. That leaves Twinbrook.
Additionally, you might have recognized the buildings in the background. The Maryland license plates may have also helped you narrow this down.
Sixteen guessed correctly.
Image 4: Huntington
The fourth image shows unique signage at Huntington's southern entrance. As shown in week 14, Huntington has two narrow escalators on either side of a regular-width escalator. And this is the only place in the system to have narrow escalators.
In a usual arrangement, the station probably would have had three (regular-width) escalators that could be running with two in the peak direction and one in the reverse direction. But in order to make the station wheelchair accessible to the south, Metro built an inclined elevator. That left room for only two regular-width escalators.
The problem with that meant that the demand would be uneven, but the supply would be set at 50/50. A regular-width Metro escalator has room for two people to stand side-by-side. So, with three escalators, Metro could be running two down in the morning (4 people across) and one up (2 people across). But with room for just two escalators, there'd be one down (2 people across) and one up (2 people across). That's inefficient.
The narrow escalators allow for better balancing. In the morning, one narrow escalator and the regular-width escalator are going down (3 people across) with the other narrow escalator going up (1 person across). That actually gives a better split (75% peak direction) than the three escalator option (67% peak direction), but still has a lower overall capacity (3 of 4 people width versus 4 of 6 people width).
Fifteen came to the correct conclusion.
Image 5: Clarendon
The final image probably looked harder than it really was. It takes just a little synthesis to put together that the correct answer was Clarendon. Virginia Square was also a very good guess, but it's not the correct answer.
What do we know from the picture?
We can see that this is a "Waffle" station [32 possible stations] that has side platforms [12 possibilities] and is served by either the Orange or Red Lines (you can see a swatch of orange in the destination sign), which leaves nine stations.
What else can we see? The far wall doesn't have a mezzanine. That means that this is a station that does not have entrances on both ends, which eliminates all the downtown and transfer stations. That leaves just three possibilities (or five if you didn't notice Pentagon City and Crystal City aren't served by the Red or Orange lines).
The three stations that are left are Ballston, Clarendon, and Virginia Square.
It can't be Ballston because at that station, the mezzanine is at the far eastern end of the platform, with its "tuning fork" style mezzanine pointed west. From this perspective at Ballston (and Pentagon City, for that matter), the mezzanine above would appear concave, not convex, and the escalators would be visible.
This perspective, with the convex shape of the mezzanine means we're under the end opposite from the escalators, so this has to be a station with a central mezzanine. Both Clarendon and Virginia Square have this attribute.
There were two ways to get the right answer from here. The first is that at Virginia Square, the mezzanine is much closer to the western end of the station than at Clarendon. At Virginia Square, the far wall would be very close to the vantage point.
The other way to figure this out is to know where the exit is. At Clarendon, the exit is to the north (to the right if you're facing Vienna). At Virginia Square, it's to the south. The bridge from the mezzanine to the street escalators is visible at the top right corner, meaning this is Clarendon.
But wait! There's one more detail. Virginia Square has a bridge like this over the Vienna platform, too. The platform elevator on either side has a bridge between the vault wall and the mezzanine. How do you know this isn't it? Because it's farther away from the convex point of the mezzanine. There's a good deal of straight mezzanine railing before it starts to curve over the tracks.
Ten of you got it right.
Note: Some of you mistook electrical conduit on the far wall for knockout panels. Many stations have conduit like this, which are metal tubes with wires inside mounted on the station walls. I apologize that the photo quality wasn't sufficient to make this clearer. But it couldn't be Pentagon City because of the reasons outlined above.
Great work, everyone! We'll be back in two weeks with the next quiz.
It's time for the eighty-third installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Below are photos of five stations in the Metro system. Can you identify each from its picture?
We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun. Please have your answers in by noon on Thursday.
It's sad that Metro has gotten so decrepit that months-long shutdowns and single-tracking are necessary. But they are. And kudos to Metro for admitting this and coming up with a detailed plan to fix it.
Honestly, we'd feared the shutdowns would be far worse. This plan seems to concentrate them into as narrow a place as necessary while getting work done where needed (as far as we can tell, anyway).
It's going to be painful for riders, but we'll need to manage, because it's clear that the previous maintenance scheme, of shutdowns just over nights and weekends and bouts of single-tracking, hasn't been working.
As Maryland delegate Marc Korman said on today's NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt, Metro leaders have to make sure the maintenance that gets done, gets done right. The connectors in the Orange/Blue/Silver tunnel through DC, which caught fire earlier this year and forced the day-long total shutdown, had just been supposedly inspected and repaired. Riders are not going to tolerate having their lines shut down and then learning the maintenance wasn't actually done correctly.
Also, the tracks aren't the only problem for Wiedefeld to tackle. Rail cars have been down for maintenance much more often than they should be, forcing Metro to run lower levels of service than promised. These shutdowns won't fix that. But managers may need to focus intensely on one problem at a time, at least until Wiedefeld can replace some of the poorly performing managers and employees, as he's promised to do.
Hopefully, though, the shutdowns will get Metro back to a place where, at the very least, we can be confident in its safety. That's important.
Jurisdictions have to help
These shutdowns will affect huge numbers of people. According to Metro's presentation, the closure from NoMa to Fort Totten will affect 108,000 people; East Falls Church to Ballston, 73,000; Eastern Market to Minnesota/Benning, 61,000; and on and on. That is, let's be clear, a lot of people.
If they all drive, it will mean massive gridlock. Many will telework or shift their hours and such, but unlike with the one-day shutdown where a lot of people could stay home for a day, that can't work for weeks or months on end.
Buses can replace some service, but if those buses are just stuck in major gridlock, then there won't be enough buses and little incentive for anyone to take them. There will need to be temporary bus-only or HOV-3/4 lanes.
Many more people will be trying to walk and bike, and many jurisdictions can do much better to make sure people feel safe and are safe on these other modes.
It would have been nice for jurisdictions to have started planning bus lanes and other measures long ago, but the shutdown plan is here now and there's no luxury of time. Some areas have 6-9 months to prepare, while others (like Alexandria and southern Fairfax, or northern Prince George's) will be hit soon.
We can't wait for the typical interminable studies. Just as the region made extraordinary changes for the inauguration, this also calls for unusual measures. Local DOTs should make aggressive plans for temporary bus lanes and then try them out, making changes over time to ensure they work.
We want to hear more about the late night
If ending service at midnight is really necessary, then maybe it's necessary, but we'd like to hear more. Does it have to be system-wide? And if it's going to be permanent, as Metro is considering, then we really want a more thorough analysis of the pros and cons.
Paul Wiedefeld has said that Metro will not open early or late for any special events over the next year. There's some sense to that, but some of these special events, like the Marine Corps Marathon, draw huge crowds with little alternate way for many people to get there. We're worried about what the impact will be.
Fretting about the effects of shutting down Metro in the past has led to Metro needing bigger shutdowns now, and so if it's needed, it's needed. But we think the case has to be made in more detail first.
We'll have more on contributor reactions to the late night issue in an upcoming post. Meanwhile, we're planning to organize residents to push for measures like bus lanes. If you agree or just want to find out more, sign up below.
Keep me informed
On Tuesday, we posted our eighty-second photo challenge to see how well you knew Metro. I took photos of five Metro stations. Here are the answers. How well did you do?
This week, we got 27 guesses. Nine got all five. Great work Peter K, JamesDCane, Justin..., Chris H, AlexC, Dillon the Pickle, FN, Solomon, and Stephen C!
Image 1: Tysons Corner
The first image is the view of Tysons Corner station from the plaza adjacent to the Vita building. Given the unique Silver Line architecture, you should have been able to easily narrow this down to the two "Gambrel" style stations. But Tysons Corner station isn't in a median, like Greensboro is, so this can't be Greensboro. All but one of you got this one right. Great work.
Image 2: Fort Totten
The second picture shows the top of a memorial plaque in the mezzanine at Fort Totten. The "Y OF" that is visible is part of the phrase, "in memory of," and is a memorial to the nine people killed in the 2009 Metro crash just north of the station.
Additionally, the windows and angles here are indicative of the mezzanine shape of Fort Totten. From this vantage point, we're looking toward the two escalators connecting the mezzanine to the Green/Yellow platform.
Twenty knew the correct answer.
Image 3: Van Dorn Street
The third image shouldn't have been too hard if you know the architecture of the system. The presence of three Blue Line trains on the PIDS tells you that this is almost certainly a Blue-only station, of which there are only three in the system. This picture was taken on a Saturday, but even though you didn't know that, there are times (weekends and off-peak), when Van Dorn and Franconia are not served by the Yellow Line.
Two of the three Blue-only stations can be easily eliminated. Arlington Cemetery is depressed in an open cut (so the trees wouldn't be visible) and doesn't have a canopy at all. Instead, it's only covered where Memorial Avenue crosses it. Week 8 gives you a sense of what that looks like. Franconia/Springfield, on the other hand has a very different canopy and the PIDS signs have a different format at terminal stations (BLUE LINE | LARGO CENTER | LEAVING 3 MINS).
But even if there had been only one Blue Line train on the board, you still could have solved this. That's because the canopy visible here is a "Gull I" design. And the only Gull I station served by the Blue Line is Van Dorn Street.
Twenty-five figured it out.
Image 4: Wheaton
The fourth image was a little trickier, and required you to take a second look to figure out that this was Wheaton. Many of you went with your first instinct, but closer inspection should have revealed this to be a twin-tube station. One clue is the presence of "can" lights hanging from the vault, which aren't present at the higher single-vault stations.
The perspective here is clearly looking through the doors of an elevator. Some downtown stations do have side platforms with the elevator in an alcove off to the side like this. But all of those stations have the "waffle" design, not the taller coffer "arch"-style. None of the "Arch I" or "Arch II" stations have side platforms. And that means this has to be one of the twin-tube stations.
It can't be Forest Glen because, as several of you noted, the elevators there all land in a common lobby and are farther from the tracks. At Wheaton, however, the solitary elevator lands not in the escalator lobby, but in an alcove at the far northern end of the Shady Grove platform.
Ten came to the correct conclusion.
Image 5: Capitol Heights
The final image was even more challenging, but there was enough information to figure out that it's Capitol Heights.
Like with image 3 above, you can tell that this station is served only by the Blue and Silver Lines (since the Orange Line isn't listed on the sign). There are only two underground stations that are served by the Blue and Silver, so even without additional information, you could have made a guess with a 50/50 probability of getting the right answer. Some of you did that and got lucky.
But there was a way to be 100% certain, and it involves knowing that while Benning Road and Capitol Heights are nearly identical, they're mirror images of each other. In week 56 we also ran a set with a similar signage clue and noted in the answers post the difference between the two stations.
At both stations, the single mezzanine is at the far end of the platform. At Benning Road, the mezzanine is at the east end. At Capitol Heights, it's at the west end. That means that when you descend to the platform at Capitol Heights, you're facing east. And if you're facing east, trains going eastbound to Largo are on your right, and trains going west toward downtown are on your left.
One final note: The reason you know this sign is at the bottom of the escalator when you arrive is because this is a fairly typical application of WMATA's signing in this case, since this is a decision point and because anywhere else on the platform, the column would also include a strip map of farther stations reached on the appropriate track.
Nineteen came to the correct conclusion.
Thanks for playing! We'll be back in two weeks with our next quiz.
It's time for the eighty-second installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Below are photos of five stations in the Washington Metro system. Can you identify each from its picture?
UPDATE: The answers are here.
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