Greater Greater Washington

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. Hes a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a contract employee of the Montgomery County Planning Department. His views are his own and do not represent those of his employer. 

Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 61

On Monday, we posted our sixty-first photo challenge to see how well you know Metro. Reader Mr. Johnson took photos of five Metro stations. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

This week, we got 46 guesses. Eight got all five. Great, work, JamesDCane, Peter K, Andrew, Russell Harris, RyanS, MB, FN, and cythrosi!


Image 1: Minnesota Avenue

This week was a themed week. Each of the stations has a state in its name.

The first image shows the platform at Minnesota Avenue. One clue is the wooden surface, which is present while Metro replaces the platform. Another way to narrow this down is the presence of the freight tracks on the left and the catenary supports on the right. Only two stations have that setup, the other being Deanwood.

You can narrow this one down to Minnesota Avenue because the tracks rise in the distance in order to climb over DC 295 and meet the Blue and Silver Lines.

Thirty-three got this one.


Image 2: Rhode Island Avenue

The second picture is of Rhode Island Avenue, looking north. The view from here is distinctive because of the station's height above the surrounding terrain. At left, you can see the Metropolitan Branch where it crosses under Franklin Street.

Thirty-five knew this one.


Image 3: College Park—University of Maryland

The third image is from College Park, which is appended with the name of the University of Maryland. At left, you can see the College Park Post Office. Another clue to help you figure this one out are the railroad tracks in the foreground, which carry MARC's Camden Line.

Forty guessed correctly.


Image 4: Georgia Avenue

This image shows the mezzanine at Georgia Avenue. From the ceiling, you can narrow this down to one of the five arch II stations.

It can't be Columbia Heights, since the coffers at that station are very shallow. You can also rule out Glenmont and Congress Heights because they're only served by one line, and this picture shows several line bullets.

Of the remaining two possibilities, it can't be Mount Vernon Square because the end of the mezzanine there has a stair and escalator rather than a pair of escalators. Therefore, this has to be Georgia Avenue.

Fourteen figured this one out.


Image 5: Virginia Square

This is Virginia Square. This one was a bit harder, though the process of elimination should've helped you figure it out. First, this is a side platform station, which narrows the field considerably. The waffle architecture and side platforms means this can only be one of nine stations.

You can also see that there's only one mezzanine, which cuts the field to five. At right, you can just see the Blue and Silver lines on the sign, indicating that this is an eastbound platform. Since WMATA's new signage includes lines that share later on, all the Orange/Silver and Blue/Yellow stations show the Blue/Silver interlining, too.

It can't be Ballston, Pentagon City, or Crystal City because those mezzanines each have three pairs of escalators, instead of just two. You can rule out Clarendon because the bridge from the mezzanine to the vault wall is over the Largo/New Carrollton track. At Clarendon, it's above the Vienna/Wiehle track. So this must be Virginia Square.

Thirty-three guessed Virginia Square.

Next Monday we'll have five more photos for you to identify. Thanks for playing! And a special thanks to Mr. Johnson for supplying the photos this week.

If you have pictures you think would be good fits for whichWMATA, please send them to whichwmata@ggwash.org.

Think you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 61

It's time for the sixty-first installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Below are photos of five stations in the Washington Metro system. Can you identify each from its picture?

This week, we have a guest photographer. These five photos were all taken by Mr. Johnson.


Image 1


Image 2


Image 3


Image 4


Image 5

We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun for the rest of you.

The answers will appear on Thursday. Good luck! Thanks again to Mr. Johnson for his submissions.

Update: The answers are here.

Prince George's County could move its government closer to more residents

Rushern Baker, the County Executive of Prince George's County, has plans to move the county's headquarters to Largo, a commercial hub. Moving the government away from distant Upper Marlboro would be a win for Prince George's residents.

Where Maryland's county seats are, relative to their geographic and population centroids. Map by the author. Click for a larger version.

A few years ago, I wrote about how the location of the Prince George's county seat in Upper Marlboro is harmful to residents and makes the government less responsive to citizens.

Upper Marlboro is one of the most uncentralized county seats in Maryland. It is neither near the geographic center of the county nor the population centroid. And to make it worse, Prince George's is an urbanized county with a significant transit-dependent population, while Upper Marlboro lacks all but the most basic of transit connections to the outside world.

Bus service to Upper Marlboro connects riders to Largo. But the last bus leaves Upper Marlboro at around 6 pm, which makes it impossible for carless residents to testify at evening Council or Planning Board hearings.

Largo makes a lot of sense

Largo, on the other hand, is much more centrally located. It's very close to the county's geographic center, and the center of population is in nearby Landover.

Largo is also served by Metro's Blue and Silver Lines, and is a fairly large bus hub for the county. And the county is already taking steps to bring investment to the area, including with a new regional medical center.

Baker and his predecessors have already taken steps to move workers to Largo. Agencies like the Department of Public Works and Transportation are already using office space in Largo, and Baker himself meets constituents there. He only keeps a ceremonial office in the county seat.

Moving the county government to Largo lock-stock-and-barrel could be a huge boon to efforts to invest in and build a more urban Largo.

Right now, the area is very suburban in nature, with major arterials splitting the area and discouraging walking and biking. Office parks and strip malls are far more common than walkable spaces.

With a good plan, the county could help reshape Largo into something with better urban fabric, as is happening in Tysons now and as happened in Arlington three decades ago.

Even without considering the impact on the urban form, moving the government, especially the decision-makers on the Council to Largo would be a huge win because it would allow more people to participate in local government.

Today, the only citizens who are able to participate in person are those who drive or those who devote unbelievable amounts of time to taking public transit to the sleepy county seat.


Largo Town Center Metro station. Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

A remote location means more car-centric policies

Upper Marlboro's setting also affects decisions. It's easy to forget that Prince George's is urbanized at all when the county seat, with a population of just 900, is surrounded by miles of rural farms and forests.

Another impact, though one that's less studied, how a remote county seat affects the the workforce. Millenials and other progressive professionals who want to live car-free or car-lite in urban areas are discouraged from taking jobs in places where they can't easily commute. And having an overly car-dependent workforce deepens the divide between the decision makers and the carless citizens in the county's urban areas.

Moving the seat to Largo would position Prince George's for having a more accessible and urban government center, like her peers in Montgomery, Arlington, Alexandria, and the District.

Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 60

On Monday, we posted our sixtieth photo challenge to see how well you know Metro. Reader Robb D took photos of five Metro stations. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

This week, we got 11 guesses. Three people got all five. Great work, Peter K, MZEBE, and Mr. Johnson!


Image 1: Cheverly

The first image shows the platform at Cheverly. You can tell from the stations listed on the pylon that this is an Orange Line station. And the only outdoor Orange Line station with side platforms is Cheverly.

Ten got this one.


Image 2: Morgan Boulevard

This one was a little trickier. It shows an outbound Silver Line train leaving Morgan Boulevard. You can tell it's a Silver Line train because of the absence of color bars on either side of the destination sign. Except for the 7000 series railcars, the Metro fleet can't display the white LED color used for the Silver Line.

From the station's walls and ceiling, you can tell it's a newer station. But the presence of a Silver Line train is a bit of a red herring.

The design elements aren't quite right for it to be one of the brand new Silver Line stations. The only other "new" stations used by Silver Line trains are on the other end of the line. Those are Largo and Morgan Boulevard, which opened in 2004. This had to be Morgan Boulevard because, unlike at Largo, one end of the station is underground.

Three guessed correctly.


Image 3: Gallery Place

The third image shows part of the crossvault at Gallery Place. This is a rather unique view, since there's a mezzanine under the point where the north-south and east-west vaults intersect.

Robb's photo captures the cut-away portion of the vault from that vantage point. Other helpful hints include the side platforms visible at right and (just barely) some of the experimental signage characteristic of Gallery Place.

Seven knew this one.


Image 4: Suitland

The fourth image shows the mezzanine at Suitland. The big clue here is the overpass above the bus loop, visible at left.

Southern Avenue has a similar overpass, but it doesn't have a next-gen faregate. Suitland is one of the stations in the payment pilot, and knowing that would have helped you narrow this down.

Eight got this one.


Image 5: Van Dorn Street

The final image shows the view from the platform at Van Dorn Street. The main clue here is the line of high-rises in the distance. They should have helped you narrow down the possibilities. Another clue is the shape of the mezzanine roof, which has a crescent-like shape to interface with the bus loop.

Seven figured this one out.

Next Monday we'll have five more photos for you to identify. Thanks for playing! And a special thanks to Robb D for supplying the photos this week.

If you have pictures you think would be good fits for whichWMATA, please send them to whichwmata@ggwash.org.

Chicago's transit agency uses YouTube to inform and entertain

The Chicago Transit Authority operates one of the largest rail and bus systems in the country. To share information with their riders, like telling them about projects to make service better, the agency maintains an excellent YouTube channel.

The CTA Connections account is a great way for the agency to communicate with riders. Its variety of videos, including some that explain various projects, some that provide fun facts about how the agency works, and those that just entertain, give CTA a public face people can relate to.

The video above is an example of how CTA has done this is with its ongoing work to rehabilitate the "Ravenswood Connector," which is a section of track between the North Side Main Line and the loop carrying the Brown and Purple Lines. Here's a video explaining the project.

The page also includes information about proposed capital projects, like the Brown Line flyover proposed at Clark Junction, near Belmont. In this case, northbound Brown Line trains have to cross over three tracks, which carry north and southbound Red Line trains and southbound Purple Line trains. A flyover would allow for a significant increase in the amount of Red Line trains.

There are also explainer videos, like the one below, which explains what goes on in CTA's interlocking towers. Unlike Washington, where Metro has a centralized control center, tower operators in Chicago actually throw switches from on-site towers. The junction at Tower 18 is one of the busiest rail junctions in the United States, with over 700 trains daily.

The agency also has videos that are more for entertainment purposes than anything else. Each of the eight rail lines has a real-time front-seat view of the line. One of my favorite aspects of these is that at the transfer stations, the videos include links so you can "transfer" to another video.

YouTube and other social media platforms can offer transit agencies great outlets for communicating with riders. Videos can be very informative and can help inform riders, build support for projects, and increase goodwill.

Think you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 60

It's time for the sixtieth installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Below are photos of five stations in the Washington Metro system. Can you identify each from its picture?

This week, we have a guest photographer. These five photos were all taken by Robb D.


Image 1


Image 2


Image 3


Image 4


Image 5

We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun for the rest of you.

The answers will appear on Thursday. Good luck! Thanks again to Robb D for his submissions.

Update: The answers are here.

How a DC neighborhood got the name of a Georgia poet

Lanier Heights, near Adams Morgan, isn't home to any live oaks or tidal marshes. But the person after whom the neighborhood is named, Sidney Lanier, is famous for his poetry about the natural beauty of his native Georgia.


Sidney Lanier Bridge. Photo by NatalieMaynor on Flickr.
And now from the Vast of the Lord will the waters of sleep
Roll in on the souls of men,
But who will reveal to our waking ken
The forms that swim and the shapes that creep
Under the waters of sleep?
And I would I could know what swimmeth below when the tide comes in
On the length and the breadth of the marvelous marshes of Glynn.

During the Civil War, Lanier served in the Confederate army, remaining loyal to his home state of Georgia. However, he was captured by Union forces and imprisoned at a prisoner of war camp at Point Lookout, Maryland. There, he contracted tuberculosis.

The experience of having the debilitating disease and of seeing the death and destruction wrought upon the South, and especially Georgia, heavily influenced his life and his later writings.

Lanier eventually made his way to Baltimore, where he joined the faculty of Johns Hopkins University. To help support his family, he began publishing his poetry in magazines, and doing so he gained a bit of notoriety.

At the time of his death in 1881, at the age of 39, his popularity was very high. Around this time, Lanier Heights was being laid out, and many sources believe the name refers to the Georgian poet. There are others, though, that disagree.

While his poems are generally couched in the natural beauty of the South, the underlying themes often deal with mortality.

In Georgia, he is very well known. In fact, the state named Lanier County after him. The longest bridge in the state, which carries US 17 over the South Brunswick River near the salt marshes in Glynn County is also named for him. As is Lake Sidney Lanier, the primary drinking water reservoir for the Atlanta region, which flooded the "valleys of Hall [County]" referenced in his poem Song of the Chattahoochee.

Out of the hills of Habersham,
Down the valleys of Hall,
I hurry amain to reach the plain,
Run the rapid and leap the fall,
Split at the rock and together again,
Accept my bed, or narrow or wide,
And flee from folly on every side
With a lover's pain to attain the plain
Far from the hills of Habersham,
Far from the valleys of Hall.
Lanier is buried in Baltimore's Greenmount Cemetery.

Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 59

On Monday, we posted our fifty-ninth photo challenge to see how well you know Metro. Reader Andrew took photos of five Metro stations. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

This week, we got ten guesses. Two got all five. Great work, Peter K and Mr. Johnson!


Image 1: Wiehle Avenue

The first image shows Wiehle Avenue. The gambrel-style roof narrows this down to one of the three Silver Line stations with that design. There are three clues to help you narrow it down to Wiehle. First, the height of the trees eliminates Tysons Corner, which is at a high elevation. Along with the second clue, sparse buildings, that also helps you eliminate Greensboro.

Finally, Tysons Corner and Greensboro have a short winged canopy that extends from the base of the escalators at the end of the gambrel structure. Wiehle doesn't have that mini-canopy. Nine knew this one.


Image 2: Metro Center

The second image shows a staircase at Metro Center. The wide, high vault, viewed from this angle, should have been an immediate clue that this was one of the downtown transfer stations. In combination with the stairs, it has to be Metro Center, since Gallery Place and L'Enfant Plaza don't have any wide staircases like this one.

Six got this one on the nose.


Image 3: Judiciary Square

The third image shows Judiciary Square from the F Street entrance. There are two main clues. First, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals building visible in the distance. Second, you can see the National Police Memorial, which was featured recently in week 54.

Nine figured this one out.


Image 4: Gallery Place

The fourth image shows the ceiling at Gallery Place. This is the point where the two vaults cross. Because the triangular coffers extend all the way to the center, this must be Metro Center or Gallery Place. But the angle, from directly underneath, means this has to be Gallery Place, which has a mezzanine under the crossvault. We compared the downtown transfer stations in week 5.

Four knew this was Gallery Place.


Image 5: Pentagon City

The final image was definitely the hardest. And if you were challenged, you were in good company, because it took me a while to figure it out. Here's how I did it.

First, since you can see the glass escalator canopy, you can narrow this down to one of the 24 stations that have entrance canopies like this. You can further narrow it down to 12 stations where the street is to the left of the canopy (which it must be since the buildings are on the right).

Now, my first thought was that this was a picture in one of the urban DC neighborhoods, because I assumed the red building in the distance was a victorian rowhouse. But as it turns out, it's the top floor of the 16-story Archstone Pentagon City. I solved this by using Google street view to investigate the 12 stations I'd narrowed it down to.

Two also employed a winning strategy to conclude this was Pentagon City.

Next Monday we'll have 5 more photos for you to identify. Thanks for playing! And a special thanks to Andrew for supplying the photos this week.

If you have pictures you think would be good fits for whichWMATA, please send them to whichwmata@ggwash.org

Think you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 59

It's time for the fifty-ninth installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Below are photos of 5 stations in the Washington Metro system. Can you identify each from its picture?

This week, we have a guest photographer. These 5 photos were all taken by Andrew.


Image 1


Image 2


Image 3


Image 4


Image 5

We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun for the rest of you.

The answers will appear on Thursday. Good luck! Thanks again to Andrew for his submissions.

Update: The answers are here.

Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 58

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

This week, we got just eight guesses. Two people got all five correct. Great work, Peter K and Mr. Johnson!


Image 1: Morgan Boulevard

The first image shows the cross-vault above the mezzanine at Morgan Boulevard station. The design is very evocative of the cross-vaults at the downtown transfer stations, which we featured in week 5.

Morgan Boulevard has a Gull II roof, but is distinct from the other stations with that type, Largo and NoMa, because at Morgan Boulevard, the mezzanine is above the tracks, rather than underneath. The crossing of the vaults is created where the "trainroom" vault over the tracks intersects the vault above the entrances.

Five got this one right.


Image 2: Farragut North

The second image shows the abrupt end of the vault at Farragut North. Like the other early underground stations, Farragut North features a waffle-style vault. But the vault ends before the northern end of the platform, replaced by a lower flat ceiling. The reason for this was to accommodate a planned ramp to the North Leg Freeway (I-66), which would have been in a tunnel under K Street. Neither the freeway nor the ramp were built, however.

Union Station also has a flat portion of the roof to accommodate a loading dock above. But it isn't so close to the mezzanine, so this perspective isn't possible there. Four knew this one.


Image 3: Wheaton

The third image shows signage at Wheaton station directing customers to the station's elevator. Wheaton is deep underground, and each track is in a separate tube here. The two platforms are connected by a cross passage at the base of the escalator shaft.

The station has just one elevator. It's located at the north end of the southbound (Shady Grove) platform. So customers coming from the Glenmont platform have to navigate via the Shady Grove platform to find it. This signage directs them to the right end of the platform.

Even if you hadn't seen this unique signage, the context should have helped. The reference to the "right platform" hinted that there were two platforms. And the vault wall visible in the distance indicated that the platforms weren't right-side platforms (like at Dupont Circle). The only places where there are left-side side platforms is at Forest Glen, Pentagon, Rosslyn, and Wheaton. And the vault here only matches Forest Glen and Wheaton. Though Forest Glen has 6 elevators, not just one.

Four guessed correctly.


Image 4: Crystal City

This image shows art mounted on a retaining wall opposite the entrance to Crystal City. The wall itself supports an elevated portion of Jefferson Davis Highway (US 1). If you hadn't seen this art before, the only other clue was the wall, which is made of the kind of supports used frequently in highway construction.

Two figured this one out.


Image 5: Georgia Avenue

The final image shows the street elevator at Georgia Avenue/Petworth. If you didn't recognize the new Park Place building, the other clue is the skewed elevator.

The angle of the elevator is due to the geometry of the surrounding streets. At Georgia Avenue, the entrance is at the southern end of the station, and from the mezzanine a passage runs perpendicular to the tracks, leading to escalators on either side of Georgia Avenue.

But the trainroom is underneath (and parallel to) New Hampshire Avenue, which crosses Georgia Avenue here at an odd angle. Since the elevator lines up with the underground passage, it is skewed in comparison with the buildings, which line up with Georgia Avenue.

Five were able to solve this clue.

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

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