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 the opinion of his employer. 

Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 33

On Tuesday, we featured the thirty-third issue of our "whichWMATA" series. This week, all five photos were guest submissions from reader thisisjamesj.

This week we got 44 guesses. Three people got all five correct. Great work, Mr. Johnson, Skierbum, and Peter K!


Image 1: Dupont Circle

The first image shows the escalators at the Q Street entrance to Dupont Circle. This entrance is very distinctive because of the large bowl surrounding the escalator shaft. Several of you recognized the PNC Bank building in the background as well. All but one person knew this one. Great work.


Image 2: Gallery Place

The second picture shows the interlaced escalators at Gallery Place. This is the only place in the entire system where you can get a view like this, though Tysons Corner station also has interlaced escalators. The reason that Gallery Place has this arrangement is because the mezzanine is directly above the point where the lines cross. At Metro Center and L'Enfant Plaza, the mezzanines above the upper level are at either end, and the lower level isn't beneath them. Forty of you got this one right.


Image 3: L'Enfant Plaza

This one was a little trickier. There were two primary clues to help you identify L'Enfant Plaza. The first is the construction. The hanging lights are in place because WMATA is renovating the underside of the mezzanine above, and it's been this way for quite a while. The other clue is the shape of the vault wall. It's almost vertical here, which is only the case at L'Enfant. At the other vaulted stations, the wall is sloped (being farther away from the top of the train than the bottom of the train). A little less than half20of you guessed correctly.


Image 4: Van Ness

This week, image 4 was the hardest. This picture depicts the pedestrian connection under Connecticut Avenue at Van Ness. While tunnels with similar design elements are common throughout Metro, this one is unique in its arrangement. The escalators from the mezzanine arrive at this level directly under Connecticut Avenue, ending at a T-junction. The corridor seen here allows people to exit to either the east or west side of Connecticut. It can't be Cleveland Park because at Cleveland Park, the escalator shaft to the mezzanine and the escalator shaft to the east side of Connecticut face the same direction. Only 9 people got this one.


Image 5: Metro Center

The final image shows the lower level platform at Metro Center. The clues here are the shape of the vault (which is different from other vaults in the system) and the slight change in height of the ceiling (the dark line running parallel to the tracks). The other clue that should've helped you narrow it down is the mezzanine being flush with the wall at the end of the trainroom and also being almost full-width there.

At most stations, the mezzanine floats above the platform, but where it meets the wall at the end of the station, it narrows, like the top of an inflated balloon. At many of the stations that people guessed on this one, the mezzanine is also in the center of the station, not one end. Several people also guessed Farragut North, which surprised me since the Blue Line doesn't call there. Still, 21 of you figured this one out.

As always, great work! Thanks for playing.

I'd again like to give a special thanks to thisisjamesj for submitting his great photos this week!

We're always looking for reader submissions, so while you're riding Metro keep your eyes (and cameraphones) peeled for unique stations and architectural features. You can submit your photos to whichwmata@ggwash.org.

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How well do you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 33

It's time for the thirty-third issue of our "whichWMATA" series. This week, all five photos are guest submissions from reader thisisjamesj. Can you identify the station shown in each picture?


Image 1


Image 2


Image 3


Image 4


Image 5

I'd like to give a special thanks to thisisjamesj for submitting his photos!

We're always looking for reader submissions, so while you're riding Metro keep your eyes (and cameraphones) peeled for unique stations and architectural features. You can submit your photos to whichwmata@ggwash.org.

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

The answers will appear on Thursday. Good luck!

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Greatest supporter—$250
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Supporter—$20
Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 32

On Tuesday, we posted our thirty-second 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?

We got just 18 guesses this week. Only one person got all five correct, and it's our reigning champion, Peter K. Great work, Peter!


Image 1: National Airport

The first image was very simple. All but one person got this one right. It shows a northbound train leaving National Airport headed for Crystal City. The primary clue here is the platform configuration. You can tell that there are two platforms, since I'm standing on one, but there's a track between me and the other one. But the separation between the two visible tracks is large enough that it's not a side platform station. So this can only be one with two island platforms and three tracks. National Cathedral is also just visible left of center.


Image 2: Takoma

The second image shows Takoma, and this proved much harder than I expected. Only four people guessed correctly here. The main clue is the bank of three escalators, which is the width of the platform. That means this entrance can only be at the end of the station (as opposed to the middle). Several stations have banks of three escalators, but Takoma is the only one above ground.


Image 3: College Park

The third image shows the pedestrian and bicycle underpass at College Park. Half of the 18 guesses were correct. This tunnel links the eastern bus loop to the MARC station and Bowdoin street, but requires an at-grade crossing of the CSX tracks (which is why the crossbuck sign is present). This is the only instance where there's a pedestrian crossing of railroad tracks at grade adjacent to a Metro station. There is another entrance to the College Park station from the west side that does not require crossing the tracks.


Image 4: New Carrollton

The fourth image was also harder than I expected because it is more similar to another station than I meant it to be. The photo shows a staircase between the mezzanine and the platform at New Carrollton. The elevator is also visible, as is the tunnel that links the east and west sides of the station, the Amtrak and Greyhound terminals, and the Amtrak platforms. I didn't realize that King Street has a similar configuration, but the one at King Street is mirrored (the elevator is to the left of the stairs; here it's on the right). Only two people correctly guessed New Carrollton. Five people guessed King Street.


Image 5: Franconia-Springfield

The final image shows the canopy at Franconia-Springfield. Six of you knew this one. There were three clues that should have helped you narrow this down. The first is that the ceiling and skylight indicates that this is one of the four "high peak" stations. Additionally, in the ceiling there are six beams running parallel to the tracks (only five are visible in this image), which is unique to Franconia. The other three high peak stations have just two of these beams.

The final clue is the little downward notch at the center of the canopy. That is the "next train" sign, which indicates which track will have the next departing train. The canopy at Branch Avenue, the only other high peak terminal, is different because the skylight is longer.

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

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See America's streetcar systems at the same scale

Ever wondered how the DC Streetcar line on H Street will stack up to its American peers? Here's a map that shows all the streetcar systems that are open or under construction in the United States.


Edit: I revised the image to include Salt Lake City's Sugar House Streetcar.

Nineteen cities in America have streetcars that are either operating or under construction as a part of their transit systems. You can see all of them above at the same scale.

The largest system, in Philadelphia, is an upgraded version of the remnants of their original system. Most of the lines that survived because they fed into the Market Street subway, making them hard to bustitute.

Aside from new cars, these lines look much like they did in the 1960s, when many other cities still had streetcars. The Girard Avenue Line, which doesn't feed into the subway, uses rehabilitated PCC cars, which SEPTA returned to service in 2005 after a 13-year bustitution.

Two other lines still have tracks and wires but have been "temporarily" bustituted since 1992. Those lines are not shown in the graphic above, since their return looks unlikely, at least in the near future.

New Orleans is another city that never completely got rid of streetcars. The St. Charles Line has been operating since 1835, making it the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world. It uses cars that have gone relatively unchanged since being built in 1923 and 1924. New Orleans' newer other lines use recently-built replica cars on new track, though the Canal Line does follow the same route as a line that was discontinued in 1964.

Two cities, Seattle and Dallas, will have disconnected lines when their second lines open next year. In the graphic above, the lines are, relative to scale, as far apart as they will be in real life.

The other systems are a mix of modern and "heritage" equipment. San Francisco, for instance, uses restored cars from a variety of cities to operate their F Line along Market Street and the Embarcadero. On the other hand, Tampa and Little Rock have streetcar lines that use replica cars that look historic but which were actually built in the modern era.

The more recent trend, however, is to use modern vehicles. Portland started the trend in the United States when it opened its modern streetcar line in 2001, and since then modern lines have opened in Seattle, Tacoma, and Tucson. Modern streetcar lines are under construction in several other cities, including Washington.

I did not show the light rail systems in San Francisco (the Muni Metro) and Boston (the Green Line), though both are descendants of historic streetcar systems. They have a lot in common with the Philadelphia Subway-Surface trolley lines, but their upgrades put them more in the light rail category than the operation in Philadelphia.

The Sugar House "Streetcar" in Salt Lake City is really a light rail service, though it's branded as a streetcar by the agency. Since it runs in an exclusive right-of-way and uses the same vehicles as the rest of Salt Lake's light rail system, I did not include it in the map. Update: I've decided to include the Sugar House line based on the comments. I updated the graphic.

I also did not show the various tourist-oriented lines that only operate on weekends. While you can ride streetcars in a few other cities, like Savannah, the limited hours of operation means that these are not really transit lines.

Update: Based on the comments in the thread, I've revised the graphic to include the Sugar House Streetcar in Salt Lake City.

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How well do you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 32

It's time for the thirty-second installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Below are five photos of the Washington Metro system. Can you identify the station depicted in each picture?


Image 1


Image 2


Image 3


Image 4


Image 5

The answers will appear on Thursday. We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun for the rest of you.

Update: The answers are here.

Greater Greater relies on support from readers like you to keep the site running. Support us now keep the community going.

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Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 31

On Tuesday, we posted our thirty-first 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 proved to be harder than I'd anticipated. While we got 27 guesses, only one person got all five right. Congratulations to our reigning champion, Peter K!


Image 1: Farragut North

The first image shows Farragut North. Twenty-four of you knew this. Farragut North has a unique design, with a mezzanine that is almost the full width of the vault while most of the space above the platform is open to above. One person guessed L'Enfant Plaza, and while the transfer stations do have full-width mezzanines, this can't be one of those because the Red Line is never on the lower level (where the island platform is).


Image 2: Southern Avenue

This picture shows the eastern end of Southern Avenue station. Only 14 correctly guessed this one. The primary clue here is the bridge, which carries the bus loop over the tracks. However, if you look closely at the pylon on the platform, you can see a green dot, which narrows this to one of the above-ground stations in southern Prince George's County.


Image 3: Friendship Heights

The third image, surprisingly, proved to be the most difficult. Just two of you correctly answered Friendship Heights. This image was taken in the elevator lobby at the southern (Jenifer Street) entrance to the station. This entrance is an elevator-only entrance and was added after the station opened. One subtle clue is the vault wall, which is barely visible in the distance. That's enough to show that this is either an Arch I or Arch II station. But the distinctive ceiling in the elevator lobby is the primary clue.


Image 4: King Street

The fourth image shows the underside of the King Street station. The vantage point is from the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Cameron Street. The station structure tells you that this is an island platform station. The brick sidewalks and buildings at far left are hints that this is in Alexandria. One other hint is the wall along the tracks, which is solid at the top, but transitions to a metal railing midway across the picture. Fifteen of you got this one right.


Image 5: Columbia Heights

The final image shows the brand new escalators at Columbia Heights. Only three stations have new escalators like these, with silver sides and bright clusters of LED lights. You can eliminate Bethesda because close inspection of the ceiling will reveal six coffers, making this an Arch II station. Between the other two, Columbia Heights and Petworth, it's hard to pick, but Columbia Heights has a slightly flatter vault than other Arch II stations. However, if you guessed Petworth, don't feel too bad, since it looks very similar. Twelve people got Columbia Heights right.

One note: commenter Frank IBC asked whether there's a penalty for not using the full name of the station. There is not. As long as you pick just one station and I know which one you're guessing, it counts. (It does not count if you say, "I know it's one of these three.")

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

Greater Greater relies on support from readers like you to keep the site running. Support us now keep the community going.

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Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

How well do you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 31

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


Image 1


Image 2


Image 3


Image 4


Image 5

The answers will appear on Thursday. We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun for the rest of you.

Update: The answers are here.

Greater Greater relies on support from readers like you to keep the site running. Support us now keep the community going.

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time

Greatest supporter—$250/year
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Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
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Great supporter—$50
Supporter—$20
Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 30

On Monday, we posted our thirtieth 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 21 guesses. Only one got all five correct. Great work, Peter K!


Image 1: Rhode Island Avenue

The first image shows the view looking south from the platform at Rhode Island Avenue. The height and clear view of the Capitol dome is distinctive of this station. Another clue are the construction cranes in NoMa at far right. Eighteen of you knew this one.


Image 2: Foggy Bottom

The second image shows an escalator at Foggy Bottom. This particular viewpoint is unique because this is the only island platform underground station in the system that has a solitary escalator, instead of a pair of escalators or an escalator next to a staircase. Pentagon and Rosslyn both have single escalators, but theirs are against walls on one side since those stations have tracks on two levels. Eight got this one correct.

Update: To clarify, Foggy Bottom has the only solitary escalator that comes down through a hole in the mezzanine. Other stations have single escalators from the end of a mezzanine. I was trying to say that in as few words as possible, and I realize I left out and important detail.


Image 3

The third picture was taken at Minnesota Avenue. This picture should have been easy to narrow down to two stations, since the CSX Landover Subdivision is off to the left. These tracks used to be electrified since the Pennsylvania Railroad ran electric freight trains. But the catenary wires have been removed. And while Deanwood is in a similar setting, north of Deanwood, the tracks curve off to the right, unlike in the straightaway pictured here. Eight of you knew this one.


Image 4

The fourth image depicts the western entrance at Cleveland Park. The distinctive Metro canopy visible at top narrows this to a street escalator entrance. The two signs also helped to narrow it. The "Downtown" sign means that we're at a station north of the central business district, and the "Zoo" sign should help you narrow it down to one of the Connecticut Avenue stations north of the Zoo. Fifteen of you guessed correctly.


Image 5

The final image shows Van Dorn Street, from a train on the adjacent CSX/VRE tracks. The clues here were the Gull I canopy and the Convanta trash incinerator visible just to the left of the elevator. Additionally, if you look closely, you can make out three words on the platform pylon at the left edge of the frame. And as one commenter noted, one of the pylons has both BL and YL Rush icons. Only two of you got this one.

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

How well do you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 30

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


Image 1


Image 2


Image 3


Image 4


Image 5

The answers will appear on Wednesday. We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun for the rest of you.

Update: The answers are here.

Greater Greater relies on support from readers like you to keep the site running. Support us now keep the community going.

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time

Greatest supporter—$250/year
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Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
Greater supporter—$100
Great supporter—$50
Supporter—$20
Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 29

On Tuesday, we posted our twenty-ninth 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 31 guesses. Nine of you got all five correct. Great work, Alex B, Peter K, Murn, DavidDuck, Justin...., coneyraven, Ian, DC Dave, and Cosmo!


Image 1: West Falls Church

The first image shows the north bus loop at West Falls Church. This loop was formerly home to many of the Fairfax Connector routes that served Tysons Corner and other places in northern Fairfax, but today is less important since the Silver Line has opened. The primary clue here is the unique canopy covering the bus platform. 21 of you knew this one.


Image 2

The second image shows an outbound Blue Line train approaching Arlington Cemetery station. In addition to the side platforms, which narrows the list of possible stations significantly, the bucolic setting and the Rosslyn skyline make this obviously Arlington Cemetery. 28 got this one right.


Image 3

The third image depicts the memorial pylon at Metro Center. This granite column is a memorial to fallen Metro employees. It stands in the southern mezzanine, which is an extension of the Shady Grove Glenmont platform above the Blue/Orange/Silver platform near the sales office. 19 of you correctly guessed Metro Center.


Image 4

This image shows a mirror on the platform at Silver Spring station. Because the platform here is curved, these convex mirrors are in place to allow the operators of inbound trains to see all the doors on the train. Only two stations have these mirrors. Other clues included the distinctive bridge between the MARC platforms and the buildings in the background. 18 knew this was Silver Spring.


Image 5

The final image shows a staircase at Wheaton station. These steps lead down from the southeast corner of Reedie Drive and Georgia Avenue into the mezzanine. The distinctive blue wall is a clue, as is the new residential tower above the Wheaton Safeway, visible in the glare. 14 correctly guessed Wheaton.

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

Greater Greater relies on support from readers like you to keep the site running. Support us now keep the community going.

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time

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Supporter—$20
Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

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