Greater Greater Washington

Posts by Malcolm Kenton

Malcolm Kenton lives in the DCís NoMa neighborhood. Hailing from Greensboro, NC and a graduate of Guilford College, he is a passionate advocate for world-class passenger rail and other forms of sustainable transportation, and for incorporating nature and low-impact design into the urban fabric. The views he expresses on GGW are his own. 

Ask GGW: Which is the best nonprofit to donate a car to?

As more people go car-free and families cut back on how many cars they own, a reader asked us the best way to put an unwanted car to use. Our contributors suggest nonprofits that accept vehicle donations.


Photo by Kars4Kids Car Donation &... on Flickr.

Reader Rob asks:

Do you have any preference among the various charities that accept car donations? Are there any reputable ones around here that have better offers on the table than others?
Contributors recommended only a handful of locally-focused organizations. Greg Billing put in a plug for his employer, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association:
WABA receives 70% of a donated car's value. In addition to the donation being tax-deductible, WABA provides the donor with a free one-year membership and our sincere gratitude.
Jonathan Krall added that the annual Tour de Fat group ride, sponsored by New Belgium Brewing Company, offers a prize to a person willing to give up his or her car.

Canaan Merchant suggests our local NPR station:

WAMU will take your car, and I like that station enough that'd I'd probably go with them right off the bat if I were ever donating my car.

Also, WAMU's pitch specifically mentions people looking to cut down on the number of cars they own, which I see as a sign that more and more people are seeing car-free/lite living as normal.

Tina Jones opted to support another local nonprofit radio station:
Several years ago, I donated a car to WETA. They made it really easy. I just called and someone came to tow it and left some documents. Later, they sent confirmation of what it sold for at auction. I will say, though, that had I known, I would have donated it to WABA!
Yours truly adds:
One good organization that accepts car donations is the National Association of Railroad Passengers, for which I used to work and still serve on its national advisory body, the Council of Representatives. NARP advocates on the national, state and local levels for the investment necessary to modernize our passenger train network and make passenger trains an integral part of the national transportation network and a viable travel choice.

On a broader note, there are several companies out there that manage vehicle donations on behalf of many nonprofit clients. I believe it's free for a nonprofits to set up a car donation program with most of them, but the company takes a cut of the value of every car donated.

Another local charity suggestion from Chris Slatt:
If you want to be sure your donated car actually goes toward a good, local use, you can donate to the Automotive Technology program at the Arlington County Career Center. Vehicles donated by the community are used in instruction and/or are repaired by students and auctioned online. Proceeds from these vehicle sales are used to buy the latest tools and equipment for the automotive program as well as fund field trips and events.
Jim Titus provides some background on how car donation tax credits work:
If you are thinking about donating a car, my advice is to ask whoever you're considering donating it to what they're going to do with it.

The federal income tax deduction is limited to $500 or whatever the organization gets for selling the car, whichever is greatest. The larger programs that take cars still seem to be catering to people with junkers who want a $500 deduction regardless of what the car is worth. (I am not commenting on the worthiness of these charities, just the vehicle donation programs).

A few organizations partner with trade schools, or otherwise fix old cars, and sell them. If you give to that type of organization, you can still get the generous tax deduction, and to me, it doesn't raise the same questions about scamming when someone actually gets the old car in working order. Or if your car is worth (say) $2000 and just needs a few minor repairs, at least you get the $2000 fair market value deduction because they will fix it up just a bit and sell for its true value.

Do you have a question? Each week, we'll post a question to the Greater Greater Washington contributors and post appropriate parts of the discussion. You can suggest questions by emailing ask@ggwash.org. Questions about factual topics are most likely to be chosen. Thanks!

Ask GGW: Is a Georgetown gondola practical?

The Georgetown Business Improvement District and neighborhood leaders have been floating the idea of a gondola linking Georgetown with Rosslyn. But many transit experts seem skeptical. Who's right?


Image from the Georgetown BID.

Georgetown BID head Joe Sternlieb says it could be an inexpensive way to build a high-capacity transit link. On the other hand, the National Park Service and other agencies would have to approve any wires over the Potomac, and jealously guard this territory against encroaching structures.

This week, we asked the contributors, why does Georgetown seem so enthusiastic but most others aren't? Is there a good transportation reason that these aren't the best choice (and why most US cities don't have them)? Or is it just that people don't believe it could ever get federal approval?

"Two words: 'Wire ban,'" retorted Matt Johnson.

"A zip line would be my preferred alternative," Tracy Loh joked.

Gray Kimbrough said, "I heard that there are wireless gondolas in development which will solve this problem," but Matt Johnson said the technology is "in its infancy." "A wireless hoverboard is much less complicated than a wireless gondola," he claimed. Steven Yates reminded us all, "Sadly, you need extra power to make hoverboards work on water."

Dan Malouff weighed the meta-questions:

Transportation people, at least the ones who aren't hopelessly close-minded, roll their eyes because the Georgetown idea specifically puts the cart before the horse, not because gondolas are inherently useless.

It's sort of like a transit fantasy map. There's been no analysis about what problem it's supposed to be solving, or about whether it's the best way to solve whatever problem that is. It could be, but nobody knows.

So my position on the gondola is "skeptical but open-minded." It could totally work, maybe even very well, but so far I just don't feel strongly enough about it (either pro or con) to become particularly vested in its outcome. I'd like to see some actual analysis on it, and maybe after that I'll feel differently.

Payton Chung laid out the reasons why one might use a gondola:
Any technology will have its proponents, and I'm prone to eye-rolling whenever someone claims that the technology is what will make or break a transit project. (They're wrong: it's the corridor.) As Malouff says, it's putting the cart before the horse.

However, having talked about gondolas with the relatively technology-agnostic Jarrett Walker, there are a few situations where a gondola makes sense:

  • Few stops
  • Challenging topography or limited ROW/footprint
  • Relatively level passenger flows through the day
I can think of worse corridors than Georgetown to Rosslyn. In particular, surface transit will require too large a footprint in a corridor that's heavily restricted by NPS, and the shopper/tourist traffic this would draw isn't sharply peaked.

However, there are better ones, like ski resorts or universities on mountaintops (e.g., OHSU [Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, which has one today] and SFU [Simon Frasier University in Vancouver, which has considered one]).

Gray Kimbrough relayed the history of New York City's Roosevelt Island Tramway:
Much of [Roosevelt Island] was redeveloped in the 1970s, and as an interim solution until the promised subway station opened, they built a tramway with one stop on the island and one in Manhattan. It opened in 1976, and ended up being so popular that when the subway station opened in 1989, they kept the tramway running.

For many people, it's a very convenient way to commute into Manhattan. It's also one of my favorite ways to view the city from a different angle, and I encourage tourists to ride it whenever they go.

Finally, Topher Matthews, who served on the steering committee that wrote the Georgetown 2028 report which recommends a gondola study, explained why the community is excited about the possibility:
I understand the eye rolling that transit people are doing in response to this proposal. It's tiresome, but I understand it.

Here's why this could be a good idea:

  • It's much cheaper than streetcar and Metro
  • It can be built incredibly fast (months not years)
  • It can be an attraction in and of itself
The best argument, though, is this: the plan is not simply to go from Rosslyn to M Street, but rather to continue to end at Georgetown University. Currently the GU GUTS bus carries 700,000 people from Rosslyn to campus every year. That's just a starting point to what the gondola would expect in terms of ridership. I have no doubt the ridership from GU alone would increase substantially with a gondola. And that's before even considering a single tourist, resident or worker wanting to use it to get to M Street faster.

Lots of the eye rolling comes from supposedly more level headed pro-transit people thinking that a cheaper more effective solution can be found with less exotic technology. But with the exception of Metro (which the plan admits will make the gondola no longer necessary), all the ways to improve the Rosslyn to Georgetown/GU connection go over Key Bridge and through Canal Road.

Do you really think transit only lanes on these routes is remotely politically feasible? Arguing this way is no different than Matt Yglesias saying that to improve streetcars we just need to completely smash the car lobby.

[Joe Sternlieb] is obviously a big booster of it, but he makes it clear: all he wants to do now is a feasibility study. If it comes back as unfeasible, then that's it. He'll drop it.

It's easy to laugh it off. But, seriously, if you can't even consider it while simultaneously defending streetcar without dedicated lanes, I'm not sure how you're making a distinction between what's a fanciful waste of money and what's worth defending.

Sounds like doing a study of the gondola concept isn't such a bad idea.

Do you have a question? Each week, we'll post a question to the Greater Greater Washington contributors and post appropriate parts of the discussion. You can suggest questions by emailing ask@ggwash.org. Questions about factual topics are most likely to be chosen. Thanks!

Ask GGW: With another fare hike in store, why is Metro still short on cash?

WMATA is hiking fares while still claiming it needs more money. How does the agency's financial status compare to that of other large US transit agencies? Have member jurisdictions' contributions to WMATA changed recently? Our contributors do their best to explain some of Metro's finances in this week's Ask GGW.


Photo by Scott on Flickr.

Reader Samuel Inman asks:

Can GGW provide any stats or comparative data on WMATA's financial status against, say, Boston's MBTA or New York's MTA?

WMATA keeps saying they need to raise fares, that they need to cut service, and that they need more money from local jurisdictions.

But where is the money going? From a rider's perspective, fares have climbed pretty steadily and are comparable to those in Boston and New York. So why does Metro still need more money?

It would also be interesting to look at historical funding structures for WMATA. Are they asking for more because their jurisdictional contributions are down?

Michael Perkins provides this breakdown:

Regarding rail, rider fares and other revenues like parking and advertising currently pay for about 80% of the operating system's costs. The remaining costs are divided up among the jurisdictions according to a funding formula (see my previous GGW article on the subject for background).

This means that if the costs of the system go up and there is no change in fare, parking, or advertising revenue, the jurisdictions have to pay for the increase out of their contributions alone. Since the contributions only pay for 20% of the cost, the increase is multiplied by 100%/20% = 5x.

For example, if the system costs $1 billion to run, $800 millon comes from fares and $200 million comes from the jurisdictions. A 5% increase in costs means that the system now costs $1050 million. Since $800 million still comes from fares, the jurisdictions now need to pay $250 million, which is 25% more than before.

Regarding bus, there are two parts of the bus system. The "regional" routes meet certain criteria but are the major routes that cross jurisdictional boundaries or travel major corridors. The regional route bus funding is divided up among jurisdictions according to a different funding formula, which depends on factors like ridership, service level, etc. The "non-regional" routes are operated at the request of a particular jurisdiction and are funded by that jurisdiction.

With Metroaccess, this paratransit service is funded by the jurisdiction that the customer resides in.

Perkins further explains WMATA's revenues and costs, and gives context for comparing the Washington region's system to those in other cities:
Fares are a very large portion of the Metro budget, especially for rail. Every year when Metro costs go up, unless there is a fare increase or ridership increase, the jurisdictions will be asked for a contribution increase. Their contribution increase is multiplied by about five if there is no more money from riders, i.e., if costs go up 3%, the jurisdiction are asked for a 15% increase in budget. This is because fares pay for about 80% of rail operating costs. There are very few jurisdictions out there that can bear such an increase every year.

Metro service off peak has been lousy lately. There is lots of track service, both single tracking and otherwise. Even when a route is not affected on a weekend, the friction of having to figure out what is affected sometimes discourages people from riding. This cuts into ridership and revenue.

The federal transit benefit was cut back recently. This has cut people's desire to spend $12 round trip from the farthest stations. Other systems like Chicago and Boston have unlimited transit passes that are below the transit benefit level, while Metro's is nearly double the limit.

Metro arbitration rules with their largest union do not allow the level of fares to be a factor in determining Metro's ability to pay. As long as Metro can get more money by raising fares, they will be directed to raise fares in order to pay for raises and benefits mandated by arbitration. I think we have reached the point where increasing fares is starting to affect ridership negatively, so they may be able to argue that raising fares to increase revenue is less possible.

In the core of WMATA's operations (rail operators, bus drivers, station managers), it is difficult to impossible to improve efficiency by substituting technology for labor. Unlike industries like offices or construction where new techniques or equipment can do a job with fewer people, there is no easy way to drive a train with less than one operator other than by replacing the entire control system at considerable expense.

People have reduced labor costs in lots of other industries&emdash; for example the self-checkouts at grocery stores, filling your own drinks at restaurants, switching from table service to fast casual restaurants, and automated copy machines instead of having lots of office administrative assistants.

Metro is suffering the same cost issue that other labor intensive industries like education and medicine are suffering. Only by increasing the efficiency in a passengers per operator sense can we keep fares under control, and the only way to do that is to increase ridership when the trains aren't packed (non-peak direction, off-peak ridership, and uncongested portions of the peak direction trains).

Comparing Metro to NYC is not really possible. The density around stations, the system design, the financial situation and the overall size of the system makes NYC not comparable to any other transit system in North America, and really only comparable to huge systems like Paris, London, Moscow or Tokyo.

Metro is best compared to Atlanta or San Francisco, except Metro has a bus system tacked on to it, and has to operate its own paratransit service, which I think in SF is handled by the jurisdictions individually. I don't know about Atlanta.

Ben Ross provides more background on the labor aspect of WMATA's cost structure (which we covered in August 2011):
The level of fares is considered by the arbitrators when they make their decision about what the fair level of pay would be. The arbitrator's job is to balance the interests of management against the interests of labor. One of the interests of management that the arbitrator considers is the need to hold down costs.

Arbitration becomes meaningless if Metro can ignore the arbitrator's order after it's given. What binding arbitration means is that it binds. Once the level of salary has been set, the political process decides how much to be paid out of the local jurisdiction contribution and how much out of fares.

It's important to point out that the binding arbitration process was set up because the area's transit workers lost the right to strike, which they previously had, when WMATA took over local bus systems (including some lines converted from streetcars only a few years earlier). Do proponents of ending binding arbitration want to give back the right to strike?

What the statute says is that so-called "public welfare"—a misleading piece of terminology since it's defined to mean the desire of local governments to hold down taxes—is to be considered by the arbitrator in addition to the factors that the arbitrator usually considers in setting a fair wage.

The final thought comes from Tracy Loh, who puts this discussion in a wider context to highlight a key disconnect in US transit policy:
Part of the issue with transit finance in the US generally is that we treat the market for mobility and the market for land as if they were separate, when in fact they are closely intertwined.

Transit agencies worldwide that succeed without subsidy do so by operating as land owners, land developers, landlords, and mobility providers. This allows wealth generated through land development to subsidize capital construction for transit, and income generated through rents to subsidize transit operations.

It also establishes potent feedback loop whereby easy access to residential and commercial development near transit stations boosts demand for both those destinations and for the transit service, thus allowing the developer/transit agency to capture value twice.

In our region, WMATA does have a Joint Development program, but this program still sends a substantial portion of the value it creates to the private sector and local jurisdictions, rather than to WMATA. Thus WMATA can only capture that value indirectly, through taxes and then through subsidies, which can only be less efficient.

Do you have a question? Each week, we'll post a question to the Greater Greater Washington contributors and post appropriate parts of the discussion. You can suggest questions by emailing ask@ggwash.org. Questions about factual topics are most likely to be chosen. Thanks!

Ask GGW: So you're looking for a planning job in the DC area?

Are you looking to get into the planning field in the Washington region? In this week's AskGGW, our contributors suggest three ways to make it happen: meet as many people in the field as possible and do lots of networking, look for internships or volunteer opportunities (like writing for GGW!) that let you delve into a topic of interest and gets your name out into the world, and get a master's degree.


Photo by Paul B. (Halifax) on Flickr.

Reader Colin Brown asked,

How can recent graduates find foot-in-the-door opportunities in this field? Are there best practices for young people looking to find that first work opportunity in the area?
Dan Malouff gives advice based on his personal experience:

The hardest part of any new career path is getting your foot in the door. You've got to know people in the industry, and you've got to have produced work somewhere that people can look at, to get a sense of what kind of work you'll do for them.
The traditional way for new people to accomplish that is via an internship, often unpaid. And yeah, that works. Do that if you can.

But anything you can do that both gets your name out there and produces planning-related work is good for your job-seeking cause. And there's no easier way to do both those things simultaneously than to blog. And there's no better way to make sure a lot of people in the DC planning field see your blogging than to get it published on GGW.

This is no mere theory. It's exactly the path that several of us on the GGW team have taken. At least three or four of us, and maybe more.

Adam Lind shares his story:
I had no background in planning before going to grad school at Virginia Tech in 2010. I went to planning school after a personal interest in sustainability started to grow at the end of my undergrad business school life in 2008. From there, I went into transportation planning as I figured that was the best way to make an impact on sustainability and improving the environment by promoting alternative transportation.

I got an internship the summer after I graduated with my masters and ended up getting a job offer in Chapel Hill, but wanted to live in a "real" city. I just kept applying and got an interview with Fairfax County for a Planning Tech II job.

I thought I was overqualified but figured it was a good career move to get into the area, and eventually an opening above me in the bike planning department opened up and now I'm doing my dream job. Sometimes it's better to just be in the right place at the right time.

Aimee Custis, who constantly screens job applications at work, suggests the following three steps:
1. Have the necessary technical credentials. That's a prerequisite. So all that stuff about "get a planning degree" and "suck it up and take an internship" are true. And a bare minimum. Until you have done these things, full stop: nothing else I have to say will get you past this step.

2. Get to know EVERYONE you possibly can in the field, and demonstrate to them how amazing you are. Most job openings I hear about come by word-of-mouth, so making sure people think of you when they hear about a job opening is key. Call and email people, tell them you're interested in a planning/transportation career, and ask if you can pick their brain over coffee.

Come prepared with a thoughtful list of questions to ask them, and be sure to have your pitch about who you are and what you're looking for polished. Ask those people to introduce or refer you to other people. Leave them with an awesome impression of you. Rinse and repeat.

3. When a job opening does come your way, apply promptly, completely, and put your best foot forward. If writing isn't your strong point, have someone help you with your cover letter and resume. For Pete's sake, CUSTOMIZE your cover letter (and preferably your resume) to the position you're applying for. If you don't have the attention to detail and thoughtfulness to do that well, what would make me as a prospective employer think you'd do your job thoughtfully?

Whether in your cover letter or in your interview, be ready with a polished, well-considered answer about what you bring to the position that makes you a better candidate than the dozens of similar candidates who are applying?

Oh, and last thing: remember those people who you got to know in step 2? Reach out to them. Tell them you're applying, and thank them for their good advice. If you can, gently drop that if they know anyone at the employer, you'd love if they'd put in a good word for you.

Associate Editor Jonathan Neeley heartily seconds Aimee's recommendation to "ask to pick their brain over coffee," adding "If someone is in a position you're in, you should ask them if you can have a conversation with them, and then you should ask them all about what they do and the path they took to get there. If someone loves their job, they'll also love to talk about it."

And Abigail Zenner adds:

I would add that it is important to follow up with your contacts. Don't just send one email, but check in again to see if the person saw it. People get a lot of email and sometimes they intend to write back but it gets lost in the shuffle. Don't read too much into that. Don't be shy and don't be afraid to contact people who are agency department heads or other "important people."

Another important piece is to try your best to figure out what it is you want to do. Do you want to be a planner? An advocate? A policy analyst? Do you want to work in communications or politics? What policy area would you like to focus on? Take the time to find yourself so you know what kinds of jobs you are looking for. That self searching will also help inform a decision about graduate school.

Payton Chung, who has also reviewed thousands of resumes, says "it's amazing how many boring candidates are out there." He has the following advice:
Your portfolio should describe and show off achievements, not tasks, in a way that's relevant to the challenges and concerns that people are hiring for. Your cover letter should be grouped around your skills, not chronology. Your interactions with potential employers should be about them and their needs, not yours; everyone loves talking about themselves. When you do get a chance to talk, personal convictions and interests always make for more fascinating (and memorable!) conversations than shop talk. Share your opinions, and be prepared to back them up.

And that brings me to another point: whenever I've hired people, I've always looked for people whose own initiatives demonstrate a genuine fascination with, and understanding of, the cities and communities they'll be serving. For someone at the entry level, that's not always paid. But it can be illustrated through volunteer or academic or travel experience. Choose interesting and timely topics for your class papers—or for posts you submit to GGW!

Especially in the DC market, you will need an MA pretty soon. In many other cities, 30% of people have college degrees; here, 30% of people have graduate degrees. Most of the local programs are available part-time, and they're a great way to get some self-directed experience in the topic.

Claire Jaffe asked a follow-up question about what to look for in a master's program, and Adam Lind responded:
From my point of view, from being a recent master's graduate and doing the job search, you're going to need a master's degree at some point, so the sooner the better. The bigger question in my opinion is to do it full time, or do it while working. If you can get a planning job and do grad school at the same time, that would be my recommendation.

If you can find an arrangement where you get a job, conditioned on taking classes, then yes, go for that too. I just know when I was looking to get in the field almost every job ad said master's degree required or highly recommended, and if you have no experience and no master's degree, you're starting way behind the rest of the field. The past few years there have been A LOT of planners looking for a few jobs. I know job ads that regularly receive 100+ candidates, many of whom are well overqualified.

Tracy Loh comments on the specific dynamics of the planning profession:
Within the planning sector, I think it's important to distinguish between agencies and nonprofits. Understand the different roles each play and think about which is a better fit for your personality and perspective.

In the DC area especially, I think many agencies have a strongly technocratic bent, where it's about skills, experience, jargon fluency, etc, and Payton's advice about being expert enough to have opinions and back them up is right on the money. I would perhaps rephrase it as "being able to express opinions without making them sound like opinions."

I want to second another thing Payton said, about volunteering. I work at a nonprofit. I see job applications from people all the time where they swear up and down in their cover letter that they love our mission and are personally committed to it... and then there is no volunteer experience on the resume. I'm not even talking about working for free, like with internships; that is a privilege that not all people have. But planning is all about being engaged with a community—when I was in grad school, I waited tables some nights and went to community meetings other nights. I learned a lot about how the development process works and I showed my seriousness about the issues. You need to engage, even if it's just when you're done making rent.

A lot of planning is really about people, even when superficially we are talking about transit, or stormwater management, or whatever. What are your people skills and how do you want to put them to work? What kinds of situations energize you, and what drains you (or would you rather avoid)? Seek out positions that are a good fit and make the case for that fit in your cover letter—show that you really understand what the role requires.

This is hard only inasmuch as many organizations (whatever the sector!) do not know what they actually need when they are hiring. You're not going to find a dream job, but you might be able to make one. Look for openings and opportunities to do so and see the cover letter and interview as your chance to make a pitch about what you would turn the job into.

Dan Reed offers a reminder that those looking for planning jobs should brush up on skills that are useful in any sector:
Whether you're in the public or private sector, good planners generally know how to:
  • Express ideas clearly and succinctly through writing.
  • Speak to particular audiences (whether it's an agency, a community group, businesses, etc.).
  • Craft a narrative (about a community's past, present, and future).
  • Work with many different people (often across different agencies, companies, and also the general public).
  • See things for what they can be, not just what they are (have a vision!).
  • There are other more specific disciplines, like graphic design or engineering or public policy, that relate to planning and often come up in a planner's work. But I think they all go back to those general ideas.
    The final thought comes from a contributor who asked to remain anonymous:
    I'll give anecdotal evidence as to the power of contributing to GGW. I had an interview a few weeks ago for a planning position. I don't have GGW listed in my resume, but it was literally the first thing that the interviewer brought up, either because he reads GGW or because my GGW bio is the first thing that pops up if you Google me. Either way, it was definitely seen as valuable experience. I'm still waiting to hear back, but fingers crossed.
    If you do want to write for Greater Greater Washington, check out our contributor guidelines for information on what to think about and how to get started.

    Do you have a question? Each week, we'll post a question to the Greater Greater Washington contributors and post appropriate parts of the discussion. You can suggest questions by emailing ask@ggwash.org. Questions about factual topics are most likely to be chosen. Thanks!

    Ask GGW: Is there any reason not to have a sidewalk?

    There are parts of DC and other cities with no sidewalks. As pedestrian safety has become a higher priority in road design, DC and other cities have been adding them, though sometimes residents oppose the idea. Is there any good reason not to put one in? Do we have statistics?

    Reader Phil L. asks: "Do sidewalks measurably improve pedestrian safety even in low traffic density areas, like residential neighborhoods? What would be a compelling reason to have a residential street without a sidewalk?"


    Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

    Erin McAuliff says:

    According to the National Complete Streets Coalition, "Pedestrian crashes are more than twice as likely to occur in places without sidewalks; streets with sidewalks on both sides have the fewest crashes." I think the reference for this is from the Federal Highway Administration.

    From another angle, and with a particular focus on the aging, sidewalks may increase residents' perception of safety. Falling or tripping on poorly maintained sidewalks is a serious concern for the elderly, especially the frail, for whom one accident could be devastating. Falls are the leading cause of death from injuries for persons over the age of 65.

    Ben Ross gives some historical perspective on why neighborhoods might not have them:
    The original reason for not building sidewalks in suburban neighborhoods was to give the development a "high-class" non-urban image by discouraging walking. See Dead End, page 16.
    Sean Emerson lives in one such area:
    A reason I've heard people in my neighborhood (Woodmoor in Four Corners) use for opposing sidewalks was the preservation of the "rural" feel of the neighborhood. My neighborhood and several others nearby were once anchored by Indian Springs Country Club, so you can imagine that the clientele originally buying homes around here were doing so to escape the city and its associated "urban" infrastructure like curbs and sidewalks.

    The streets in my neighborhood close to University Boulevard and Colesville Road were built in the mid-1930's with no sidewalks or curbs (these streets comprised the original development anchored by the country club). When the county installed curbs about 10 years ago, sone people complained that the curbs changed the "character" of those streets, and several think that sidewalks would make it worse. There are many 1930's era neighborhoods in and around Silver Spring which still lack curbs of any kind, much less sidewalks (Hillandale, North Hills of Sligo, and parts of Woodside come to mind).

    Retaining a "country" or "rural" feel might not sound like a compelling reason to prevent the installation of sidewalks to most, but it is for some.

    So does Nick Keenan:
    My neighborhood, Palisades, had a protracted debate about adding sidewalks on a neighborhood street, University Terrace. Ultimately they were not put in.

    Some of the arguments were expected: there are people who never walk, who don't see any utility to sidewalks. Landowners who would lose part of their front yard were predictably opposed. What surprised me was how many people expressed the viewpoint that sidewalks actually detract from a neighborhood. People even used the adjective "rural" to describe our neighborhood. I'm not sure they really knew what rural meant—Palisades certainly isn't rural— I think they were looking for a word that meant non-urban and that was the best they could come up with.

    Like so many personal preferences, there's no right or wrong, but there's also very little room for persuasion.

    Not all neighborhoods of that era lack sidewalks. David Rotenstein writes:
    It's a mistake to generalize that all 20th century residential subdivisions omitted sidewalks or that the failure to install them was part of some larger, mysterious anti-pedestrian agenda. One Silver Spring subdivision (outside the Beltway) originally was developed between 1936 and 1940 and the subdividers/developers intentionally constructed sidewalks and used their existence as a marketing point in sales literature.
    Coming back to the issue of statistics, Jonathan Krall writes:
    The "safety in numbers" effect, often discussed in relation to cycling, also applies to pedestrians. Briefly, injuries per pedestrian fall as the number of pedestrians increase. This implies that adding sidewalks to an area would encourage walking and make that area safer.

    However, it is difficult to square that result with the nationwide increases in pedestrian fatalities, happening during a decrease in driving and (I presume; I don't have data on this) an increase in walking

    My hypothesis is that the shift towards transit (and presumably walking) that is so clear in data for millennials is leading to more walking in suburban environments along dangerous arterial roads. But that is just a hypothesis.

    But Ben Ross challenges the premise that statistics can explain the sidewalk debates:
    "Safety" is not the main issue here. It's equal treatment. Lack of sidewalk discourages walking by denying pedestrians the right of way. They must get out of way whenever a car comes by.
    David Edmondson explains how just slowing cars down can improve safety:
    It's likely not simply an issue of traffic volume but of traffic speed. Take, say, this random street in California. It's narrow but two-way and so traffic is very, very slow (roughly jogging speed). Despite its lack of sidewalks, it is a pedestrian-friendly street—I see unaccompanied kids on such streets all the time. Yet I would not feel comfortable walking down other sidewalk-free streets (like this one in Silver Spring) where calm traffic is not invited by the street's design.

    I don't know of any studies regarding sidewalks and pedestrian safety on low-volume streets, but I don't think that's the right way to look at it anyway given all the factors that go into a street's safety. Risk is a quality positively correlated with increased volume and speed and sight-lines, each of which are themselves correlated with certain street design choices. A pedestrian is shielded from some of that risk by a sidewalk, but sometimes the risk is so low that the shielding is unnecessary.

    Do you have a question? Each week, we'll post a question to the Greater Greater Washington contributors and post appropriate parts of the discussion. You can suggest questions by emailing ask@ggwash.org. Questions about factual topics are most likely to be chosen. Thanks!

    DC has too few dedicated east-west bike pathways

    While DC's bicycling network has grown, there still aren't a lot of crosstown connections. In fact, there are no protected east-west bicycle routes in the whole third of the District north of Florida Avenue. Cyclists need more of these, as well as north-south routes to form a grid of dedicated paths.


    Bike lanes around a northern section of DC. Image from Google Maps.

    Much of DC's bicycle infrastructure, like trails, dedicated bikeways, and bike lanes concentrates in the downtown core, primarily south of Florida Avenue. DDOT's official bicycle map, last updated in 2011, shows that outside of downtown, most bicycle facilities run north-south.

    Unless they are willing to ride on six-lane, shoulder-free roads with fast-moving traffic, cyclists have no way to traverse the northern part of Rock Creek Park, where only a freeway-like portion of Military Road crosses the park.

    The same goes for Irving Street and Michigan Avenue, the only direct paths from Columbia Heights to Brookland across the vast acreage of McMillan Reservoir and Sand Filtration Site, the Washington Hospital Center, and the Armed Forces Retirement Home.

    "East-west mobility for bicyclists in the northern neighborhoods of DC can be a significant challenge," said Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) Advocacy Coordinator Greg Billing. "Large campuses, parks, hospitals and cemeteries limit the available east-west connections. The MoveDC plan calls for high quality bicycle facilities from neighborhoods to downtown and better connections between the neighborhoods."

    That plan recommends some form of dedicated bikeway along Irving Street, as well as for a cycletrack on Military Road.

    A route between Columbia Heights and Brookland would connect two vibrant neighborhoods and serve an area that will gain population as the McMillan site and part of the Armed Forces Retirement Home property redevelop.


    Google Maps' bicycle directions from the Columbia Heights Metro to the Brookland-CUA Metro. Image from Google Maps. Click for interactive version.

    Currently, both the DDOT map and Google Maps advise cyclists to use Irving Street between Brookland and Columbia Heights. However, between Park Place NW and the Catholic University campus, Irving Street is a busy six-lane near-freeway with no shoulder. Cyclists have to navigate among drivers merging on and off at the massive cloverleaf intersection with North Capitol Street.

    However, the right-of-way through this section seems wide enough for DDOT to add a protected cycle track or trail. One possibility is a cycle track in a protected median down the middle of Irving Street, which would avoid dangerous crossings of the off-ramps at the Irving and North Capitol cloverleaf. Another is to have a trail parallel the existing sidewalk on the south side of Irving Street.


    Google Maps street view of Irving Street between First and North Capitol Streets NW.

    Worsening traffic congestion is a major concern at the McMillan site. The area has infrequent bus service and is far from a Metro station, but improving bicycle access could provide an important alternative to driving, reducing the traffic impact of new development.

    Military Road NW across Rock Creek Park is a similar case. Tilden Street and Park Road to the south, and Wise Road, Beach Drive, and Kalmia Road to the north, are more bike-friendly ways to cross the park. But they're far out of the way for neighborhoods on either side.

    According to DDOT Bicycle Program Coordinator Mike Goodno, DDOT controls the road itself and a handful of feet on either side. The National Park Service would have to okay any further widening. DDOT has not yet studied whether there is room to add a cycletrack on Military within the right-of-way it controls.


    Google Maps Street View of Military Road NW through Rock Creek Park.

    The only other connection through Rock Creek Park that is further along in the planning process is the Klingle Trail, which will connect the Rock Creek trail to Woodley Road NW. DDOT completed an Environmental Assessment in 2011.

    As activity centers outside the downtown area grow and travel patterns become less centralized, we must enable cyclists and transit users to get across town as easily as drivers. A grid-like, interconnected network of bike routes would make that possible.

    After a decade in service, where could the Circulator go next?

    As the DC Circulator celebrates its tenth anniversary, planners are weighing options for the system's continued growth. Tuesday evening, they held a public forum at Eastern Market to talk about ways to expand the Circulator and unveiled a new bus paint scheme.


    Model Circulator wearing the new "comet" paint scheme parked at Eastern Market. Photo by the author.

    Having expanded from two routes to five, the Circulator's core function remains to offer a frequent, reliable, inexpensive link between DC's activity centers and its neighborhoods. Planners are considering 7 possible new routes, which were on display at the forum.

    District Department of Transportation officials say the one with the greatest support is a connection between Dupont Circle and U Street, followed by a Dupont Circle-Foggy Bottom link. The proposed "Abe's to Ben's" Circulator between the Mall and U Street could serve both links. The input planners receive will inform the expansion priorities they will recommend this summer.


    Image by DDOT.

    I see one of Circulator's roles as to fill gaps in the Metrobus network that serve to better connect DC neighborhoods. I, too, cast my top vote for a Dupont-U Street connection, preferably starting by extending the Rosslyn-Georgetown-Dupont route up 18th Street NW and across U Street to Howard University.

    My second vote is for an extension of one of the routes currently ending at Union Station north into NoMa, perhaps one way on First Street NE and the other on North Capitol Street. Buses already create congestion near Union Station by using Massachusetts Avenue, E Street, and North Capitol Street as a turnaround. Having a Circulator turn around in NoMa instead helps to alleviate this, while providing bus connectivity to the heart of a rapidly developing area.

    It is interesting that DDOT proposes retaking the Convention Center to Southwest route from WMATA, which incorporated it into the Metrobus network in 2011 as Route 74. A DDOT representative explained that, as part of the 70s series, the 74 is considered a "regional" rather than a "local" route, and thus it is cheaper for the District to subsidize as Maryland and Virginia also contribute to it through WMATA's funding formulas.

    At the forum, DDOT also debuted a Circulator bus wearing a new exterior paint scheme. Instead of two arcs representing the route map with the names of destinations, the new design has two swooshes that a DDOT representative described as "comets."

    On display inside the bus were preliminary drawings by renowned transit vehicle designer Cesar Vergara of an interior for the next generation of Circulator buses. This would make Circulators' interiors more closely resemble those of the newest members of the Metrobus fleet, products of New Flyer.


    Preliminary rendering of a proposed interior for new Circulator fleet. Image from Vergara Studio.

    DDOT presented a map of the planned National Mall Circulator, which will connect Union Station with the Lincoln Memorial via Madison and Jefferson drives and around the Tidal Basin next spring. The agency sought input on what to include at the stops along this route, like area maps, and lists of nearby attractions, and where one or two-day passes and SmarTrip cards should be sold.


    Chart by DDOT.

    Circulator's ridership numbers have declined slightly over the past two years compared to the previous two. David Miller, a transportation planner with DDOT contractor Foursquare Integrated Transportation Planning, speculated on the reasons for the dip and offered these hypotheses:

    • Metrobus's service quality has improved, siphoning off former Circulator riders who once perceived Metrobus as a less attractive service.
    • DC residents, particularly young adults, are gravitating towards more flexible car and bike sharing systems, aided by better bicycling infrastructure, for short trips to see friends or go shopping for which they previously used Circulator.
    • Circulator buses are starting to get shabby. The fleet is 10-14 years old and is just now starting to undergo repainting and reupholstery.
    So far, surveys of Circulator riders have only covered demographic information, trip purpose and trip type. They have not asked riders to describe why they chose Circulator over other modes, or why they've chosen other modes over Circulator for other trips.


    Results of the last Circulator survey. Image by DDOT.

    Despite Circulator's branding as a service that connects shopping, dining, and entertainment destinations, a solid majority of riders use it to get to and from work. The average rider is a young adult with at least a college education making less than $40,000 per year. Most riders use Circulator on all days of the week, with pluralities using it daily, and take it round trip.

    DDOT will release a final update of the Transportation Development Plan Summary Report this summer, and will hold another semi-annual forum this fall. Beyond that, aside from the spring 2015 implementation of the National Mall Circulator, there is no timeline for implementing any expansions of the system. Once DDOT comes out with its recommendations based on public input, it will be up to DC citizens to convince the Mayor and Council to fund them.

    Proposed MetroExtra bus route would serve all of Rhode Island Avenue in DC

    A new MetroExtra bus route could connect the entire Rhode Island Avenue corridor between downtown DC and Mount Rainier for the first time. Unfortunately, there isn't any funding yet.


    The proposed MetroExtra G9, based on this map from WMATA. Click for an interactive map.

    At a Bloomingdale Civic Association meeting Monday night, WMATA unveiled a proposal for a route that would run along the Rhode Island Avenue corridor from downtown DC to Mount Rainier with a single-seat ride. Today, this can't be done without changing buses at least once, a holdover from DC's original transit system planned and built over 80 years ago.

    The proposed MetroExtra route G9 is an outcome of the latest of several studies of major bus corridors, this one encompassing the G8 Metrobus, which runs between Michigan Park and Farragut Square, and the 80s, which run between the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station, College Park, and Calverton. (This study does not appear on the Metrobus Studies Website yet.)

    The route would make more limited stops than the other bus routes along the corridor, stopping at about every half-mile. It would give residents of Ward 5 and Mount Rainier more frequent and more direct service to downtown, and offer them quicker connections with other major bus routes, such as the 70s, 90s and 80.

    Today's bus routes are a legacy of DC's old streetcar

    Today, most buses along Rhode Island Avenue follow routes set decades ago, when DC and its travel patterns were very different. A look at the 1958 map of the DC Transit system shows the 82 streetcar line, which went to Branchville (now part of College Park), followed its own right-of-way in Prince George's parallel to the B&O (now CSX) railroad tracks that now host MARC's Camden Line. From there, it turned south off of Rhode Island Avenue onto 4th Street NE, cut through Eckington onto New York Avenue, then south on 5th Street NW into downtown.

    Today's P6 bus roughly traces this part of the old streetcar route. There were also E2 and F2 buses that came east on Rhode Island Avenue from downtown: the F2 took 9th Street NW, as does today's G8, and the E2 went around Logan Circle and took 15th Street NW. Both of these buses turned north from Rhode Island Avenue onto 4th Street NE into Edgewood and Brookland, right where the 82 streetcar turned south.


    Section of the 1958 DC Transit map showing Rhode Island Ave and 4th St NE. Reprinted map available at the National Capital Trolley Museum.

    Today, the G8 and P6 buses do the same thing. But there's still no bus route that continues on Rhode Island Avenue west of 4th Street NE. As a result, those traveling from Mount Rainier or Ward 5 into downtown must either transfer from the 81, 82, 83 or 84 bus to the Red Line, or take the P6 or walk about 1900 feet under the railroad overpass to get the G8 at 4th & Rhode Island NE to continue west.

    The G9 route, as proposed, would terminate at Mont Rainier's former streetcar turn-around. WMATA should consider extending it further north into the rapidly developing Hyattsville Arts District, or perhaps to Route 1 and East-West Highway, where the new Whole Foods will go, or even into downtown College Park. This would make it more of a regional connector that, if it ran frequently enough, might attract a few more commuters out of their cars on this congested portion of Route 1.

    It is unclear whether the proposed G9 bus would, like currently operating MetroExtra routes, only run during the day on weekdays and possibly Saturdays, or if it would be a more round-the-clock operation. That will likely depend on the level of funding that is available.

    But it is good to see WMATA planners thinking outside the box of historical patterns of bus service to come up with a more sensible service along one of DC's major arteries.

    Fix it first, then upgrade, says new regional transportation plan

    The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board approved the draft Regional Transportation Priorities Plan two weeks ago. It advocates a "fix it first" approach that directs resources towards keeping the transportation assets we have in good shape, rather than building massive new facilities that may be costly to maintain.


    Image from MWCOG.

    The plan is a significant victory for smart growth advocates because it doesn't call for building any new highways. Maintaining Metro is the highest-scoring strategy overall. The plan calls for new transit facilities including both streetcar and bus rapid transit (BRT) lines, potentially using new express toll lanes on existing highways.

    It also recommends capacity improvements like expanding Metro capacity in downtown DC, and focusing growth around existing transportation hubs and employment centers, offering more alternatives to driving. However, it relies on elected officials in local jurisdictions to make it happen.

    The plan's supposed to inform future updates to the region's Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan (CLRP), a more specific list of recommended capital investments, including this year's update. The CLRP's existing baseline includes the Silver and Purple lines, the planned DC streetcar network, and Arlington's Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcars.

    But first, local governments need to invest in the transportation infrastructure we already have. "The success of all other strategies to improve transportation in our region relies on an existing system that functions properly and is safe," the plan states. That includes Metro trains that run reliably and aren't overcrowded, bus stops that are easy to get to, roads and sidewalks that are smooth, structurally sound bridges, and efficient traffic signals.

    Another key aspect of the plan is its focus on the region's activity centers, places like downtown DC or Bethesda that are walkable, bikeable, and well-served by transit. Simply directing more growth to these places can reduce car trips across the region. More people would have the opportunity to live or work there, while those who still chose to live elsewhere would have more options for getting to activity centers.

    As MWCOG Principal Transportation Planner John Swanson put it, "We don't just focus on supply-side additions to the system, but also on managing demand."

    Creating more activity centers is one of five central long-term strategies of the plan. The others are adding more capacity on the existing transit system, enhancing circulation within activity centers, encouraging BRT and other cost-effective transit services, and more express toll lanes.

    At a press event January 15, Swanson emphasized that the Regional Transportation Priorities Plan is part of on ongoing planning process. It "shows why land use matters and why a lot of little decisions like [building better] bus stops matter," Swanson added. "If they aren't accessible and attractive, other work is for naught."

    The TPB recommends focusing on "modes that can move more people at lower cost." The plan generally avoids citing specific projects or locations of concern. Rather, it's intended as a guide for state, county, and municipal officials as they determine which transportation projects deserve a share of their limited budgets.

    Whether the vision comes true or not will depend on the elected leaders of the member jurisdictions. It will also require restoring citizens' trust in their government, meaning government must demonstrate that it is taking citizen input seriously and is getting the most bang for taxpayers' buck.

    Among its other specific suggestions:

    • Local governments should help Metro reach its state of good repair goals outlined in Metro Forward.
    • Give Metro the resources needed to add capacity, including by adding more eight-car trains and increasing pedestrian flow capacity at constrained stations like Union Station.
    • Enhance and expand commuter rail service, primarily by addressing its two biggest constraints: limited capacity at Union Station and over the decrepit Long Bridge, the region's only crossing of the Potomac for commuter, intercity passenger, and freight trains.
    • Make major investments in relatively inexpensive pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. It cites the District's success with new bike lanes and expanding Capital Bikeshare, and says adequate sidewalks and crossing signals are still lacking in much of the region.
    • Alleviate bottlenecks in the highway network by building new on- and off-ramps, extra turn lanes, and adding lanes in limited cases.
    • Grow the network of electric car charging stations to incentivize their use.
    • Make the road network safer and more efficient by such often-overlooked strategies as providing more real-time information to drivers, and by updating existing traffic laws, particularly to offer more protection to pedestrians and bicyclists.
    The plan reflects and builds upon the work of the late Ron Kirby, the former MWCOG transportation planning director whose shocking murder in his home two months ago remains unsolved. The document is dedicated in his memory. Kirby chose not to pick sides in the more roads vs. more transit tug-of-war, but he was willing to say we should fix things first.

    The TPB's next step is to disseminate the plan to both elected and administrative officials in all member jurisdictions and explain how it works. The plan highlights broad agreement at the regional level, and gives jurisdictions a framework for decision-making.

    If it agrees, for example, that maintaining the existing system is the top priority, then its practices should reflect that. Thanks to language in a resolution the TPB adopted on January 15, the RTPP will guide DC, Maryland, and Virginia when they propose projects for inclusion in the CLRP.

    "This work fits into a broader picture of what people are asking for," said Todd Turner, TPB member and Bowie city councilmember. "[Once people] see the impact of funding decisions on them, they become more supportive."

    Read together with MWCOG's Region Forward plan, its Climate Change Report, and its Activity Centers map, the RTPP should guide the region to a better-managed, more transit-oriented, and more sustainable transportation future.

    Redeveloping McMillan is the only way to save it

    At a recent public hearing, neighbors of McMillan Sand Filtration Site renewed calls to make it a park. But the only way that can happen is by developing part of it as a neighborhood, and it's up to the DC Council to make it happen.


    Rendering of the future McMillan Park. All images from VMP.

    Residents filled a June 6 public hearing held by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development to oppose plans to sell the derelict 25-acre site to Vision McMillan Partners, who will build homes, shops, offices and a park there. But others, including Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie and groups like the Coalition for Smarter Growth say it's the best way to bring McMillan back to life.

    It would be prohibitively expensive just to make McMillan a park. Since the underground cells are made of unreinforced concrete, they would have to be demolished and rebuilt just to make them safe to enter. Allowing some private development will give the neighborhood new amenities while paying to keep the best of what's already there.

    Plan preserves historic structures while creating new park

    VMP's plan preserves all 24 of the plant's above-ground structures, including the vine-covered sand silos visible from North Capitol Street, along with 2 of the below-ground filtration cells. 2/3 of the site will remain open space, while the southern third will become an 8-acre public park with a pool, recreation center, and a community center with meeting rooms and an art gallery. VMP promises that this will be "one of the largest and best-designed public park spaces in the District."


    Proposed site plan of McMillan redevelopment.

    The historic buildings will become part of a new neighborhood with about 800 585 apartments and townhouses, half 10% of which will be set aside for families making between 50 and 80% of the area's median income. There will also be street-level, neighborhood-serving retail anchored by a 50,000-square-foot, full-service grocery store. Along Michigan Avenue, there will be taller office buildings with a medical focus, taking advantage of proximity to Washington Hospital Center across the street.

    To make this happen, however, the DC Council must decide this fall whether to declare the land as surplus and "dispose" of it. They can do this either by selling it to VMP or granting it as-is to VMP under existing zoning, which wouldn't allow major redevelopment to occur. They could also divide the property and sell off the parts to different owners and under different zoning. They can do all of this in a single set of hearings and votes, and they should to ensure that this process happens as quickly and fairly as possible.


    This rendering shows how new and old buildings will coexist at McMillan.

    Throughout the summer and fall, the council will hold separate public hearings on whether to surplus McMillan and the details of VMP's plan. Meanwhile, the DC Historic Preservation Review Board is reviewing VMP's plan to redevelop the site with housing, shops, offices and an 8-acre park and will hold hearings about it this month and in September. They've already offered comments about the proposal and will make their recommendations before the end of the year.

    Plan will improve stormwater collection, traffic

    Groups like Friends of McMillan Park and the DC Chapter of the Sierra Club argued that McMillan is already a public space and should become a public park. However, one DMPED official I spoke to after the hearing said that the city can't afford to do the work necessary to make the site safe for public occupancy. If the District retains ownership, the site would most likely remain decrepit and fenced off indefinitely.


    All 24 of the site's historic above-ground structures will be preserved.

    Opponents maintain that the site's underground cells are needed to retain stormwater, mitigating the effects of frequent floods in Bloomingdale, which is downstream from McMillan. But DC Water already plans to replace two of the cells with water storage tanks, which will remain after redevelopment. Meanwhile, VMP has also promised to incorporate stormwater retention and buffers into the buildings and landscaping on the site, reducing stormwater runoff.

    Another top complaint was traffic. Residents feel that the neighborhood's roads are already quite congested, especially at rush hour, and could not handle the extra trips generated by a major office, retail and residential center on the McMillan site. There is no question that the Washington Hospital Center, the city's largest non-government employer, needs better public transportation service, as it is not located near a Metro station.


    Buildings will step down moving south from Michigan Avenue.

    VMP plans to build a bus turnaround for shuttles between McMillan and the Brookland Metrorail station, which would operate until a planned streetcar line along Michigan Avenue is built. Moreover, North Capitol Street has been designated a Bus Priority Corridor, meaning that the city intends to make changes to the street design and traffic flows to permit faster and more frequent bus service. The development would also open new through streets across the McMillan site, improving traffic flow and connections within the larger neighborhood.

    Ward 5 needs parks, but it needs housing too

    Some opponents say that new development should happen elsewhere in Ward 5, like on vacant and abandoned lots along North Capitol Street or Rhode Island Avenue. While not enough resources have been dedicated to encouraging more infill development, there's no reason why that can't happen in combination with the redevelopment of McMillan.


    Rendering of the completed McMillan Park.

    It is true that Ward 5 needs more and higher-quality parks, recreation facilities, and community centers. But the surrounding neighborhoods and the city as a whole are growing and are need more affordable housing, as well as more diverse shopping and entertainment opportunities within walking or biking distance or a short transit ride.

    VMP's current plan reflects the input of community members gathered over the course of several design charrettes that were open to the public. It satisfies the need for several types of amenities in this part of the city in a balanced way. It combines buildings that are in keeping with the surrounding neighborhoods with a large park, and preserves some of the historic filtration cells and all of the silos and brick regulator houses.

    We have an opportunity to transform a decrepit former public works site that has been fenced off for over 70 years into a citywide destination: a vibrant and attractive new place to live, work, shop and play that serves many of the needs of residents in this part of DC while incorporating many reminders of its unique history. The Council shouldn't waste any time taking advantage of it, as an opportunity like this won't come again soon.

    If you'd like to tell DMPED and the Council to surplus McMillan and allow VMP's plan to happen, you can contact them here. Comments must be received by June 20.

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