Greater Greater Washington

Posts from March 2011

Afternoon links: What's developing


Image from JBG.
Development clusters good for neighborhoods: DC's developers tend to focus in certain areas, buying a lot of property in one place. That's a good thing, argues Lydia DePillis, partly because they build a reputation with neighbors and make project approvals go more smoothly. (Housing Complex)

Wheaton Costco a hot topic: Wheaton residents had tough questions for Ike Leggett about the proposed $6 million subsidy for a Costco at the Westfield mall. One resident outlined objections, primarily that the plan isn't consistent with a "livable, transit-oriented Wheaton." (Patch, Danila Sheveiko)

Council race racing ahead: As the at-large Council special election enters its last month, DC Students Speak is holding a candidate forum this Sunday afternoon. The candidates still aren't that clearly different (14th and You) .... David Catania endorsed Sekou Biddle, somewhat awkwardly. Both unions and business groups are behind Orange. (Four26)

How about an Anacostia contest?: Minneapolis is having a contest to design a sustainable, active waterfront. Should DC do the same for the Anacostia? (One obstacle the many military bases making large areas inaccessible.) (Housing Complex)

Markets moving: Eastern Market's board, composed of community representatives, reaffirmed support for Stanton's redevelopment of the Hine school. ... A new governing structure for Eastern Market is being devised, with a new citizen board. (EMMCA)

Houston continues to get worse: Houston will spend 100% of its road money on car infrastructure, saying bike and pedestrian accommodations serve "special interests." The vote followed heavy lobbying by real estate special interests. (Streetsblog Capitol Hill)

EU wants emissions-free city streets: The EU wants to set a goal to reduce gas-fueled cars in cities to 0 by 2050. News outlets report it as a "ban on cars" while the British Drivers Association says the EU Transport Commissioner should check into an asylum. (European Voice, The Week, Telegraph)

And...: Virginia is using Dupont Circle to advertise Virginia tourism (DCist) ... The lot that had lots of Zipcars at 14th and R will becomeyou guessed itcondos. (Borderstan)

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Should Metro switch to zones? (No.)

It's frequently suggested that Metro should switch to a system of zones to simplify its complex system of fares. What would such a zone system look like, and would it be better for riders?

As it turns out, zones wouldn't simplify things much, and the tradeoffs for Metro and for riders would be steep.


Diagram by Matt Johnson. Click to enlarge.

How it works

Under this system, you would pay based on how many zones you traverse. A trip in just one zone would cost a base fare; each additional zone would cost more.

Fares are based on the number of zones you pass through. You only pay for each zone once. So a trip from East Falls Church (zone 3) to New York Ave (zone 2) through the core would be a 3-zone trip. Zone 2 is counted only once for that trip.

Some stations are on the zone boundary, however. These stations can be counted in either zone, whichever is cheaper for the rider. So a trip from Court House (zone 2) to Rosslyn (zone 1/2) would be a 1-zone trip (all in zone 2).

Zones TraveledPeak FareOff-Peak Fare
1$2.00$1.50
2$2.75$1.50
3$3.50$1.75
4$4.25$2.15
5$5.00$2.50

Any serious proposal needs to be revenue-neutral or revenue-positive to be practical. We drew the zones so that if ridership stayed roughly the same, Metro would not lose any fare revenue over the current system. Different fare values or zone boundaries could produce a different result.

We've eliminated the "peak of the peak" fare. Fares would go back to being either "regular" (peak) or "reduced" (off-peak). But we've set the zone fares so that Metro would earn the same the overall revenue as they do today.

Advantages

A key advantage is that tourists and others unfamiliar with the fare system would be able to buy tickets and passes more easily.

The complicated fare table on all vending machines could be replaced by a zone map and a chart showing the rates to travel in each zone. Passes also become simple. You can buy a one-zone pass for a certain price, a two-zone pass for more, and so on.

Converting to a zone system might simplify transfers between rail and bus. Metro could treat a bus trip as just an additional zone, making the system a little more integrated in terms of fare system. In this case, a bus trip and a one-zone rail trip would be $2.75, and transferring from rail to bus would be an additional $0.75 instead of an extra $1.

For some trips, the fare is a great deal cheaper. For example, trips from the far edge of a zone, through the central core, and out to the far edge of a zone are much cheaper.

One such case is from Benning Road to Ballston, a trip that's currently $4.05. Here, it would be only $2.75, a 30% drop, and the same price as a much shorter trip from Woodley Park to downtown.

Disadvantages

For other trips, the fare increases significantly. A good example of this would be the relatively short trip from West Falls Church to Ballston. A trip that would be $2.45 to Ballston becomes $3.50 under the zone system, and even a trip to Rosslyn currently at $3.05 becomes $3.50.

West Falls Church is the terminal for many Fairfax Connector buses, and it's not a stretch of the imagination to think that a lot of those passengers are bound for office buildings in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

Customers living near these borders would object to any decision to put a zone boundary between them and downtown, and some of these customers facing large increases would abandon riding Metro. Remember that the analysis assumed the same mix of trips in the system as before, which becomes an unlikely assumption once large fare increases come into play.

The fact is, it would be impossible to draw a zone map that allows for a relatively low base fare around $2.00, and a high max fare of $5.00, without either having very expensive zone boundaries or too many zone boundaries. Expensive boundaries raise equity concerns, where a short geographic distance between riders at two adjacent stations turns into a big fare difference.

Large numbers of zone boundary, on the other hand, just mimic the current slow, steady gradient of fares that our current system uses. The former seems unfair, and would create groups of riders that lose out and would know it. The latter would be nearly as complicated as our current system.

Are there ways for Metro to simplify its fares without creating zones? Yes, and an upcoming post will explore some of these alternatives.

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McDonnell trying again to take WMATA seat from NoVA

The Virginia Senate rejected Governor Bob McDonnell's attempt to move control of WMATA down to Richmond, but he's trying again with a budget amendment. Meanwhile, the Maryland Senate didn't act on Governor O'Malley's bill that would have set up some good rules and also some bad ones for appointing Maryland board members.


Photo by jcolman on Flickr.

McDonnell wants state law to give him the right to appoint one of Virginia's voting members to the WMATA Board. But he hasn't shown that he'll act in the best interests of the region if he gets the power.

He basically sat out the Congressional budget continuing resolution, where severe cuts to WMATA were being discussed. For three weeks, he dithered and equivocated on whether he would ask Congressional Republicans to keep the needed capital funding for repairs, while almost every other Northern Virginia official stood up for the funding.

Rather than keep pushing legislative sledgehammer solutions, McDonnell could try to work constructively with Northern Virginia leaders. He could have some of his staff work with them more closely to devise solutions and policies. He could make some recommendations on his own and publicize them, to lead by espousing ideas.

But that's not McDonnell's approach. Instead, he just says, "give me power because I should have it." Northern Virginians have been skeptical of this claim, knowing that McDonnell doesn't consider them his political base and that he has already sought to weight transportation spending away from the Washington region.

Now, he's submitted his list of budget amendments, including one (#50, on page 23) to seize the Board seat. The legislature should reject this budget amendment, as they did the earlier attempts.

Meanwhile, in Maryland, senators paid attention to advocates' concerns about a bill to set criteria for WMATA Board appointments. Transit groups praised provisions that would require appointees to be regular riders and disclose how many meetings they attend, but wanted to strip out rules that elected officials couldn't serve and that set up professional qualifications.

The Senate committee didn't reach consensus on how to fix the bill before "crossover day," the deadline to send bills to the House of Delegates. That makes the bill almost certainly dead for this year. There were some good ideas in there, so Governor O'Malley should resubmit it next year without the objectionable elements.

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Ward 7's Walmart could be walkable and help small business

Walmart's proposed store on East Capitol Street, adjacent to the Capitol Heights Metro station, has many residents excited for its food and other products, but others concerned about its design, which looks a lot like a school and doesn't engage the street.


Rendering of Ward 7 Walmart.

This site, alone among the four Walmart proposals, is public land. The independent DC Housing Authority owns the property. It has an interest in maximizing its profit to be able to create as much affordable housing as possible, but it also has a duty to help the neighborhood become better, to fulfill its mission of "enhancing the quality of life in the District of Columbia."

Why is it important to engage the street, anyway? This site is right around a Metro station, making it an ideal spot for a growing commercial district to serve the neighborhood's retail needs. A Walmart provides a lot of goods, but people also need some specialty goods and a wide range of services.

If the Walmart creates a forbidding pedestrian environment, it will make adjacent spaces less appealing for others to open shops. On the other hand, if its design encourages walking to, from, and around the Walmart, it will make it easy for someone shopping at the Walmart to also run across the street to patronize a beauty shop, specialty retail, or a cafe that complements the Walmart and contributes to a strong commercial district.

A professional urban designer, DC resident, and Walmart stock owner who nevertheless did not want to be named submitted a plan for how Walmart can best encourage small, noncompeting businesses and create a more pleasing design as well. Between the big box store and East Capitol street, it could create a frontage of "incubator space," small storefronts that it can rent to appropriate, DC resident-owned small businesses.

Meanwhile, the eastern half of the site, closest to the Metro, can serve as parking, but should be designed to allow future residential with parking below. This will not only bring more customers to the Walmart but take advantage of the Capitol Heights Metro, just across the street from there, and contribute to a mixed-use district.


Click to enlarge.

With parking under, above and behind the store, and shops oriented to the side, the block would become much more a part of the neighborhood compared to the fairly bland and inactive façade in Walmart's plan.


Click to enlarge.

Would Walmart do this? Since DCHA owns the land, they can attach a variety of conditions to the deal. So can the Zoning Commission, since this property will go through a Planned Unit Development (PUD) process.

Walmart should also be happy to do this. The plan wouldn't take away from Walmart's own store, and would likely even enhance its profitability by bringing more customers to this area to shop at the other businesses.


Walmart Visitor Center. Photo from Walmart.
Plus, it fits in with many of the values Walmart now espouses. The Walmart Visitor Center, located in Sam Walton's original variety store on the Town Square in Bentonville, Arkansas, includes displays on the history of Walmart's growth and Sam Walton's values.

One display describes the Walton International Scholarship Program (WISP) "which was created to promote democracy and free enterprise in Latin America by enabling qualified low-income students to earn a college degree in the United States, learn first-hand about individual initiative and free enterprise, and experience the benefits of living in an open and democratic society. The ultimate goal is for students to return to their countries with the skills and the desire to have a positive impact on the private sector of their nations' economies."

Walmart can start encouraging "individual initiative and free enterprise" right here in the US by designing their Ward 7 store with a small business incubator. It'll be good for DC's economy, good for residents, good for the neighborhood's urban design, and good for Walmart.

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Breakfast links: Follow the rules


Photo by Litandmore on Flickr.
MetroAccess drivers ignore rules, pay rider fares: Since the fare was raised, some MetroAccess drivers have been ignoring a new rule which requires riders to pay before boarding. Many are even paying customers' fares out of their own pocket. (Examiner)

Respect the train of command: WMATA's culture worships the "chain of command." If there's a problem, tell your boss. If they tell their boss and nothing happens, tough; talk to others and you might get slapped. (Metro From the Inside Out)

School news: The Fairfax County School Superintendent is proposing discipline policy changes after a rash of decidedly draconian punishments. ... A DC woman is claiming her son's teacher encouraged him to change his test answers. The WTU is saying any misdeeds likely happened in administrative offices, not classrooms. (WUSA)

Bentonville's Chili Bowl: Harry Thomas, Jr. wants to see Ben's Chili Bowl in every Walmartacross the nation. But since Ben's chili is made by hand each morning, how would that work, exactly? (DCist)

Bike & ped crashes up over decade: With the most recent Street Smart campaign come new data about rising bicycle and pedestrian crashes in the region. Last year there were more than 400 crashes, while in 1999 there were just over 200. (TheWashCycle)

Mobile market to take on food deserts: Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture is converting a school bus into a mobile farmers' market that can serve the region's food deserts. They have a happy hour and fundraiser tonight. (We Love DC)

Keolis can bid on MARC after releasing Nazi information: Keolis America will be allowed to bid on the MARC Brunswick and Camden Lines, after its parent, SNCF, agreed to speed the online digitization of company archives addressing the company's role in transporting people to Nazi death camps. (Baltimore Sun)

Pedestrian guide to the USA: An new infographic gives tips to pedestrians in various cities, including DC, in the form of traffic warning signs. Some are informative, some funny, and some just reinforce harmful stereotypes. (We Love DC)

And...: Metro released its sizable track work schedule for April yesterday, with only one weekend-long closing (TBD) ... The National Women's History Museum may get dibs on a parcel of land just south of the Mall at 12th Street SW (Housing Complex) ... Marion Barry has been driving a car with expired license plates for months, and likely never registered the car or paid the taxes on it. (Post)

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Women: How comfortable do you feel biking?

Of all American cities, DC has one of the highest percentages of its bike commuters who are women, an important sign of bike-friendliness for all genders in any city.


Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

Bike infrastructure can make a difference in enticing commuters to cycle, as can driver behavior and the availability of showers. Some stories suggest drivers may also treat women on bikes better if they're wearing street clothes, feminine helmets, and skirts.

University of Oregon masters student Kory Northrup created this terrific infographic showing statistics about bicycling in various states and major cities:


Image by Kory Northrop via League of American Bicyclists and Streetsblog.

The graphic breaks down the cycling rate between men and women. Tanya Snyder wrote,

The male-female ratio is no trivial factoid. Women are considered an "indicator species" for cycling. When the conditions are right, female cyclists multiply. When urban biking feels like a game of Pole Position, the ladies tend to find other modes.
DC comes out well on gender equality. It has the 8th highest rate of bike commuting overall, but is 3rd best in the percentage of bike commuters who are women, with 38%, just barely edging out Boston. Minneapolis is the most equal, with 45.4% of its bike commuters women, and Portland, the #1 city for biking overall, is second with 39.1%.

What else affects women's comfort level riding? Chicago cyclist Dottie wrote about her experience with the "Mary Poppins Effect." Basically, drivers seem to be more deferential to people riding bikes if they're women, riding upright, and wearing street clothes.

Dottie also observed that an important element for getting this deference is either not wearing a helmet or wearing a brightly colored feminine-looking helmet with hearts or flowers. Most fascinatingly, her experience is that one of the biggest factors is whether the rider is wearing a skirt:

Typically I wear a dress or skirt, but today I wore a navy pinstripe pantsuit with a ankle strap on my left leg. Everything else was the same: I rode an upright Danish bike, wore a helmet covered with red hearts and rode with my typical calm assertiveness, but luxury SUV after luxury SUV after car passed me too closely. The effect was decidedly non-Mary Poppins.
This would be a great topic for a more scientific study. Meanwhile, it would be best if drivers treated all cyclists with respect and care, both men and women, regardless of how much leg is visible.

If you're a woman who bikes, have you noticed more deference from drivers at some times versus others? What are the biggest obstacles to more women (and men) feeling comfortable biking?

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Bar owners worry about Metro late-night service cuts

The Calvert Street Bridge is the only connection between Adams Morgan and the closest Metro station, Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan. It's not unusual to see a steady stream of pedestrians crossing the bridge on weekends. But that may change if Metro cuts late-night service.


18th and Columbia Streets, NW. Photo by the author.

Throughout the debate over whether or not Metro should cut the service for financial reasons, owners and managers at bars, clubs, and lounges in DC and beyond have been concerned about what impact such a change would have on their businesses and way of life in the region.

Matt Cronin is the owner of The District on 18th Street NW, dubbed one of the city's "hottest" nightclubs. He is one of dozens of Adams Morgan business owners furious about the proposal.

Cronin worries that lost tax revenue to the city will exceed the amount WMATA will save if service is cut. "I want to see the numbers make sense," he said. He predicts his business will probably drop 20% on Fridays and Saturdays, and that a number of the city's establishments will go under. "The whole District will be damaged by it," he worries.

Cronin predicts such a dramatic loss because weekend parking in Adams Morgan is already at critical mass, and there will be no method of transportation to replace Metro. "It's a horrible parking situation," he laments, "We do a valet, but the valet fills up."

The Woodley Park station, about a half-mile away from one of the top club districts on the East Coast, is one of the most utilized Metro stations between midnight and 3 am. Cronin also expressed concerns over drunk drivers, and taxi shortages plaguing Adams Morgan come last call. "This is the capital of the free world, and to have a Metro that doesn't run past midnight is just embarrassing."

Just outside the District, the concerns about cutting Metro's late-night service are not tied to losing business. At Union Jack's in Ballston, operations manager Anthony Murphy actually believes business will increase if the changes take effect. (Full disclosure: I am a former bouncer at Union Jack's in Bethesda and Anthony Murphy is my brother.).


Union Jack's. Photo by the author.
Union Jack's has locations adjacent to both the Ballston and Bethesda Metro stations; despite this, Murphy states that "people will not Metro into the city, instead staying the the suburban area closer to their homes." At both locations, you walk past a parking garage to get to the Metro station.

Even with the potential for more business, there are concerns about the changes. Murphy worries about drunk driving. "If a bar can be held accountable for a drunk guy getting behind the wheel of a car, then the Metro should also be held accountable if they make this change."

Union Jack's will also likely close their kitchens earlier. "Many of our back-of-the-house employees depend on Metro to get home," Murphy said, "This change could create a lot of unemployment in the industry." Murphy's wife, Paige, also relies on Metro to get to her job as a bartender at the Chesapeake Room on Barracks Row near the Eastern Market Metro station.

The increase in business, it seems, is just not worth the added liabilities. "Metro should do a bake sale or a car wash or whatever they have to do to get the funds to not keep the Metro from shutting down earlier, but also maybe have it stay open later," said Murphy, calling the service cuts an "irresponsible move."

Indeed, bar owners throughout the city are weary. If the late-night service cuts happen, it could mean drastic changes in revenue, increased liability issues, and difficulty for employees getting to and from work.

In the meantime, Metro will continue to serve tens of thousands of customers during weekend late nights. And for hundreds of gussied up bar patrons, the late night parade across the Calvert Street Bridge will remain a staple of the Adams Morgan night life experience.

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Wheaton town square will stay public, emulate Bethesda

A parking lot in downtown Wheaton will soon be transformed into a town square. Not only will it make the area more walkable and vibrant, but Montgomery County officials say it will belong to the public and emulate many elements of the successful Bethesda Row.


Parking Lot 13 in Wheaton. Photo by the author.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about concerns that the new square on what's now Parking Lot 13 would not be owned by Montgomery County, which raises some serious issues about the public's right to public space.

In contrast, Montgomery County leased downtown Silver Spring's Ellsworth Drive to a private developer. After private guards hassled photographers taking pictures on Ellsworth, County Executive Ike Leggett clarified that it is a "public forum" allowing free expression and photography.

I reached out to my former employer, Councilmember George Leventhal, who in turn asked David Dise, director of the county's Department of General Services. Dise is responsible for managing property within the county, from new libraries to public open spaces like Veterans Plaza in downtown Silver Spring. He sent this response:

There are no plans for private ownership of the Wheaton town square similar to that in Silver Spring. Plans will include active public space including a Bethesda Row type setting as well as lawn and plaza space. The intent is to plan for continued use of this area for highly successful events like Taste of Wheaton but also permit more programming as this becomes a more planned and versatile space.
Though the county has given local developer B.F. Saul the rights to redevelop much of downtown Wheaton, it's a relief to know that they will own and maintain the area's most significant public space.


Elm Street in Bethesda Row. Photo by the author.
Nonetheless, those who fear that revitalization will threaten Wheaton's character might jump at seeing a county official say they want to create a "Bethesda Row type setting" there.

Does that mean East County will get its very first Apple Store? Probably not. It's more likely that Dise is interested in the urbanism of Bethesda Row: buildings close to the street, wide sidewalks with benches and dining tables, lots of activity throughout the day, and a mix of homes, offices and shops. That's a precedent worth repeating in Wheaton.

Ten years of discussion on revitalizing Wheaton has revealed a consensus for building up in the downtown while making the area more attractive. Residents are unhappy with the quality of recent development in the town center, but equally nervous about what redevelopment has done to Silver Spring or Bethesda.

By ensuring that Wheaton's town square is a public space, it appears that Montgomery County officials are listening to what the community wants. But it won't be until B.F. Saul presents their plans for the area that we know we've avoided past mistakes.

Between Silver Spring's Veterans Plaza, and a new square for Wheaton, you wonder if people in Bethesda are green with envy. After all, the closest thing they have to a town square is the fountain outside Barnes & Noble.

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Breakfast links: Raising the charge


Photo by soukup on Flickr.
DC residents want tax hike: The results of DC's budget survey have been released. District residents (those who replied, at least) overwhelmingly do want to raise taxes to balance the budget. Will this be part of the Mayor's proposal, due out Friday?

Bethesda could charge for Saturday parking: Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett wants to start charging for parking at municipal lots in downtown Bethesda. Some businesses worry it will drive off business, while others realize it will drive parking turnover, increasing the number of customers. (WAMU)

Taxi surcharge needn't be so narrow: A regional body says the DC Taxi Commission had no reason to exempt cab trips ending outside DC from the $1 fuel surcharge. (WBJ) ... Could this now be just another reason for drivers to discriminate against certain trips? Update: The surcharge has been extended to interstate trips.

Alexandria wants green space from DoD: Since the Department of Defense took over the Mark Center, it replaced most of the open space in the development's original plan with parking garages and an inspection facility. Now Alexandria wants DOD to compensate the city for that loss of public space. (Examiner)

Howard County to improve Rt 1: Residents and planners in Howard County want to improve bike and pedestrian facilities in the county, particularly within Columbia and eventually on Route 1, which currently has no sidewalks at all. (Elkridge, MD Patch)

Mapping DC's public art: A new venture, theartaround.us, is crowdsourcing a map of the District's publicly accessible art installations, from Smithsonian galleries to side-of-building murals. (Housing Complex) ... What about temporary art like this? (14th & You)

Rhee defends test scores: Former DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee defended the test scores of students at Noyes Elementary School after a USA Today report questioned the voracity veracity of the school's jumps in achievement scores. (WUSA)

Bikesharing hot in hot places: Tel Aviv, Israel and Doha, Qatar have recently added bike sharing programs. (The Bike-sharing Blog) ... Miami Beach opened its new DecoBike system, which is priced in a conspicuously different fashion from CaBi. (The Independent)

And...: Vehicles belonging to some members of Congress owe $15,000 in outstanding DC traffic fines (WUSA) ... Justice Antonin Scalia got a ticket for rear-ending a car on the GW Parkway (Post) ... Amtrak will begin tweeting delays of more than 60 minutes on the Northeast Corridor (Baltimore Sun) ... Strict zoning laws prohibit food trucks from operating in Alexandria. (Examiner)

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Fairfax Silver Line names are boring and repetitive

Fairfax County's Board of Supervisors has proposed station names for the Silver Line. But the names are really dull, so they won't help define neighborhoods, and so repetitive they won't help riders find their stop.


Photo by fairfaxcounty on Flickr.

The Silver Line will bring 9 8 new Metro stations to Fairfax County. With 5 of those scheduled to open in 2013 and Metro working to create a new map, Fairfax needed to suggest some station names to WMATA.

Unfortunately, their suggestions are mostly bland and unimaginative, and are unlikely to be lend their names to the neighborhoods the line will help to transform. While the WMATA Board has yet to approve these names, they rarely overrule station naming suggestions from one of their jurisdictions.

Working nameFairfax proposal
Tysons EastTysons-McLean
Tysons Central 123Tysons I&II
Tysons Central 7Tysons Central
Tysons WestTysons-Spring Hill Road
Wiehle AvenueReston-Wiehle Avenue
Reston ParkwayReston Town Center
Herndon-MonroeHerndon-Reston West
Route 28Herndon-Dulles East

The original working names were just placeholders while the line was being designed. They were never intended to become permanent. But Fairfax's proposal is arguably worse than the placeholders. 8 stations all start with the same 3 words, and there's little suggesting any kind of sense of place for these areas.

If we'd used Fairfax's logic in the past, we'd have ended up with something like this:


Click to enlarge.

It's understandable that Fairfax wants to keep neighborhoods in station names. But places like Tysons and Reston are larger than neighborhoodsthey're more like districts. Tysons itself is larger geographically than downtown DC. Breaking up the Tysons "brand" would help the transforming neighborhoods in Virginia's largest employment center to define themselves.

And Metro has a history of creating names where they didn't exist before or at least raising the name-recognition of pre-existing neighborhoods. If Fairfax was truly forward thinking on Tysons, they'd use the Silver Line station names to define unique neighborhoods.

Of course, Metro must also consider wayfinding in the system. That's seemingly not a big concern for Fairfax. There's very little repetition in current station naming. Farragut North and Farragut West, originally intended to be one station, both refer to a small square in downtown Washington and are on separate lines. In Arlington, Pentagon and Pentagon City are adjacent stops on the Blue and Yellow Lines.

But Fairfax's proposal would mean that 4 consecutive stops would start with "Tysons" and the next 3 would include "Reston". "Herndon" and "Dulles" would each find their way into 2 station names.

The repetitive station names will not only be confusing. They'll also be misleading. Tysons-McLean is not really in McLean. It just happens to be the closest station to McLean. And the name-chaining makes it sound like most of these stations are in between places, rather than the center of anything.

That's not helpful for the developers and planners hoping to build communities around these new stops. Is Herndon-Reston West in Herndon or Reston? Surely there's a neighborhood name that could be appropriated. Even something like "Monroe Street" would be superior.

Also troubling is the inclusion of Roman numerals in one station name. That does not bode well for ease of understanding or readability. As it is, people get confused with "Gallery Pl" which looks like "Gallery PI" in Metro's sans-serif font.

Each Metro station name should be short and as unique as possible. While Fairfax's names aren't so bad on length, their similarity and lack of creativity are just as bad for riders.

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