Sidewalks, assured: DDOT and Mary Cheh are holding firm on sidewalks (large annoying PDF), so far, on University Terrace in the Palisades. One anti-sidewalk resident told the Current that DDOT was pointing the finger at Mary Cheh; Cheh denies that, but she also agrees the street should get a sidewalk. The reconstruction, including a sidewalk on one side, should start next week. (Current)
Don't drive? You must not live here: The DC Office of Tax and Revenue is asking some homeowners to prove they deserve the homestead deduction, by providing four forms of ID including a drivers' license (large annoying PDF). Residents noted that this discriminates against those without drivers' licenses. OTR says they will work with people to find alternatives, but they should offer an alternative up front, instead.
These go to Elevenleytown:Two development projects will make the Tenleytown Metro area look less forlorn. Safeway will renovate its store in the area, and a vacant lot will become a one-story building. (DCmud) Some neighbors told the Current (large annoying PDF) that they're hopeful that one-story structure can turn into something bigger and better in the future.
Tall TOD at PG Plaza?: Developers are proposing a 33-story mixed-use tower, some 17-story apartment buildings, and some four-story townhouses for a site right near the Prince George's Plaza Metro station. Some residents and nearby elected officials say the plan will displace low-income families and that they don't want to live in an area that looks like Bethesda. The County should ensure affordable housing in the plan, but another Bethesda would be great for Prince George's. (Gazette)
Days since last injury: 1: Two Metro employees were injured Wednesday in the West Falls Church yard when two train cars collided. The workers were taken to a nearby hospital but will survive. (DCist)
Metro keeping its escalators: WMATA considered replacing some shorter escalators with stairs as a cost-cutting measure in 2006. They identified 23 places where one of three escalators could go, leaving one in each direction. However, the Board rejected the plan. (Unsuck DC Metro)
Besides wanting to find out if they could get money from their data, Metro's other stated reason for not working partnering Google was the quality and availability of Metro's own trip planner. Sometimes, though, the trip planner gives bizarre results, even including riding a bus in a circle for an hour.
WMATA trip planner.
Most of the time, when I use the trip planner for rail trips, the results are fairly accurate. The interface is clunky but improving, and it seems to assume an unreasonably long time to make a transfer. This is probably a design decision to ensure that even the slowest-moving customers can catch their train.
But I recently was invited out to dinner at a restaurant at Fairfax Corner, out in the Fair Oaks area (see map). Using the Metro trip planner gave some interesting results, to say the least. If you'd like to try this, the search was from "Eastern Market" to "4250 Fairfax Corner Ave [Fairfax, VA]" leaving at 4:20pm on a workday. These were the trip planner's suggestions:
Take the Orange line to Vienna, wait 28 minutes to take the 623 past the restaurant (there's a stop about 0.3 miles from the restaurant), then get off at a park and ride and wait 24 minutes for the 605 going back the way you came, stopping at the restaurant you passed. Total time: 1:59.
Take the Orange line to West Falls Church, wait a few minutes and take the 505 to Reston, then wait 49 minutes to transfer to the 605 to the restaurant. Total time: 2:50.
(This is the really funny one) Take the Orange line to Vienna, wait 9 minutes to take the CUE-GOLD bus in a closed loop, arriving back at Vienna, then wait 57 minutes to take the 621 to the restaurant. Total time: 3:03, of which almost two hours is pure waste. It might as well have said, "Go to the Ugly Mug and drink for an hour and a half, then take the Orange line."
I looked into how stable this trip was, by varying the start time. Earlier departures resulted in earlier closed-loop rides on the CUE bus system, until the trip planner stopped providing that helpful suggestion (it only gave two options at that point). Later trips shifted to suggesting that instead of continuing on the Orange line to Vienna, I should get off at East Falls Church and take a bus (the 2) to Vienna (which takes 50 minutes instead of 10).
The real solution, after studying Fairfax Connector's bus map (large PDF), three bus schedules and calling the customer service phone number, is to take itinerary #1, get off a little beyond the restaurant and walk back along the route. It's less than a half mile and I'm in fair shape. That takes about an hour and a half.
Of course, it's not a given that Google would do any better. But Google has the incentive and resources to get their trip planner right. They're serving trip planner results for most of the country now, and problems with their search algorithm would affect many more riders than just Metro. Plus, with two trip planner choices, riders could use the better one. Maybe that'd be Metro's.
Others were able to point out very strange results from the planner, such as the suggestion to take a bus, Green line and Yellow line trains from "Greenbelt Center SC" to Huntington Metro station. The routing was correct, but it took over 7 hours for the train to get from Greenbelt to Fort Totten, and over an hour to get from Fort Totten to Huntington (This showed up on a search on 8/17/2009).
What's the strangest thing you've seen? Is the trip planner helpful? Please share your funny and/or strange trip planner results in the comments. Update by David: Metro officials in charge of the Web site have expressed interest in getting more feedback on times the trip planner falls short or other ways to improve it. We'll forward your useful bug reports and suggestions to them.
Silver Spring or Colesville? North Bethesda or White Flint? With large swaths of unincorporated land and few official place names in some densely populated areas, Montgomery County residents frequently debate what, exactly, to call their homes. That's becoming especially important as areas that were once just part of larger commercial strips, like White Flint, develop their own identities.
Growing up, numerous cousins and summer camp friends hailed from Montgomery County. I often wondered why they all seemed to live in four towns: Bethesda, Rockville, Chevy Chase, and Silver Spring (and at that time, mostly not Silver Spring). The answer is that as far as the U.S. Postal Service is concerned, the bulk of Montgomery County's population is is in a place with one of those four names. The USPS was remarkably uncreative when naming postal areas in Montgomery County.
Despite a number of historic town names like Cloverly, Colesville, and Norbeck, seven whole ZIP codes stretching 13 miles from the DC line bear the name "Silver Spring." And, as Dan Reed explains, many people who live there—or even outside of there—still say they live in "Silver Spring." Matt Johnson once made a humorous Metro map poking fun at this.
Above: Matt's humorous Metro map renaming most Montgomery stations "Bethesda" or "Silver Spring."
Left: ZIP codes designated "Silver Spring, MD" (20901, 20902, 20903, 20904, 20905, 20906, and 20910).
But which is the chicken, and which the egg? Many people have started to call the neighborhood around Van Ness Metro "Van Ness"; do folks in eastern Montgomery County say they live in Silver Spring because the USPS says they do, or did the USPS name all of those areas Silver Spring because that's what the residents called it?
At a recent gathering, Dan and I discussed the topic of fluid place names. I pointed out the San Francisco Neighborhood Project, which used Craigslist listings to identify neighborhood boundaries. Many listings contain a neighborhood name and a precise street intersection, allowing the Neighborhood Project to map those and try to determine where, exactly, the Mission turns into Noe Valley. Dan was inspired to make his own Craigslist-based map of Silver Spring.
Left: The Neighborhood Project map of San Francisco. Right: Dan Reed's map of "Silver Spring" listings.
The area between Bethesda and Rockville, too, lies in a nomenclature no-man's land. Rockville is an incorporated city with actual city limits, but the Postal Service designates addresses as "Rockville" even 7 miles northeast of the city limits. The area around Grosvenor, White Flint, and Twinbrook Metros was once "Rockville," but at some point in the last 20 years the Postal Service and many residents started calling it "North Bethesda." Realtors embraced the name early, wanting to associate with trendy Bethesda instead of less hip Rockville.
North Bethesda is an official Census Designated Place, though it too is pretty big. Does the walkable center deserve its own name? And as the Friends of White Flint point out, the North Bethesda CDP spans ZIP codes the USPS calls Kensington and Garrett Park, both also incorporated places of their own.
The Gazette reviews the debate about what to call the area. Will people follow the Van Ness pattern and name the neighborhood White Flint, after the Metro station which was itself named for a mall? If plans continue, one day there will be no White Flint Mall, but the name may live on.
Let 'em walk?: Many of today's parents grew up walking to school, but won't let their kids do the same. Is that keeping kids safer, or just keeping them more isolated? A new book says parents "have gone overboard with anxiety." (Philadelphia Inquirer, Stephen Miller)
Laurel walking ahead: The Laurel government has created a blog to regularly post updates on pedestrian improvements across the city. This will eventually become part of a new city Web site, but shows the value of just telling residents about projects even without waiting for a fancy, long-term solution. (WalkLaurel)
RT seen my bike?: Bike owners are turning to Facebook, Twitter, and specialized Web sites to find stolen bikes. Often fellow cyclists spot the bike on the street or on Craigslist, and the local police can make an arrest. (WSJ, Matt')
Two bicycle fatalities in Virginia: A driver killed a cyclist in a hit-and-run in Gainesville. He was on Lee Highway's paved shoulder at the time. Another bicyclist died in a crash in Rockingham County. WHSV 3 has no problem writing "the driver hit the bicyclist." (TheWashCycle, WHSV 3)
CNN aired graphic video: CNN producers must agree that texting while driving is really serious, as they actually aired that graphic Welsh PSA which shows teenage girls and a family dying in a car crash. Robert Sinclair of the Automobile Club of New York (AAA's local affiliate) told CNN, "For the average person in our country, in the course of their day-to-day existence, there's nothing more dangerous than riding in, or operating, a motor vehicle."
'Accident' out at NY AAA: In the CNN interview, Sinclair also agreed that 'accident' isn't the appropriate language. "We don't say 'accidents' any more, because it implies some measure of fate, and all these things are preventable ... The #1 cause of death for someone aged birth to 44 years is a car crash," he said. Lon?
MoCo plans on Kojo: Today's Nnamdi and Lewis Show discusses Montgomery County's major development plans, White Flint (good) and Gaithersburg West (bad). Will Lewis see through the holes in one of the two plans? Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson will also participate. It starts just after noon. (WAMU)
No parking including city employees: DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services employees regularly park personal vehicles in front of a hydrant near their offices at T and Vermont, NW. Officials were belligerent when a neighbor complained, despite a FEMS policy that employees have to park legally. There's a Metro station just across the street. (City Paper)
Enforcing on the enforcers: A Prince of Petworth reader got a picture of a parking enforcement car being towed. Was parking enforcement parking illegally, or did the car just break down? Probably the latter.
Parking tickets aren't taxes: A Philadelphia columnist calls parking tickets a "curb tax." A tax professor reminds people that fines and user fees aren't taxes, and explains the wisdom of pricing parking to reflect the market. (Philadelphia Inquirer, Mauled Again) ... Relatedly, @RegBazile tweeted, "Want to protest parking enforcement? Obey the rules. Zero ticket revenue for government! That'll teach 'em!" (Abbreviations removed).
Pay to valet: From the "news I meant to write about in more detail but didn't" file: DC has implemented new valet parking regulations requiring businesses to pay (50 cents per hour) to reserve street space as valet staging zones. (Post, Michael P)
Krugman looks where Samuelson doesn't:Ryan Avent, Matt Yglesias, and others have been beating up on Robert Samuelson all week for essentially comparing the average population density of the entire U.S. to Europe's, and concluding high-speed rail is therefore impractical. The fallacy: most people don't live in Montana. Paul Krugman looks more intelligently at Census data and finds that about ¼ of the population lives in areas as dense as his home near Princeton, where trains are a major form of transportation, and where European-style HSR could be quite successful. And that doesn't even consider the future land use potential of HSR. (Times, Cavan)
What's really inefficient is freeway building: Saint Louis Urban Workshop modifies Samuelson's op-ed to replace "high-speed rail" with "endless highway and road building." All of a sudden the arguments make more sense. (Via @NewUrbanism)
If you're happy and you know it ride the train: VRE riders are "somewhat happier" with their service, with 75% of riders giving the service an A or a B, up from 71% last year. On-time performance has improved, too, though some of that came from fixing schedules to allow more time when trains were regularly late. (Examiner)
Monday, we looked at the designs of Metro's underground stations and their signature vaults. The above-ground stations cannot have the large vaults, but Metro's designers took steps to maintain architectural continuity.
Gull Wing I: In order to maintain the connectivity of the architectural elements of the system, the surface and elevated stations had a vault-like roof consisting of sweeping concrete 'wings.' I refer to this design as the Gull Wing I design. It is characteristic of the older outdoor stations.
The first Gull Wing I station opened on opening day in 1976, Rhode Island Avenue. The most recent station to receive this motif was the lower level of Fort Totten, which was not constructed at the same time as the Red Level, but in 1993, with the opening of the Line to Greenbelt.
All but two Gull Wing I stations have island platforms (platform is between the tracks). National Airport actually has two island Gull Wing I canopies separated by a center track. Cheverly and Eisenhower Avenue have side platforms, but still have the Gull Wing I roofs in a modified design. At National Airport, a canopy extension in the early 2000s did not keep the same style, so the station also features a unique design.
Gull Wing I designs can be found at 15 stations:
1976 – Rhode Island Avenue
1977 – National Airport* - (canopy extension installed in early 2000s does not match)
1978 – Brookland, Fort Totten (upper level), Takoma, Silver Spring, Minnesota Avenue, Deanwood, Cheverly, Landover, New Carrollton
1983 – Eisenhower Avenue
1984 – Twinbrook, Shady Grove
1991 – Van Dorn Street
1993 – Fort Totten (lower level, partial coverage)
Rhode Island Ave
Peaked Roof I: The next design, Peaked Roof I, is found at 2 stations only: Braddock Road and King Street in Alexandria, on the Blue and Yellow Lines. The Peaked Roof I design consists of a steeply sloped roof with skylights in the center.
Peaked Roof I appeared in 1983 with the opening of the Yellow Line extension to Alexandria. It's interesting to note that when King Street's canopy was extended a few years ago, the same architectural style was maintained, but a gap was left above King Street itself so as not to impede the view of the George Washington Masonic Tower.
Peaked Roof II: A more common design, Peaked Roof II can be found at many surface stations. It consists of a flat roof over the platform with a section of clear skylights forming a peak in the center (along a line parallel to the tracks).
This style was introduced with Grosvenor in 1984. Except for Van Dorn Street and the lower level of Fort Totten, it was the style of choice for the remainder of the Adopted Regional (103 mile) System, completed in 2001 with the extension to Branch Avenue.
Unlike Gull Wing I, there are no side platform stations with a Peaked II roof. West Falls Church has a modified design because of the third track in the center of the station. However, unlike National Airport, it does not have separate canopies, instead having one canopy stretching across all three tracks. The peaked Plexiglas panels run parallel to the tracks over both platforms.
Peaked Roof II can be found at 15 stations:
1980 – Addison Road
1984 – Grosvenor, White Flint, Rockville
1986 – East Falls Church, West Falls Church*, Dunn Loring, Vienna
Gull Wing II: The newest design for the Metro returns to the gull-wing style, but differs greatly in many aspects from earlier designs. There are notable differences in color, materials, and motif elements. These stations are all of those constructed beyond the original system (which was completed in January of 2001). This design can be found at only 3 stations: New York Avenue on the Red Line and Morgan Boulevard and Largo Town Center on the Blue Line. All three of these stations opened in 2004.
New York Avenue
Unique Designs: Several stations differ from these basic designs. They are worthy of mention because of their nonconformity. There are 5 unique stations in the system out of 86 stations total.
1977 – Arlington Cemetery (Blue)
1983 - Huntington (Yellow)
1991 – Anacostia (Green)
1993 – West Hyattsville, Prince George's Plaza (Green)
Prince George's Plaza
Future Stations: The Silver Line, which will run from Stadium-Armory to Wiehle Avenue in Reston, will add at least one new architectural type to the system.
Next: Metro's design motifs include more than just the roofs over each station. Pylons, tiles, canopies and more round out Metro's ditinctive appearance.
Note: The nomenclature (Peaked Roof, etc.) for this post comes from Washington's page at World.NYCSubway.org.
In the 1950s, many center cities were in decline, crime-ridden, smelly, and crowded. Meanwhile, suburbs were new, shiny, and full of promise. Civic leaders very seriously believed that ripping out most of the old downtowns and replacing them with tall towers surrounding by parking would actually improve the quality of life in the city. This 1955 video from Pittsburgh extols leaders' wisdom in knocking down most of an older warehouse district, putting up giant freeway interchanges and some office towers in its place.
The irony of this video (and, I must say, the supposed congestion horror depicted here looks pretty tame) is that just about everything that's proposed here is the sort of thing that, half a century later, would be seen as a nightmare from which cities were trying to awake. ...
It's hard not to see Le Corb and Broadacre City all over that image of the tall tower, surrounded by acres of parking — my initial thought was, where would you go for lunch? It's the sort of mundane question the motopians never paused much to consider as they drafted their gleaming tomorrows.
This article summarizes the successes and failures of Pittsburgh's far-reaching mid-century urban renewal program. At the Point, the subject of the video, the clearing did bring some immediate benefits, drawing more jobs into the area than were there before. However, we can't know how much more vibrant that district might be today had the warehouses been preserved. Nearby, planners demolished the Lower Hill residential area largely because the immigrant families populating it had less political power to stop it.
The population of the Lower Hill dropped from 17,334 in 1950 to 2,459 in 1990. People forced to leave the integrated area moved mainly to neighborhoods that reflected their own race, thus worsening the city's segregation problem. By 1960, Pittsburgh was one of the most segregated big cities in America. ...
A 1968 editorial in The Pittsburgh Press read, "The men of the Renaissance have been unable to produce anything but a crop of weeds on 9.2 acres of prime public land next to the Civic Arena." The land remains a parking lot today.
Ironically, while today we talk about "human scale" in terms of smaller plazas that work for people, detail on buildings, ground-floor articulation, and other elements of a more walkable urban place, the advocates of urban renewal also used the same phrase. According to the Post-Gazette, Fortune Magazine said in the 1950s, "Pittsburgh is the test of industrialism everywhere to renew itself, to rebuild upon the gritty ruins of the past a society more equitable, more spacious, more in human scale."
At that time, planners thought that auto-dependent freeway cloverleafs were more "human" than historic downtowns.
GreaterGreaterWashington: Welcome to our live chat with Ron Carlee. Ron has been Arlington County Manager since 2001, but will soon be moving on to a job with ICMA, the association of local government leaders.
GreaterGreaterWashington: We will be starting at noon. In the meantime, feel free to settle in and enter your questions into the queue for Ron.
Ron Carlee: Thank you for letting me join you today. While I've had the honor of being County Manager since 2001, I've been in Arlington since 1980. I've seen it become a great community—and I look forward to its becoming an even greater community in the next generation. When I started work here in 1980, I lived in DC and took the Arlington job only because I need the work. Now it is home and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
David Alpert: So glad to have you with us, Ron.
David Alpert: Michael Perkins is on his way, but told us he might be late as he was just getting out of a work meeting. I'll moderate in the meantime.
David Alpert: If you're ready, we can get started a few minutes early.
Ron Carlee: I'm ready any time. Looks like a lot of good questions coming in.
David Alpert: Great. Let's start with something light. Commeter Juanita de Talmas noted that your picture looks a lot like Grover Norquist's. Have you ever met Mr. Norquist, and do you look anything alike in person?
Ron Carlee: First time this has been suggested. If he is my long lost twin, I got different political genes. A few years ago I got a picture of an award winning dog named Carlee. I thought it was a more flattering comparison
David Alpert: Thanks. Now on to actual serious topics.
Michael Perkins: I'm here and just got in.
Michael Perkins: Go ahead with the next question, David.
David Alpert: This morning's breakfast links on Greater Greater Washington had some discussion about how in the past, most families had boarders and/or more children, meaning our single-family houses contained more people. Today, families are smaller, and in fact zoning rules in many places prohibit renting a room to an unrelated person.
David Alpert: David Kinney has a question about that:
[Comment From David Kinney] Are there any plans to make the Accessory Dwelling Permit (AD Permit) or Family/Caregiver Suite Permit (F/CS Permit) process easier? Looking at Arlington County's own explanation the process seems too restrictive while placing a large burden on the home-owning Arlingtonian. A little less bureaucracy here could go a long way towards helping both current Arlington residents and those people who might want to become residents but are currently priced out of the living in Arlington.
Ron Carlee: Last year we adopted a new ordinance that expanded the program after a long community process. There are still a number of restrictions. The tension is around preserving the character of single-family zoning districts. One of the reasons Arlington has been so successful in transforming itself into an urban community has been preserving what people cherish about the single-family neighborhoods.
David Alpert: Now that Michael is here, I'll let him take over. In addition to being our regular chat host, he lives in Arlington! Over to you, Michael.
Michael Perkins: That's a point that comes up a lot on GGW, actually. What has Arlington done to help out with preserving single family neighborhoods?
Michael Perkins: Thanks, David.
Michael Perkins: Another good question would be, how could the process Arlington uses for community input, etc, be adapted for use in other communities like the District?
Ron Carlee: Single family neighborhoods have changed very little over the past quarter century—except for the increased values of single family homes. One of the major principles of the General Land Use Plan has been from the beginning to preserve single family and concentrate development on the corridors. This enables Arlington to have a wide range of housing products to attract a diverse population.
Michael Perkins: Would you see this aspect of the GLUP changing if Arlington were to become increasingly "built out" over time? For example, could some of the closer-in single family home neighborhoods become rowhouses or town houses over time?
Ron Carlee: Public process is a double-edged sword. It definitely slows the process and makes development very complicated. At the same time, when a community is changing as dramatically as Arlington did, the public process has been essential in maintaining public support. It's not been perfect and some people miss the old Clarendon. By and large, however, people feel that they've had a strong voice in creating today's Arlington.
Ron Carlee: Regarding the GLUP, I don't see single family zones changing much. There remains much redevelopment capacity within the Metro corridors. The Columbia Pike plan, also, offers tremendous opportunties. We're currently re-planning East Falls Church and in the next decade Lee Hwy corridor will be replanning. --All of this can be done without impacting single family neighborhoods and provide more efficient, compact transit oriented development.
Michael Perkins: Thanks. I have a question about the various stakeholders in planning
[Comment From Michael Perkins ] Is Arlington's success in urban planning and smart growth attributable to leadership from the board, bright staff members that understood this trend, working with the community or a combination of these?
Ron Carlee: It takes everyone, including patient and enlightened developers. The key is starting the a plan and sticking to it over time. Be sure to check out our Smart Growth video, accessble on our web site for a good history of what was done in the 1960's to create the vision.
Michael Perkins: Here's a question about the pace of development. Obviously it's a bad time for the economy. . .
Michael Perkins: Right now the client is frozen, but the gist is what can we do to speed up the pace of development in Arlington?
Michael Perkins: From Gavin Baker: "What, if anything, can be done to speed up the pace of dense, walkable development in Arlington? I live between Rosslyn and Courthouse, near a big empty field (a planned mid-rise condo building, scheduled for delivery in "2011+"). It's across the street from another empty field, which will be a mid-rise office/retail and road extension. I'm sure it'll be nice when it's all done, but that will take several more years, and in the meantime it's not very lively. How do we speed things along? How can we make vacant lots more inviting while they're awaiting redevelopment?"
Ron Carlee: It's actually ok that we've had a chance to catch our breath. During the boom, we virtually built out Clarendon, Shirlington, and Potomac Yard all at the same time. We already have a number of site plans approved and ready for implementation when the market improves. Furthermore, other site plans are in the queue for approval. Meanwhile, we're working on plan updates in Crystal City, East Falls Church, Four Mile Run, and Rosslyn.
Ron Carlee: As an addendum, we have projects currently under construction or soon to be in Clarendon, Ballston, Columbia Pike, East Falls Church, Potomac Yards, and Shirlington. The crane is still the county bird.
Michael Perkins: Alright, HOT Lanes. Let's talk about Arlington's recent lawsuit.
[Comment From David Kinney] How involved are you in Arlington's recent decision to sue over the proposed HOT lanes? What can you tell us about that issue and why Arlington decided to go forward with the lawsuit now? What is Arlington County trying to accomplish with the lawsuit?
Ron Carlee: Background on the suit is on our web site. Basically, the planning has not been adequate and risks creating more congestion than relieving it. HOTLANES are mostly about moving more single occupancy vehicles, which is the wrong approach. Since the lanes terminate in Arlington, we concluded that we had no choice but to go to the courts as a vehicle (no pun intended) to address the impacts.
Michael Perkins: How about expanding transit? I had a question about the ART bus service, but it applies to Arlington's non-regional Metrobus service as well. . .
[Comment From Michael Perkins] How is Arlington looking to expand ART service, either in span,
frequency or routes?
Ron Carlee: We have a three year plan to steady expand ART and are working on a 5 year plan. It has already quickly grown from a small shuttle service to a real transit system. Economic conditions will challenge expansion plans, so we'll have to invest smartly. What we know for sure is that if we provide it, Arlingtonians will use it.
Michael Perkins: Where is that plan located?
Michael Perkins: How can an enthusiastic Arlingtonian get involved with that planning process?
Ron Carlee: The three year plan will go to the County Board in September for adoption. It will be posted on the web as part of the agenda and then be available thereafter.
Michael Perkins: Is there a draft available anywhere at this point? These kinds of things usually go through the Transpo. Commission and the Planning Commission, right?
Ron Carlee: The guidance was adopted by the County Board as part of the FY 2010 budget. The report is being drafted at this time.
Michael Perkins: ok. Arlington's working on pieces of a "Master Transportation Plan". What's the purpose of this document?
Ron Carlee: The MTP is the central policy document on transportation. I urge people interested in the subject to review it on our web site. It also contains the following more detailed elements that have been adopted: Demand & System Management, Transit, Pedestrian, and Bike. We are working on these additional ones: Parking & Curb Space Management, and Street element
Ron Carlee: P.S. Note that there is no Car Element.
Michael Perkins: These documents will be considered the official policy for Arlington when making design decisions going into the future?
Ron Carlee: Yes. They are officially adopted by the County Board as part of the Comprehensive Plan.
Michael Perkins: So they're more than merely advisory? If, for example the Parking element says that the county will use variable parking pricing on-street, then that's what staff will implement?
Ron Carlee: The plans are written with policy flexibility and are advisory. They do not have the same level of control as the zoning ordinance. They provide guidance to be adapted to specific development situations that are frequently unique in character.
Michael Perkins: Ok. Part of the transit element is a primary transit network corridor system.
[Comment From Michael Perkins] As part of the Master Transportation Plan, Arlington is discussing
establishing primary transit network corridors. How will these be
Ron Carlee: We already have primary transit corridors, which is how we've gotten to where we are. Going forward the questions are maximizing the corridors and providing appropriate access into the corridors. Good examples are the plans for street cars on Columbia Pike and through Potomac Yards / Crystal City. The Pike is already the most heavily used bus corridor in Virginia, but we're planning to take it to a new level to support the approved redevelopment plan for the Pike.
Michael Perkins: What's the next step for the C. Pike street car? When should we expect to see a groundbreaking?
Michael Perkins: And an important design question: Is Arlington working with WMATA and DC to make sure the streetcars are compatible with the system DDOT is building? What about the overhead wires issue?
Ron Carlee: The next immediate step is indirect: we've petitioned the Commonwealth Transportation Board to take over responsbility of the Pike from VDOT. In March, we approved environmental planning and prelim design.
Michael Perkins: Is this merely a formality or do you expect VDOT to have to study and decide?
Ron Carlee: Regarding design, we're still in this phase. I'm not sure that compatibility with DC is important, since the main DC links will continue to be Metro. What is critical is that we plan Northern Virginia jointly. Our Pike line goes into Fairfax. And our Potomac Yard line goes into Alexandria. There is great potential for a truly integrated system among our three jurisdictions that we are actively pursuing together.
Ron Carlee: Re my earlier response on environmental and prelim design...we approved the funding and initiation of these components, not the plans themselves. They come next.
Michael Perkins: So, rails on the ground in . . . 2012? It's OK to speculate.
Ron Carlee: Regarding the CTB request for the Pike, it is not a formality, but we expect it to be approved. Given state funding problems, this is a win for VDOT, but will also save us significant funds in the ability to expedite Pike projects.
Ron Carlee: I've learned not to project construction dates until engineers give me dates written in blood.
Michael Perkins: Fair enough.
Michael Perkins: David Kinney has a good question about providing more signs for the bike and pedestrian trail system.
[Comment From David Kinney] There was a great post a while back here at Greater Greater Washington by Steven Offutt about trail signs. Arlington does a very good job of both promoting alternative transportation and maintaining its park system, but it seems like Steve's idea could be implemented fairly easily and offer a large benefit to Arlingtonians. What plans are in the works for something like this? When can we expect to see the results? How can we get this done quicker if it is currently on the back burner?
Michael Perkins: The signs were to direct people to various trails in the region.
GreaterGreaterWashington: (The post basically said that trail signs ought to tell you what trail you are on and where to get to other trails, instead of simply saying "Mt. Vernon 29 miles" or something).
GreaterGreaterWashington: Which is the way street signs work.
Ron Carlee: We have a comprehensive wayfinding effort in process for streets and trails. It has gone much much slower than I would have liked. Funding will also be a challenge in the current budget climate...but it will come. I'm expecially interested in our trails through the parks. We need to be able to get people to the trails and then let them know where the trails will take you and what is there. Currently, it's a bit of an adventure—but one worth taking on pretty days. Check out our on-line maps to get started. or order the bike map, which is great.
Michael Perkins: What about just making sure that all the trail entrances/crossings/exits have a sign saying where you are?
Ron Carlee: It would be a good start.
Michael Perkins: Steve's article was about trying to give a family member directions, so those signs would be a big help.
Ron Carlee: Agreed.
Michael Perkins: We have time for one more question about smart growth.
[Comment From David Alpert] In the Buckingham area, some residents wanted to preserve the strip-mall look of their commercial area, even if that's inhospitable to pedestrians. How does Arlington decide what's actually the "historic character"?
Ron Carlee: We've just completed pedestrian upgrades at the major intersection of Glebe and Pershing that preserved the character of the shopping, especially the shops on the east side of Glebe. Check it out. I think it combines really good pedestrian design with a traditionally suburban environment. We want to preserve some of the traditional look of Arlington in order to be distinctive and linked to our history. The development of the garden apartments in Arlington, such as Buckingham, signaled the modern era of Arlington and an important era in America.
Michael Perkins: That's all the time we have, unfortunately. Thanks for the chat.
Ron Carlee: Thanks it was great fun. I look forward to taking what I've learned in Arlington to other communities across the U.S. in my new role at ICMA.
GreaterGreaterWashington: Thanks to everyone who contributed questions. Please feel free to continue the discussion in the comments. What do you think of what Ron said? Where do you agree or disagree?
[Comment From Love Living in Clarendon] Thanks, ron, for being on!
Michael Perkins: Just a comment from a reader.
GreaterGreaterWashington: And stay tuned for our upcoming chats, including one with author Anthony Flint who wrote Wrestling with Moses, about Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses.
Delayed implementation of curb extensions at the deadly intersection of 15th and W, NW didn't stop DDOT from finishing strong. The intersection did not receive the quick-curb called for in the draft plan and hastily installed in July to slow drivers like the one that killed a pedestrian in May while turning from 15th onto W. Instead, DDOT has installed more permanent curb, and filled some of the bulb-outs with asphalt.
New bulb-outs at 15th & W, NW.
While the plan for temporary improvements at this intersection could have gone further to protect vulnerable road users by closing the slip lane from 15th to W and Florida, DDOT's implementation of the approved plan, though belated, provides a good sign that DDOT is serious about protecting pedestrians.
Still missing from the intersection are signals for pedestrians crossing 15th on the south side of W Street, forcing crosswalk users into a dangerous guessing game to cross multiple flows of automobile and bicycle traffic. To fix this problem, DDOT is currently working on an engineering design, which it anticipates will take another month. Installation would happen by mid-November, nearly six months after Ana Marie Canales was killed in another of this intersection's crosswalks. The real test, however, will come in the next six months: DDOT has stated that it will study these temporary improvements and then hire a consultant to completely redesign the intersection.
Another improvement for pedestrians comes at the intersection of 5th Street and Massachusetts Avenue, NW, where DDOT had restriped two short sections of I Street to become one-way. That provided more space for crossing pedestrians and reduced the number of locations where drivers can make dangerous left turns from Massachusetts Avenue. However, as at 15th and W, drivers easily ignored striped pavement, creating a more dangerous situation for pedestrians not expecting drivers to travel against traffic on a one-way street. DDOT has since placed a large "Do Not Enter" sign, along with orange barrels and posts on the striped area. DDOT has an order for more permanent curbing but cannot say when it will be installed.
Temporary improvements at 5th & Mass, NW.
Residents and this blog hassled DDOT for moving slowly to implement promised changes at both intersections. Now, it seems, they have started to move more quickly, at least in these cases. While a lengthy planning and engineering process can be valuable for large projects, a NYC DOT-style approach to small projects like these can make a quick, targeted difference for the safety of cyclists and pedestrians.