Greater Greater Washington

We need you in the Flickr pool

Is the cold getting you down? Here's some winter cheer to warm you up from the Greater and Lesser Washington Flickr pool, showcasing the best and worst of the Washington region.


Photo by Clif Burns.


Whitehurst Freeway. Photo by Nikoo Yahyazadeh.


CityCenterDC. Photo by Clif Burns.


Photo by caroline.angelo.


17th St NW. Photo by angela n.

Got a picture that depicts the best or worst of the Washington region? Make sure to join our Flickr pool and submit your own photos!

This weekend, please consider making a gift to Greater Greater Washington to help us keep up the awesome in 2015! Every single gift, no matter the amount, helps! Want to know more about why we're asking for your support? FAQs are here.

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How can we reach out to more communities and people around the region?

Greater Greater Washington is a blog about places, but what makes it great are its people. I'm proud of the community of contributors we've built over the past seven years, but there are still many places and people we haven't reached yet. We need your help to do that.


Photo by Tom Raftery on Flickr.

Over 30 active contributors have become a part of Greater Greater Washington because they care about creating better communities. With their help, and with your contributions, we've become a regional resource for planning and transportation coverage.

Meanwhile, there are still many parts of the region we don't talk about very much, from East of the River to Fairfax County. Those communities' voices are an important part of the conversation we're having. Over the next year, we'd like to find new ways to incorporate them, whether through a speaker series, recruiting new contributors, or simply spending more time writing about those areas.

With your help, we were able to hire Jonathan Neeley as our new associate editor earlier this year. He hasn't been here for very long, but he's already become an invaluable part of our team. We'd love to keep him on board and make him full-time, giving us the capacity to reach out to new communities and recruit and train new contributors.

But we can't do it alone. With your support, we can preserve the high quality of GGW's writing and coverage, while bringing it to new parts of our region.

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Cheh keeps oversight of transportation, but Jack Evans will sit on the WMATA Board

Mary Cheh will continue to oversee transportation in the DC Council next year, but will continue to not also represent DC on the WMATA Board; instead, Jack Evans will. Anita Bonds will chair a committee on housing, while David Grosso will take the education gavel from David Catania.


Photo by David Maddison on Flickr.

Council chairman Phil Mendelson just released his recommendations for committee assignments for the next two years.

When Kwame Brown took away Tommy Wells' transportation chairmanship in 2011, he gave the committee to Mary Cheh, but Cheh reportedly did not also want the board seat. Instead, it went to Bowser, but this created significant problems, as WMATA and DDOT then ended up in separate committees. This compounded the already poor coordination between WMATA and DDOT.

While Cheh and Bowser talked plenty, Mary Cheh was not even part of Bowser's committee overseeing WMATA while Bowser was not on Cheh's transportation committee. Evans, at least, will be a member of Cheh's committee, along with Charles Allen, Kenyan McDuffie, and either the Ward 4 or 8 member once they are elected. But WMATA oversight will still not be part of that committee; it will be in Evans' Finance and Revenue committee, which Cheh does not sit on.

Evans sat on (and chaired) the board in the past, which could make it easier for him to step into the role. And, actually, funding is one of if not the top issue for WMATA, meaning Evans could help steer new resources to the agency if he chose. Evans lives in Georgetown, which might get a Metro line if WMATA can get the money, and the line stretches through much of Ward 2.

On the other hand, his role could be bad news for bus priority, since Evans has been suspicious of any city move to dedicate road space to users other than private motor vehicles. Evans also is an opponent of the streetcar (along with Mendelson).

There also should be plenty of spirited debate on other bills before Evans' finance committee, which votes on tax breaks and tax policy. Evans generally strongly favors granting tax breaks to businesses, retailers, and developers, but a new member of his committee, Elissa Silverman, has often criticized DC for giving tax breaks out too readily.

The DC Council has an unusually small number of committees (seven) this period because there are so many new members. Current convention gives every member a committee but not in the member's first council period. Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), Charles Allen (Ward 6), and Elissa Silverman (at large) were just elected this November, and there will be vacant seats in both Ward 4 (where Muriel Bowser is resigning to be mayor) and Ward 8 (where Marion Barry just died) until a special election in March.

Vincent Orange will chair a Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs, Yvette Alexander will handle Health and Human Services, and Kenyan McDuffie takes over the Judiciary post. McDuffie used to be a federal prosecutor in Prince George's County and a civil rights attorney at the US Department of Justice; he has shown a lot of concern over recent trends about police and prosecutorial overreach in DC and nationally.

That committee will likely again debate the issue of contributory negligence for bicyclists, where David Grosso, the bill's sponsor, will still not be a member, while Mary Cheh, the swing vote this past year, will remain on the committee along with Jack Evans and Anita Bonds. A Ward 4 or 8 member to be elected will join them after the special election.

Bonds' housing committee includes Silverman, a strong advocate for affordable housing policies, Brianne Nadeau, who ran with affordable housing as a strong part of her platform, Vincent Orange, and Bonds herself, who has championed tax relief for elderly homeowners.

Additional information has been added to this post as the information became available. At one point, an errant paragraph about the WMATA Board, written before the news about Evans' appointment was available, was near the bottom of this story. It has been removed.

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Tommy Wells will head DC's environmental agency

Councilmember Tommy Wells will run the District Department of the Environment in Muriel Bowser's administration. The mayor-elect is expected to announce the pick at an event this morning.


Photo by Tommy Wells on Flickr.

The District Department of the Environment (DDOE) is responsible for monitoring air, water, and soil quality in DC, running programs to encourage energy conservation, and much more. Wells had a strong track record on the environment while in office, most notably winning support for DC's 5¢ disposable bag fee.

Wells has recently spoken about his interest in programs to "green" DC's fleets, both the government-owned ones like trash trucks and, through incentives, private ones like FedEx and UPS's delivery trucks.

He also has talked about cleaning up the Anacostia River and encouraging people to enjoy DC's natural resources like the parkland on its banks. He has been a champion of programs at Kingman Island, in the river near the National Arboretum and RFK stadium. Its annual Bluegrass Festival brings many residents to a part of DC's natural environment they rarely experience on a daily basis; Wells hopes that unfamiliarity will change.

Wells ran against Bowser in the mayoral primary, but then endorsed her and energetically campaigned for her in the general election. He will be leaving the council at the end of this year, and there was widespread speculation that he was seeking a role in the administration.

Will Wells and DDOE be able to lead, or be stuck on the back bench?

One open question is how influential DDOE will be in under Bowser. While Mayor Gray had a very far-reaching sustainability plan, his administration largely relegated DDOE to a narrow role. The DC Office of Planning and director Harriet Tregoning led the sustainability plan process much more than DDOE.

In 2012, City Administrator Allen Lew fired Director Christophe Tolou and, soon after, gave DDOE staff a harsh talk including references to "Attila the Hun." Lew's beef with the agency, apparently, was what he felt to be a too-close relationship with the EPA.

Only time will tell if Wells and DDOE are able to play a broader role in helping DC become a leader against climate change. The agency could work across the government to help implement the sustainability plan. It could participate in shaping economic development, transportation, and other city initiatives in a more sustainable direction.

By appointing a high-profile, well-known figure to this post and doing so before choosing most other agency heads, Bowser could be signaling that she will take the environment very seriously and make river cleanup and carbon emissions a priority.

Alternately, by giving Wells the post of DDOE rather than a more policymaking agency like transportation or planning, she could be paying back a strong supporter without actually giving him much real influence over the city's future directionor committing to the "livable, walkable" policies he has championed.

Bowser is not expected to make any announcements about other agencies today, and has thus far revealed no plans about transportation, planning, economic development, or most other cabinet positions.

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Breakfast links: Happy new streetcar!?


Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.
New year's streetcar?: The H Street streetcar has passed yet another final test, and could potentially run service on New Year's Eve. Mayor Gray has pledged to have service open before he leaves office New Year's Day. (WAMU)

Safety still lacking: Fewer motorists are dying on DC roads, but bikes and pedestrians didn't see similar progress. There is a definite racial disparity in pedestrian injuries: Hispanics are three times more likely to be hospitalized. (DCist)

Bus arrivals posted: WMATA is installing four arrival time screens, all updated live, at bus stops around the region. If this beta program is successful, WMATA will install 150 more. (City Paper)

Please take our road: Condo Association members in Laurel want the city to take ownership of their privately owned road. The road serves as a cut-through for growing regional traffic, but the city can't pay for improvements. (Gazette)

Expensive offices: DC has been slowly climbing the ranks of the world's most expensive office markets, and downtown DC now ranks 25th globally in cost per square foot. DC is behind only Boston, San Francisco, and New York in the US. (WBJ)

Veteran Metro riders: With the Concert for Valor but with many workers having the day off, how did Veterans Day ridership stack up for Metro? There were fewer riders overall from a typical weekday, but 40% more riders than last Veterans Day. (PlanItMetro)

And...: What's the relationship between total miles driven and GDP? (Streetsblog) ... Without a streetcar, what's next for Columbia Pike? (NextCity) ... Two out of five people will be leaving the region over the holidays, the most ever. (Post)

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Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 33

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

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


Image 1: Dupont Circle

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


Image 2: Gallery Place

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


Image 3: L'Enfant Plaza

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


Image 4: Van Ness

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


Image 5: Metro Center

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

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

As always, great work! Thanks for playing.

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

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

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New info about who rides a bike in DC will let us make the city even greater for cyclists

There's new data on who rides a bike or walks to work in DC, and it will likely guide future decisions on how to accommodate and encourage bicycle use.


Photo by BeyondDC on Flickr.

The data comes from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG)'s just-released draft report of all the planned bike and pedestrian improvements coming to the region.

The most striking piece of information from the study is that people who either make a whole lot of money or not much at all are more both more likely to bike or to work than those whose income falls somewhere in the middle.

Rich and poor people are both biking more than average, but it's probably for different reasons


Average incomes of bike commuters. Image from MWCOG.

MWCOG says its income-related findings are consistent with national data.

As the report also has data on what has (and hasn't) changed about cyclist and pedestrian demographics in the DC region, it also tells us that the numbers of people biking or walking to work at the highest and lowest income levels has at least doubled since 2004 in most cases. Meanwhile, numbers have fallen in some of the middle brackets.

The report doesn't speculate that much on why people specifically choose to ride or walk, but it does look at existing barriers, which allows us to do some back of the envelope analysis.

One big factor for most people is the distance they'd have to bike or walk to work. The large number of high-income riders could suggest that people are choosing to live closer to work, while those at the bottom of the spectrum may be biking because of the rising costs of transportation modes.

There's a difference in how often people of different races ride bikes, too


Demographics of bike commuters in the DC region. Image from MWCOG.

In terms of race, the number of white bicycle riders or walkers has held steady while the number of Asian riders and walkers has grown and the number of black and hispanic riders and walkers has declined. This confirms that there's a racial disparity in DC among bicycle riders.

The report doesn't try to explain the cycling and walking rates among different races, or even say if race is a factor. Targeted studies in predominantly black and hispanic neighborhoods could give insight on how to get more people back on to bikes or choosing to walk to work. We know that adding bike infrastructure tends to increase overall usage for bike riding, so it's possible that those neighborhoods simply need more bike lanes or protected bikeways.

Data like this can show us who needs help getting on bikes in the first place, as well as who would benefit from more infrastructure. The more we know, the more focused our future bicycle infrastructure projects will be.

Correction: The original version of this post described the MWCOG data as applying just to bicycling. In fact, the report combines bicycle and walking trips. We have corrected the article.

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Amsterdam plays Spot the Christmas Streetcar

Remember #bikeinbloom, when Capital Bikeshare dressed one of its bikes up in cherry blossom regalia? Every Christmas, Amsterdam does the same thing with one of its famous streetcars.

Amsterdamers call it the "kersttram", or "Christmas tram."


Photo from Alexander Meijer on Flickr.

Amsterdam isn't alone. Other cities around the world partake in the same fun with their own trams. Among them: Budapest, Zurich, and San Francisco.

How about it, DDOT? Maybe next year, when H Street is fully up and running?

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

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Breakfast links: Done deal


Photo by Connor Turner on Flickr.
Soccer deal done: After months of debate, the DC council unanimously passed a law that will provide land for a new DC United soccer stadium at Buzzard Point. The deal will cost the city $193 million and the facility will open in 2017. (Post)

CaBi workers unite!: Yesterday, employees of Capital Bikeshare, operated by Alta, voted to join the Transport Workers Union. The workers want union protection to address concerns about employment instability. Their counterparts in New York, Boston, and Chicago also voted to unionize. (NextCity, TWU)

Florida Ave to change: DDOT plans to completely rebuild two blocks of Florida Avenue near U Street next year. The plans include bike lanes, sharrows, and bike boxes on the intersecting streets. (TheWashCycle)

Metro goes green: WMATA opened a new stormwater management facility in Largo. The facility pumps stormwater from tunnels with energy-efficient technologies, which helps WMATA meet Maryland's strict requirements while saving money. (PlanItMetro)

Woodmont Ave safety efforts: Montgomery County is auditing pedestrian safety on Woodmont Avenue in Bethesda. Drivers are not yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks. The county would like to improve pedestrian safety in the area. (BethesdaNow)

New road for Tysons: Fairfax County plans to extend a bridge over I-495 in Tysons corner. The "Jones Branch Connector" will provide a better road connection to the McLean metro stop. (Fairfax Times)

And...: Mayor Gray gave his farewell speech last night. (City Paper) ... Don't dump your grease down the drain, unless you want to create a "fatberg" in the sewers. (WAMU) ... Can a construction project be used to predict the effects of a road diet? (Streetsblog) ... Why does a widely used planning manual recommend building more roads than necessary? (Citylab)

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Farragut Square's virtual tunnel saves Metro riders time and eases crowding. Should downtown get another one?

Metro lets riders transfer between Farragut West and Farragut North without paying because while the stations are on separate lines, they're only a block apart. New data on who uses the "virtual tunnel" gives us perspective on how useful additional free transfers could be.


Usage of the Virtual Tunnel.

Between 15,000 and 18,000 people use the "tunnel" each month, which alleviates crowding at the Metro Center station. According to PlanItMetro, the crossing's higher use comes in the warmer months of the year.

WMATA advertises the "tunnel," but after PlanItMetro asked about ways to make even more people aware of the unusual but time-saving transfer, commenters suggested adding an actual note to Metro maps. New York City does this with its Subway maps.

Commenters also suggested another potential site for a similar crossing: between Metro Center and Gallery Place. Like Farragut West and Farragut North, these two stations are only a few blocks apart and could save Orange, Blue, and Silver who want to reach the Yellow and Green lines (and vice versa) from having to either transfer twice or ride all the way to L'Enfant Plaza.

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