Greater Greater Washington

Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 57

On Tuesday, we posted our fifty-seventh photo challenge to see how well you know Metro. I took five photos in the Metro system. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

This week we got 18 guesses. Two people got all five. Great work, Peter K and Mr. Johnson!

Image 1: Potomac Avenue

This week is a very special set. For all five stations in this set, it's the first time being featured. These were the only stations we hadn't featured yet. So with this set, we've now featured every station.

The first image is Potomac Avenue. You had two pieces of information here and you needed to put them together to solve the riddle. The first part of the clue is the station name, which you can see ends with the letters "ve." In this case, they're the last two letters of the word "Ave." While there are several stations that end with the letters "ve" (like Shady Grove and Rhode Island Ave), it can't be any of those because of the second part.

You can see from the background that this is an underground station with a waffle vault. The only station that meets these two criteria is Potomac Avenue. Fifteen figured it out.

Image 2: Congress Heights

The second image shows the main entrance to Congress Heights station. As Peter K noted in his answer, there are three stations with the bland, flat walls on either side of the escalators. But this bank of escalators has something that Georgia Avenue and Columbia Heights don't have: fluorescent bulbs behind a valence. Only Congress Heights has this feature. The arrangement of the escalators (three side-by-side units, with a staircase to the left) is also unique here.

Only two got this one right.

Image 3: Deanwood

This picture shows the western entrance to Deanwood. The winged concrete walls on either side of an unadorned entrance is repeated at only one other station. But in this case, you can narrow it down to Deanwood because of the catenary supports visible at top right.

The CSX tracks here are no longer electrified, but until the early 1980s, Conrail, the successor to Penn Central and the Pennsylvania Railroad, still ran freight trains behind electric locomotives. The electrification went all the way from New Haven to Potomac Yard. In the Washington area, the electrification split, with one line going through Union Station (which is where Amtrak trains currently run) and the other line going alongside the Orange Line. The two lines met again at Virginia Tower, near L'Enfant Plaza.

Six knew this one.

Image 4: Tenleytown

This picture shows the platform elevator at Tenleytown. The picture shows a faregate and an exitfare machine on the platform, which indicates that the street elevator goes directly to the platform. In this case, that was done so that the elevator would emerge close to the escalators. Attaching it to the mezzanine would mean the elevator would be some distance from escalator entrance (as is the case at Bethesda).

You can tell from the picture that this is an Arch I station. Arch I stations are distinguished because they only have four coffers (two on each half of the vault). Of the seven Arch I stations, the only one that has an elevator that goes straight to the platform (as opposed to stopping at the mezzanine) is Tenleytown. Twelve got the right answer.

Image 5: Suitland

The final image shows the roof at Suitland station. The angle indicates that this is one of the four high peak stations. But unlike the other three, the skylights at Suitland are very shallow. At Franconia, Southern Avenue, and Branch Avenue, the skylights slope at about 45 degrees from horizontal. Here, they're much shallower.

Five got this one correct.

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

Fears over parking are threatening a new bus service in Richmond

Richmond is getting a new bus rapid transit system, but one neighborhood group is against the project because it will mean some lost parking spaces. But the new line won't even run through their neighborhood, and there's plenty of parking in the city already.

Broad Street today. Image by Jeff Auth on Wikipedia Commons.

The Bus Rapid Transit project is called the Pulse, and it will connect the city's east and west ends along Broad Street, one of Richmond main avenues. In some sections, the line will run in its own lanes along Broad Street's median. One of these sections borders a neighborhood in Richmond known as the Fan.

Work on the Pulse will definitely mean cutting parking on Broad Street, some of it for construction and some of it permanently. The Fan District Association says it's already hard enough to find parking in the neighborhood and that the Pulse would only make it harder. The group recently sent a letter to the Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) saying it's opposed to the project.

Blame bad parking management, not transit, for parking trouble

It may be harder to park in the Fan in the future, but the Pulse won't be to blame if that happens. Lots of people park on the street because parking there is usually convenient and cheap, or even free. In most cities, parking is drastically underpriced given how valuable the space spots take up is.

This is especially true for Fan District residents since the city introduced a permit parking progam (which is similar to DC's) where residents can park wherever they want for twenty five dollars per year, per car. That's an incredibly low price for parking in an otherwise high-demand area, which it incentivizes people to park there rather than somewhere else.

For those concerned about the availability of street parking in the Fan, stopping the Pulse would actually be counterproductive because the service will give people an alternative to driving. It'd be smarter to focus efforts on finding ways manage street parking in a way that matches the demand for it.

This is how Broad Street might look once the Pulse arrives. Rendering from GRTC.

This could include things like limiting the number of passes per household, expanding permit-only hours, or raising the price of a permit so that a parking spot isn't nearly free. Combined with new transit, solutions like those could alleviate some of the parking pressure that's there today.

These kinds of measures would also keep the neighborhood from having to rely on nearby streets for relief from parking pressure. They'd solve the problem directly, by making sure people who really needed parking in the Fan had it available to them, rather than by trying make it easy to park in other areas.

Richmond is primed to be less car-dependent

Richmond has a lot of similarities to DC. It has a number of historic neighborhoods where buildings don't have dedicated parking and residents and visitors alike have grown to rely on street parking in front of or near their homes. In downtown Richmond, large spaces are devoted to parking, and elevated highways have created some huge barriers between neighborhoods.

Despite it being fairly dense and urban, large parts of Richmond are car-dependent. In the Fan, parking pressures have grown as the neighborhood has gentrified and new businesses and residents have moved in.

Also like DC, though, much of Richmond is perfectly suited for car-lite or car-free lifestyles. And more transit, like the Pulse, could make it easier for Richmonders to use a carless often.

It's almost understandable why residents would be wary of any proposal that, on the surface, seems like it could make it harder to park than it already is. But blocking better transit would ensure that the problem remains. One neighborhood's fear over parking shouldn't stop an entire city's plan for running more smoothly.

Breakfast links: School's out

Photo by Michael Cisneros on Flickr.
School woes: An audit of DC school renovations uncovered mismanagement, cost over-runs and confusion over many contractors and subcontractors that the Department of General Services used. (WAMU) ... DCPS is also renewing its food contract with Chatwells despite a whistleblower suit that uncovered severe mismanagement by the contractor, including poor food quality and fraud. (WCP)

No more tolls: The Loudoun Board of Supervisors voted unanimously against future tolling on I-66. VDOT would like to create tolled express lanes to ease congestion in the area. Drivers choose I-66 over free roads because they are often congested. (WBJ)

Left out: NTSB interviewed several WMATA officials, but former General Manager Richard Sarles was notably missing. NTSB says interviews focus on those with an "operational role" in the incident, leaving some, like Sarles, out of the picture. (Post)

You stay, you pay: A DC landlord is claiming the General Services Administration owes $2 million after it stopped paying rent for the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB had to delay its move which prevented the landlord from finding a new tenant. (WBJ)

Breaking down on blight: Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau introduced a bill that would double fines for neglected and vacant properties. She hopes the bill will create safer housing conditions throughout the District. (PoPville)

Freedom of speech: Blogger Pamela Geller is once again suing WMATA to place her Muhammad ads on Metrobuses. WMATA prohibits "issue-oriented advertising," which Geller states is a violation of the First Amendment. (City Paper)

Coincidence?: The land under RFK stadium is owned by the Interior Department; the same office works with Native American treaties. This could throw a wrench into plans to bring the football team back to the District. (City Paper)

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We're heading to Alexandria for our next happy hour

It's time for the next Greater Greater happy hour! Next week, we're heading to Alexandria's newest park and its newest bar with our friends at YIPPS,, and Do Tank DC.

Photo by Ned Russell.

Next Thursday, July 9 from 6 to 8 pm, come see and enjoy the new Braddock Neighborhood Interim Park, located at 600 North Henry Street, to see what the City of Alexandria is doing to activate the Braddock Metro/Parker-Gray neighborhood. Play bocce, ping pong, horseshoes, corn hole, and more in the new half-acre park. Hear from local activists and planners who helped develop the active interim space.

After checking out the park, join us for a few drinks at Mason Social, two blocks away at 728 North Henry St.

The park and the bar are both a few blocks from the Braddock Road Metro station (Blue and Yellow lines). If you're coming by bus, the Metrobus 10A/B/R and DASH AT3 routes stop next to the park at Henry and Pendleton streets. There's a Capital Bikeshare station at Henry and Pendleton as well.

Over the past year, we've held happy hours in Gallery Place, Shaw, U Street, Eastern Market, and Silver Spring. We're always looking for new, Metro-accessible locations for future happy hours (especially in Prince George's County!). Where would you like us to go next?

"Convincing" and "enjoyable" "even with the wonkiness"

We're very proud to have been named "best local blog" in Washingtonian magazine. We're most excited, however, because the writers at Washingtonian did an amazing job capturing, in just a few sentences, what it is that motivates us to bring Greater Greater Washington to you every day:

Image from Washingtonian.
Head to this site ... on any given day and you might learn about a debate over bike lanes in College Park, the lack of playgrounds in downtown DC, or the history of streetcars in Northern Virginia. Ten minutes in, you'll have what you need to carry on an intelligent cocktail-party chat about development and planning around Washington.

What really distinguishes [founder David] Alpert's operation is that it doesn't just regurgitate or aggregate other coverage; it takes a deep dive into urban-planning policy, makes convincing arguments about the best ways for our area to progress, and—even with the wonkiness—makes for an enjoyable read.

Thanks so much, Washingtonian! Thanks also to you, our many readers and commenters. You built the community that is at the heart of Greater Greater Washington, and you keep us striving every day.

Crowdsource safety problems on DC streets with this interactive Vision Zero map

Do you know of a safety problem on a DC street? If so, tell DDOT about it using the interactive Vision Zero map. It allows residents to click a location and type in notes to describe problems.

Image from DDOT.

This new map is part of DC's Vision Zero Initiative, which aims to eliminate all fatalities and serious injuries in the transportation system.

The map lets you add notations for a wide variety of safety problems. There are separate categories for driver, pedestrian, and cyclist problems, with several options available for each. You can also scroll around DC to see what your neighbors have submitted.

It's a neat tool. I've already submitted a handful of problems.

The Baltimore Red Line does need a tunnel, despite its cost

Last week, Maryland governor Larry Hogan announced the state will not move forward with the Baltimore Red Line. He argued building it would be too expensive, particularly the tunnel that would have run through downtown. Was the tunnel necessary?

A part of what Baltimore's transit map could look like with the Red Line. Image by Peter Dovak.

The proposed Red Line would have been a light rail line from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services west of Baltimore through West Baltimore, the Inner Harbor, the growing Fell's Point and Canton areas, to Johns Hopkins' Bayview campus.

It would have connected MARC commuter rail stations on both sides of the city, the existing light rail, and the city's Metro line. There would have been two segments in tunnels: a short one under Cooks Lane near the county line and a longer, four-mile one under downtown.

Following the cancellation, a common question is whether the line still happen without the tunnels. Building a tunnel preserves a lot of roadway for cars, but what if Maryland didn't worry about impacts to drivers and dedicated road lanes for the Red Line's exclusive use?

Unfortunately, running the Red Line on the surface, even if nobody minded inconveniencing drivers, wouldn't work as well as one might imagine.

Portion of the Red Line route map. The dashed line denotes the tunnel.

Where the blocks are small, dedicated lanes have limits

Pratt and Lombard Streets in downtown Baltimore are each four-lane, one-way streets. The Purple Line will take two of University Boulevard's six lanes in Langley Park. What's the difference?

The difference is intersection spacing. Without a tunnel, a light rail line still will have to stop at many intersections for cross traffic.

In Downtown Baltimore, intersections are extremely closely spaced, and virtually all of them are signal controlled as part of the grid of street lights. On University Boulevard in Langley Park, the superblock rules, and many streets that intersect do not cross the median. That allows much more flexibility in the design of the Purple Line, and means the train isn't stopping every 600 feet, even if it is stopping at every light (which, hopefully it won't be).

Additionally, it's much easier to synchronize signals for transit in a suburban environment, where most of the volume is on one street (like University). In a central city, the demand is spread out much more evenly and there's no peak demand direction. Everyone is going every which way.

It's very difficult to pre-empt signals for transit without causing gridlock nearby. This is essentially the reason the current Baltimore Light Rail line doesn't have that feature. And without it, the line is painfully slow in the central city.

In announcing why he was canceling the Red Line, Hogan criticized Baltimore's current light rail system as being among the least popular in the country. In part, that's because it bypassed major jobs an population centers in an effort to make the line cheaper to build. It's also because downtown, the line is slower than molasses on a cold day because it runs in a transit mall and does not have transit signal priority.

Some streets are narrow

Other streets along the Red Line corridor aren't wide enough to dedicate lanes to transit, like Fleet Street in Fell's Point, which is just one lane each way plus parking.

Ben Ross explained why there couldn't be a shorter tunnel segment:

The tunnel goes through downtown at a track elevation of approximately 80 feet below sea level in order to bore through competent bedrock and avoid the cost and disruption of cut-and-cover construction and the need to relocate utilities under a street whose width wouldn't leave much room for them (Lombard Street). This requires a substantial length of tunnel to slope down to the final depth.

Then there is a substantial portal zone where the tracks slope down but the top of the train is still above street level. This needs to be located where the blockage of cross traffic by vehicles and pedestrians will not be a major problem. Both of these factors push you to move the tunnel entrance away from downtown.

It's important for the line to go through these older neighborhoods with narrow streets because a lot of potential riders live or work there.

It's easier for the Purple Line

Between Bethesda and Silver Spring, the line is essentially grade separated now. There's only one crossing in the stretch (at least in the most recent proposal; we have no idea what the governor has cut), so trains won't have to fight their way through traffic.

In Baltimore, where there's no easy right-of-way to use for the Red Line, the subway was the only way to give trains a quick way through downtown. That wasn't a "fatal flaw," as Governor Hogan put it, it was one of the best features of the line.

The Red Line's Alternative Analysis showed that a surface alignment for the Red Line would require 13 minutes for trains to cross downtown. With the tunnel, trains would be able to cover the distance in just five minutes.

Other transit systems do the same

The most successful light rail systems in the country all have grade-separated sections in their downtowns. They include systems in Charlotte, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Seattle, and St. Louis.

The Red Line needs to have a tunnel through downtown, and honestly, so does the north-south light rail line. It could be possible, if a new tunnel for CSX is constructed, to convert the Howard Street Tunnel into a light rail subway (as Saint Louis did). Or perhaps a new subway alignment for the north-south line could be built in a parallel corridor.

It's worth looking at costs on a project like the Red Line, but the teams that considered alternatives and chose this one did in fact study the costs and benefits of a tunnel. They had good reasons to choose what they did.

Breakfast links: New legislation

Photo by Mr.TinDC on Flickr.
A slew of new laws: Starting today, the "rain tax" is gone and toll rates are lower in Maryland, DC's minimum wage is a dollar higher, and new regulations for ride-hailing companies in Maryland and Virginia are in effect, among many other legislative changes. (Post)

Montgomery goes private: The Montgomery County Council voted to convert its Department of Economic Development into a private nonprofit. The organization will receive public funding, but have a more agile approach to development. (Post)

Council calls: The DC Council signed off on land-sale agreements, a developer agreement, and a ground lease for the DC United stadium. (WBJ) ... The Council won't move forward with a study on a city-owned power company, a move Mary Cheh claims is the result of Pepco lobbying. (City Paper)

Place matters: Lack of visibility can hamper the success of public amenities like parks, plazas, and public art. Bethesda's growth plan will work to make new public spaces larger and more accessible than older spots. (Post)

Bike's share of a commute: Sometimes biking all the way to a destination can seem intimidating. WABA shares tips on how to incorporate biking into a multimodal commute that includes Metrorail, buses, or Capital Bikeshare.

What shall we call you, Uber: Earlier this year, the Associated Press said journalists should call services offered by companies like Uber and Lyft ride-hailing rather than ride-sharing. But is "ride-sourcing" a more appropriate term? (Washingtonian)

Test drive your digs: will now display AirBnB rentals from neighborhoods where buyers are searching for homes, marketing the ads as an opportunity for people to test drive their potential new neighborhoods. (Urban Turf)

And...: According to a Harvard study, 46% of DC area renters are burdened by housing costs. (UrbanTurf) ... Montgomery County Council President George Leventhal says the county can't start looking for additional money for the Purple Line until it has more details about the cuts. (WAMU) ... Monday was a hard day for Metro's Red Line. One reporter documented her harrowing commute. (Post)

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How well do you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 57

It's time for the fifty-seventh installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Below are photos of five stations in the Washington Metro system. Can you identify each from its picture?

Image 1

Image 2

Image 3

Image 4

Image 5

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

Update: The answers are here.

The Met Branch Trail could get brighter, safer, and easier to get to

More people would use the Metropolitan Branch Trail if... more people used the Metropolitan Branch Trail. That's the "aha" coming out of a study that started this spring, and it's a thought that's likely to guide efforts to make the trail more inviting and practical to use.

The Metropolitan Branch Trail, just south of Rhode Island Avenue. Photo by Malcolm K. on Flickr.

The MBT is already quite popular, and with good reason: it provides a straight-shot connection between Union Station and Brookland, with a number of entry points along the way that include an entrance to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro stop and a connector to the R Street bike lane.

But some people worry that the trail is unsafe, and others say they'd like it to be more aesthetically pleasing.

In an effort to better understand exact concerns, the NoMa Business Improvement District, along with Edens, the JBG Companies, and Level 2 Development, has partnered with the District Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Police Department to run the MBT Safety and Access Study.

A key part of the study is an ongoing online survey that asks participants why they use (or don't use) the MBT, which segments of the trail make them feel insecure and why, what nearby destinations they wish the trail would connect to, and what types of improvements they would like to see along the trail.

The crowd at a community meeting to discuss possibilities for the MBT. All images from NoMa BID unless otherwise noted.

People feel safer on the trail when they're not alone

While they're still not finished collecting responses, the groups behind the survey held a public meeting in mid-June to share what they had found so far, along with preliminary possibilities for changes along the trail.

Most people travel the trail by bike, and the most common reason to use it is for getting places "other than home or work." After that comes exercise, then commuting to work, then leisure.

Around half of the trail users surveyed indicated that they feel most comfortable on the trail during morning or afternoon rush hour, or when they are with two or more people at mid-day.

Not surprisingly, using the trail alone at night is when a majority of users feel least comfortable on the MBT. A large majority of the total respondents suggested that simply having more activities and increasing the number of people on the trail would significantly improve their sense of security. Better lighting and increased visibility on the trail were the next most favored improvements, while things like security cameras and emergency call boxes were identified as seemingly less effective measures.

To make the trail better, make it more connected

At the June meeting, the groups running the study outlined three key steps for addressing people's concerns: making the trail itself better, connecting it to more parts of the city, and adding neighborhood activity close by.

The Metropolitan Branch Trail framework presented at the public meeting.

Making the trail better could mean adding things like new lights, call boxes, and mile markers. A number of trail users have also suggested realigning it at R and S Streets so that it doesn't turn so sharply.

A portion of the framework showing opportunities for new lighting, mile markers, and green space.

Connecting it could mean adding entrance points at streets that people on bike and foot already frequent. Personally, I'm hoping these efforts will also make the trail more obvious to drivers at existing access points. At some of them, like where service vehicles sometimes cross the trail at W Street, there are no stop signs and vines make it hard for drivers to see people walking and biking on the trail.

A portion of the framework showing connections between the trail and nearby streets.

Adding neighborhood activity could mean a nearby bike station in Brookland or a garden in Edgewood.

NoMa BID and the rest of the organizations running the survey hope to release a report later this summer that includes final recommendations. If you haven't filled out the survey yet, you can do so here.

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