Greater Greater Washington

Past Posts

A senseless skirmish in Toronto is a welcome reminder to share street space

Two people in Toronto, one on foot and one on a bike, recently got into a fight after nearly colliding. The altercation happened on a street that's supposed to give pedestrians and cyclists their own dedicated lanes, and is a reminder of how important it is to share space.

A video posted by the Toronto Star shows the two men exchanging words before throwing punches, with the one on foot saying the one on a bike almost ran him over.

The video is barely more than a minute long, and we don't know what happened before the camera started rolling. But it's safe to say that the tension was at least partially rooted in a universal dilemma: on crowded city streets, pedestrians and cyclists have to vie for space.

Queens Quay. Photo by Waterfront Toronto.

The incident happened on Queens Quay, which runs along Toronto's waterfront and opened with space for pedestrians, cyclists, streetcars and automobiles in June. While local blogs have widely lauded the design, they have also noted its unique challenges.

"It seems that drivers, pedestrians and cyclists aren't heeding the standard signs, signals and line painting that are there to guide them through the street's new intersections and driveways," wrote Waterfront Toronto, the agency responsible for the street, in a recent post. "So, we're working on a few small changes to make these cues even more clear and to make the street as safe as possible."

We face similar issues in Washington

While our region continues to build more protected bike lanes that separate cyclists from cars and pedestrians, things can still get tense. For example, mid-block crossings by pedestrians have plagued cyclists using the protected bike lane on M Street NE, something that Twitter users hope new green paint will help deter.

It's always good to remind one another that whether we're on foot or on a bike (or using any other mode of transportation), respecting each other's space can help us avoid altercations like the one in Toronto. The video above is a good reminder of what can happen when we forget this.

Denver's beautiful Union Station mixes old and new

When Denver needed a new transit hub, city leaders naturally looked at the city's aging Union Station. Now after a massive expansion, Union Station is a monument to multimodalism, and a beautiful architectural mix of ornate old and shimmering new.

Denver Union Station. Photo by Ryan Dravitz.

The new Denver Union Station combines five transit modes with expansive new and refurbished public spaces, and a brand new transit-oriented neighborhood.

Historic depot building

The station is anchored by the beautifully renovated 1894 depot building, with its lovingly restored, bright, airy waiting room. The ground floor includes popular restaurants and bars, along with table shuffleboard sets and occasional live music performances. The upper floors now host a boutique hotel.

Waiting room. Photo by Ryan Dravitz.

Plazas surrounding the outside of the depot building are well-landscaped, and integrate nicely with the bustling LoDo neighborhood across the street. They form the northern end of Denver's 16th Street pedestrian mall, and are a vast improvement over the surface parking lots that formerly occupied the same space.

Multimodal transit

The station brings together Amtrak, commuter rail, light rail, and local and intercity buses.

New commuter and light rail lines are the major components of Denver's impressive FasTracks plan, which is adding about 100 miles of new rail to the city's transit network. Union Station will be the hub.

Immediately behind the historic depot lie the new platforms for Amtrak and commuter rail. They're partially covered by the grandest train shed in America.

Intercity and commuter rail platforms. Photo by Ryan Dravitz.

For now there's only a slow trickle of Amtrak trains using these platforms. But starting in 2016 when Denver's new commuter rail lines begin to open, it will bustle.

Denver's coming transit lines. Photo by DearEdward on Flickr.

Beneath the train shed lies Union Station's subterranean bus depot, the closest thing Denver has to a subway.

The bus depot serves as both a transit terminal and a pedestrian walkway between the main station and the light rail platforms, further beyond the train shed. It's a long walk from one end to the other, but it's an attractive space.

At the far end, Denver's light rail. The city has had light rail since 1994, but it's expanding under the FasTracks program.

Beyond the light rail, active freight rail tracks pass by to the northwest.

Entrance to the bus terminal and light rail station, with freight tracks to the right. Photo by the author.

Transit-oriented development

While the station itself is finished and open to the traveling public, the surrounding land is only half-complete. The former industrial railyards behind the station are being redeveloped as a new high-rise neighborhood.

Millions of square feet of development are planned, with thousands of new housing units in the pipeline. Multiple blocks of mixed-use infill development are under construction.

Denver is undergoing a population and building boom, so planners and developers anticipate high demand for the new units. The South Platte River Valley just to the north is also a fun and attractive part of the city, popular with tourists, cyclists, and shoppers visiting REI's flagship store on the left bank of the river, housed in the former power plant for Denver's streetcar system.

When it's all complete, Denver will have an impressive new urban neighborhood, fully integrated with and surrounding its new transit hub.

New buildings going up. Photo by the author.

A model for DC

The plan to redevelop Washington Union Station is, if anything, even more ambitious and complex than Denver's.

But as the DC area prepares to make that plan a reality, we can draw lessons from Denver's successes. Colorado's experience shows that it's possible to integrate multimodal planning and strong land use decisions, to a beautiful result.

Breakfast links: May the odds be ever in your favor

Photo by Chris on Flickr.
Arlington's falling behind?: Victor Hoskins, now the economic development director for Arlington, says the county is "getting crushed by DC" and that residents have to realize "that they have ceased to be the innovators" like they were back when Arlington was a leader in TOD around Metro. (Post)

Credits for renters: Montgomery County is urbanizing and may attract more people renting rather than buying homes. The county council approved tax credits for low-income renters to make new apartments near Metro more attractive. (WAMU)

Going down: We're sinking. As a result of an ancient icecap, DC is expected to sink up to 8 inches in the next century. The sinking inevitably will lead to flooding issues, forcing planners to be proactive now on how to minimize damage. (WTOP)

See you in court: Did the White Flint Mall's owners break a contract when they shut down the mall to redevelop? Or is Lord & Taylor, which says yes, just trying to squeeze the mall's owners for money? The dispute has now gone to trial. (Post)

Trash truck art: Taking out the trash is about to get prettier. The DC Department of Public Works is turning service trucks into public art by painting them with colorful designs. DPW plans to repaint nine trucks as part of the program. (Citylab)

Move it: As a cyclist, nothing is more frustrating than an object blocking a bike lane. When a car blocked his path, this man simply picked it up and moved it. Super strength not your thing? Learn how to safely pass and report. (Citylab, WABA)

Don't hate, embrace: Arcata, California is creating the first "medical marijuana innovation zone" in its zoning code. The zone would keep the smelly cultivation out of residential areas while promoting the weed related economy. (Next City)

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Ask GGW: How do you find crime reports for a neighborhood?

Have you ever seen a crime scene and later wondered what happened, or if the police weren't already there, whether someone let them know about it?

Photo by [puamella] on Flickr.

Jonathan Neeley, our staff editor, ran into this situation last week:

On my bike ride home, I saw that a large section of the Metro station parking lot was taped off, and there were officers and detectives all over the place. I asked one of them what had happened and he just said "a fight." I went on my way, but wanted to know more.

How can I find crime reports most easily? Should I expect to be able to find info online about what I saw, or is there a good chance there's nothing out there?

For a general search of crime reports, you can go to CrimeReports and look up any location in the US or Canada. The site has data on recently-reported crimes that will show up on a map, categorized by types like theft (a "T" on the site's maps) and robbery ("R"). Not all reported crimes will appear on the map, however.

Screenshot of CrimeReports by the author.

Abigail Zenner says that her Metropolitan Police District has a robust email list that you can subscribe to. "I get the digest and scan it to see the crime report in my neighborhood," she says. "There is also usually an officer who does community outreach and provides the crime report at ANC and citizen association meetings. If what you see is in your own neighborhood, you may be able to find a contact person through the people who host those meetings."

David Alpert adds that each police district is broken up into Police Service Areas (PSAs), and some PSAs have a regular meeting that's separate from the ANC. This page lists the lieutenants in charge of each PSA, who residents can also contact about crime issues.

You may also find more specific information using the Metropolitan Police Department's DC Crime Map.

Perhaps you witness a crime and want to make sure the right people know about it. In DC, you can file a police report online using the Citizens Online Reporting Tool (CORT). This tool offers a way to make quick reports that do not necessarily require a police officer or a witness to take the information from you. You can use it to report property loss, damage, or theft, particularly theft of or from a car and lost tags.

Maryland and Virginia

In Montgomery County, you can check the police department site directly. Residents can look up which police district they are in and view a map of its boundaries. Montgomery's police department also has a Crime Reporting System for filing police reports online. Similar to DC's CORT tool, not all types of crimes can be filed through the online system.

Prince George's County's police site also links to its Crime Solvers, Inc. site, which has a link to CrimeReports for searching.

Kevin Beekman says Alexandria's police department uses a site called RAIDS Online (Regional Analysis and Information Sharing), which is a crime mapping site like CrimeReports. It also provides analytics, e-mail reports, and tips for the public. They have an online database too.

Screenshot of RAIDS Online website by the author.

Fairfax County has links to multiple resources for finding information about crime in the county from its Crime in Our County page. The links include annual crime reports and crime mapping. To file police reports and to use their online reporting system, residents can go to their Complaints and Concerns page.

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

Empty bikeshare stations don't always mean long waits

When a bikeshare station is empty, or an app tells you it's only got a bike or two left, should you just try another station? In both cases, waiting it out is often the best bet for getting a bike most quickly.

Photo by Mr.TinDC on Flickr.

A team of data scientists at TransitScreen recently put some thought into how to make information about bikeshare more helpful. Rather than just showing "0 bikes" at an empty station, for example, we wondered whether we could predict how long you would wait to get a bike at that station.

Using Capital Bikeshare data from 2012 through 2014, we calculated the probability of the bike count increasing or decreasing within five minutes. We did this for each station, then we smoothed this probability across hours, days, and months.

We looked at five different stations where more than 10 bikes per hour were turning over, but ended up looking most closely at the Thomas Circle station at 14th & M St NW. This 33-dock station was particularly interesting since its place on a border between residential and commercial neighborhoods leads to rapid turnover throughout the day.

We noticed the wait was most predictable at bikeshare stations that see a lot of turnover, like Thomas Circle. When that's the case, it's highly likely a bike will be available within a reasonable amount of time (even if you're in a hurry). And when there aren't many bikes left at a station, there's still a good chance that one will be available within a given five minute stretch.

If it's rush hour, waiting is a good call

Imagine you're working near Thomas Circle and looking to run an errand at 5 pm on a Tuesday. You rush over to the bikeshare station only to find it empty. What should you do?

The data shows that if you wait for five minutes, there is a 50% chance a bike will appear. Considering how long it might take to walk to the next-closest station, five minutes might not be so bad!

If the same situation came up at 1 pm, however, you'd only have a 20% chance of getting a bike within five minutes. Waiting would probably be a waste of time, and you might want to find another bikeshare station (or choose another transportation mode altogether).

Chance of bikes appearing within five minutes at different times of day. The station is Thomas Circle, the time is a weekday during May. Graphs from TransitScreen.

It's rare for a station to go from having few bikes to actually having zero

Let's say that next week, at the same time, you check an app like TransitScreen before leaving your building. This time, the dock isn't empty...but it only has one bike.

What's the chance there won't be any bikes left after the five minutes it takes you to walk there? It turns out even at the busiest time, evening rush, it's still 60% likely a bike will still be there when you arrive.

Chance of a single bike remaining after 5 minutes at different times of day. Station is Thomas Circle, time is a weekday during May.

Similar ideas hold for returning bikes to full stations

It's not uncommon for people to get "dockblocked," which is when you go to return a bikeshare bike but the station is full.

Anecdotally, this seems even more common than people waiting at empty stations. It's possible that's because it's just easier to see a person waiting with a bike rather than one who is empty-handed. It could also be that people who need to return bikes are willing to wait longer because they've just finished a ride and they're feeling tired.

Either way, like with empty stations, we predict that in a lot of cases, it makes sense to wait rather than find another station.

We can do similar studies for other stations

We used Thomas Circle as our example, but as long as it has open bikeshare data, we can study stations with high bike turnover in any city—New York, Boston, London, or Paris—With a combination of "big data" and data science, it turns out bikeshare systems are surprisingly predictable!

Three dockblocked riders patiently waiting in Dublin. Photo by Ryan Croft.

I'd like to thank Erin Boyle for doing the coding and analysis for our recent research. Dan Gohlke shared his CaBiTracker data store with us, and we used open source code from the Data Science for Social Good group.

Lousiana Avenue could get a protected bikeway

What's next for protected bikeways in DC? A few sections are in the works, including a connection from NoMA to Pennsylvania Avenue, a north-south bikeway downtown, and several other small connections as well as the next piece of the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

Area around Louisiana Avenue from the DC Bicycle Map.

At a recent meeting of the Bicycle Advisory Council, representatives of the District Department of Transportation announced that DDOT is working with the Architect of the Capitol and the ANC to extend the soon-to-be-completed protected bikeway on First Street NE from Union Station to the bikeway on Pennsylvania Avenue NW via Louisiana Avenue NE/NW.

The First Street NE extension to Union Station is almost done. Resurfacing will begin soon (if it's not already underway). After that, DDOT will install concrete blocks similar to those farther north.

When done, First Street will become a one-way street with a two-way protected bikeway where today motor vehicles are allowed to drive two directions for part of the road's length. The bikeway on this block will be two feet wider (10 feet) than on the sections farther north, as DDOT now views 10 feet as the minimum for such facilities. There will be a loading zone on the opposite side of the street.

DDOT has been meeting with the Architect of the Capitol, local Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, and Councilmember Charles Allen's staff to discuss extending the bikeway further south, along Louisiana Avenue, where it would connect to Pennsylvania Avenue via either First or Third streets.

Discussions are preliminary and no alternatives have been defined yet, but the response has been mostly positive. One potential roadblock is that the design will likely require removing parking along Louisiana. Parking is under the purview of the Senate's Sergeant at Arms, not the AOC, and they are concerned about the loss of parking. But if all goes well, work could begin next year.

Senate parking on Louisiana Avenue. Image from Google Maps.

A north-south bikeway through downtown

The East End Bikeway would be a mile-long north-south bikeway on the east side of downtown. Studies are continuing for this project. DDOT planners have collected data on traffic volume, parking, transit use, land use etc. They have also been reaching out to stakeholders, especially churches, to address concerns early.

They'd like to have a public meeting on it soon, perhaps September, and present alternatives. There will be choices about designs and about which street(s) to use.

Area around downtown from the DC Bicycle Map.

4th and 8th have been ruled out, but they may get bike lanes. On other streets, the options are a one-way protected bikeway on each side of the street; a bi-directional bikeway on one side; or a pair of one-way bikeways on adjacent streets such as 5th and 6th.

They hope to have the 30% design completed by the end of the year, with installation to start next spring.

What else?

DDOT has only installed about two miles of bike lanes so far this year. Bike planners have been busy filling small gaps. Those are nearly as much work as longer lanes, but with less mileage. Still, DDOT planners think they're critical pieces which will pay off.

They've installed a couple of small bike lane sections on 2nd and 3rd streets NE near Rhode Island Avenue; bike lanes and sharrows on 49th street NE; a pair of one-way bike lanes on Galveston and Forrester Streets SE; and one-block sections on 4th and 6th NE near Stanton Park. They plan to do the same thing on 11th and 13th near Lincoln Park too.

19th Street NE/SE on Capitol Hill got a bike lane and sharrows. This project was originally going to be a complete rebuild of the street, but became restriping only.

Area around the northern Met Branch Trail from the DC Bicycle Map.

Design and community outreach is underway on the north section of the Metropolitan Branch Trail. DDOT planners are meeting with community groups, taking soil borings near the trash transfer station and the Metro tunnel, and working on the 30% design, which they hope to complete this year. The stickier sections are where the trail crosses Riggs Road and the area near the Brookland Metro entrance. They hope to start construction in 2017.

Finally, DDOT and DPW are creating a snow clearing plan for bridges for next winter. Last year no one was responsible for the 14th Street Bridge so it wasn't cleared. They are trying to prioritize bridge sidewalks for clearing and then DPW and DDOT are dividing up responsibilities, so that every bridge will eventually get service.

A version of this post was originally posted on TheWashCycle.

We're hiring! Come work for us or help us find great people!

Greater Greater Washington is growing and working more on housing. We're looking to grow our team with two new, amazing people. Is that you? Or do you know someone who fits the bill?

Hiring photo from Shutterstock.

Our new Community Engagement Manager will develop our new housing program by building relationships with people in a wide range of neighborhoods, planning in-person events, recruiting people to write for the web, and organizing people to get involved directly in pushing for solutions to rising housing costs in their communities.

Our Managing Director will strengthen our organization by handling all of the necessary and vitally important pieces of actually making a nonprofit tick, including managing staff day to day, fundraising, handling things like computers and office space, and working with the board to develop clear goals for programs and staff.

The detailed job descriptions are below, or you can download a PDF. Consider applying, and we'd also really appreciate your help spreading the word, especially to people and communities who don't already read Greater Greater Washington. Thank you!

Managing Director

Do you passionately enjoy growing small nonprofit organizations and thinking about how to make them sustainable? Do you also care deeply about walkable urban places, transportation options like transit and bicycling, and increasing housing choices for people of all incomes? Do you want to take Greater Greater Washington to its next level of growth?

Greater Greater Washington is growing from an organization with one part-time employee to three full-time employees. This opens up exciting new possibilities but also requires us to build our organization and sources of support to make that level sustainable, and hopefully grow beyond as well. We need a Managing Director to take primary charge of fundraising, staff, and day-to-day office operation.

The Managing Director will:

  • Develop, supervise, and mentor the Staff Editor and Community Engagement Manager on a day-to-day basis to ensure that they have a clear work plan and the resources they need to succeed; write regular performance reviews in consultation with the Board of Directors
  • Create plans to increase contributed and earned revenue, track existing sources of revenue, and execute on plans with assistance from the Board of Directors and other volunteers
  • Manage the daily operations of the organization such as monitoring spending and income, and securing office space, computers, and other basic needs of the organization
  • Guide, encourage, and recruit volunteer members of our editorial board to continue to steer the website's direction, contribute content, and handle specific portfolios of responsibilities.
  • Work closely with the Founder and President as well as other board members to guide the strategic direction for the organization
  • Staff meetings of the Board of Directors and assist the board in recruiting new members
Candidates must have:
  • At least four years of experience in small nonprofit organizations including experience with organizational development
  • At least three years of experience with fundraising for nonprofits including creating and implementing fundraising plans, ideally including experience fundraising from foundations, corporate sources, and developing earned revenue. Experience with Washington-area philanthropy is a strong plus.
  • Proven ability to work with board members and volunteers with a wide range of personalities to keep them engaged and interested and mediate interactions as needed
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and strong communication skills
  • Talent for thinking strategically and ability to balance immediate and long-term priorities
  • Ability to work independently, without day-to-day direction from others, and to work occasional evenings and weekends
  • Understanding of and experience with multiple parts of the Washington region in DC, Maryland, and Virginia
  • A passion for urban planning and transportation, a deep desire to see more vibrant walkable places in a growing and inclusive region, and some understanding of the policy issues behind it; having regularly read Greater Greater Washington for a substantial period of time is a strong plus
This is a full-time, salaried position. The position involves working with a small team of four people in office space that we will soon secure somewhere in central DC. Women and people of color are strongly encouraged to apply.

To apply, please send a resume; a cover letter explaining your interest and qualifications for the position, and why you want to be a part of our team; and two work samples (fundraising, media, marketing, or other written materials) to with "Managing Director" in the subject line.

Community engagement photo from Shutterstock.

Community Engagement Manager

Are you as alarmed as we are that Washington, DC is rapidly turning into a place that poor, middle class, and even many upper middle class people cannot afford to live in? Do you want to help us ensure that DC has room for everyone who wants to come live here or stay in the communities where they've long lived? Do you enjoy talking to people face to face? If so, you might be perfect to be Greater Greater Washington's Community Engagement Manager.

The Community Engagement Manager will be able to build an exciting new program for Greater Greater Washington that will involve building relationships, convening conversations, and organizing residents across divides and barriers in DC. The role involves working with people in communities all around the city in person and also helping elevate their voices to a higher level by working with them to create content for the Greater Greater Washington website.

The Community Engagement Manager will:

  • Build relationships with neighborhood leaders, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, civic association leaders, faith community leaders, and other stakeholders in all eight wards of DC to discuss housing capacity and displacement issues and build coalitions to pursue solutions
  • Organize and facilitate conversations and educational events in communities around DC
  • Cultivate existing grassroots supporters and locate and engage new supporters through online and offline grassroots outreach techniques
  • Experiment with ways to generate content for the website from in-person events, such as written summaries, audio or video, social media roundups, or other content
  • Identify people who can and are willing to effectively write about their experiences, their visions, and/or development projects in their neighborhoods from all parts of DC
  • Mobilize people to contact District officials and councilmembers, attend community meetings, council hearings, zoning hearings, and other events
Candidates must have:
  • At least three years of experience organizing in electoral or issue advocacy campaigns
  • Experience working in traditionally underserved communities, ideally including District of Columbia wards 7 and 8
  • Ability to attend many community meetings during evenings and weekends
  • Proficiency in using social media to reach a wide audience
  • An outgoing personality and comfort speaking with people from a range of backgrounds
  • Strong writing skills. Experience in media or communications is a plus
  • A strong commitment to walkable, inclusive communities and the transportation networks and other infrastructure needed to support them
  • Experience in economics, housing finance, community development, or related fields also a plus
This is a full-time, salaried position. The position involves a lot of time in the field and working with a small team of four people in office space that we will soon secure somewhere in central DC. Women and people of color are strongly encouraged to apply.

To apply, please send a resume; cover letter explaining your interest in housing capacity in Washington DC, your qualifications for the position, and why you want to be a part of our team; and two short writing samples to with "Community Engagement Manager" in the subject line.

Breakfast links: Asbestos and concrete

Photo by daryl_mitchell on Flickr.
Asbestos on the rails: The oldest rail cars in Metro's fleet contain asbestos, but WMATA says there is no threat to riders' health. The agency is hiring a contractor to remove it before the cars are decommissioned and disassembled. (Post)

Even more Transit Center money?: WMATA wants Montgomery County to pay $15 million to cover future maintenance and repair costs for the beleaguered Silver Spring Transit Center before WMATA takes over control of the facility next month. Montgomery County says WMATA is moving the goalposts. (WAMU)

Wheels for those in wheelchairs: DC is pushing for more wheelchair-accessible taxis. There are grants to help taxi companies buy vehicles. Uber, meanwhile, has no wheelchair-accessible cars. (WAMU)

Subsidized solar: An affordable housing development in Adams Morgan is one of the first in the District to install solar panels. The solar panels will help cut down utility costs for the building. (District Source)

It's electric: Metro staff got a first hand look at all-electric bus technology with demonstrations from several bus manufacturers. Metro is in the early stages of evaluating adding all-electric buses to its fleet. (PlanItMetro)

Seven corners a go: Redevelopment at Seven Corners got the green light from the Fairfax County Board. The plan will create denser mixed-use development, but faced strong opposition. (Post)

Big or small: Living in a small condo building lets residents avoid the bureaucracy of large buildings, but also means more responsibility. What's better? (Post)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.

Think you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 61

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

This week, we have a guest photographer. These five photos were all taken by Mr. Johnson.

Image 1

Image 2

Image 3

Image 4

Image 5

We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun for the rest of you.

The answers will appear on Thursday. Good luck! Thanks again to Mr. Johnson for his submissions.

Update: The answers are here.

Help us rebrand and relaunch our website with a short survey

Yesterday, we were so excited to share the big news that Greater Greater Washington is growing. We're also (thanks in part to our new resources) starting on a site redesign. Can you help us by taking a very short survey?

Redesign image from Shutterstock.

The last time the site got a major facelift was 2009, and it's high time we got another one. This project will take several months, and we'll be sharing our progress and asking for your feedback at many points along the way.

To kick things off, we're starting by thinking about our brand and logo, a first step to redesigning the site. We hope you will take the survey below. Thanks so much!

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