Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Capital Bikeshare delivers


Photo by The Great Photographicon on Flickr.
CaBi to expand further: At last night's Capital Bikeshare birthday party, DDOT Director Terry Bellamy announced that DC will add 50 more stations beyond the 32 already planned, along with 500 more bikes early next year.

CaBi employee recovers a stolen bike: Bystanders in Woodley Park chased after a bike thief. A CaBi employee was able to recover the victim's bike. (PoP)

CaBi blew SmartBike away: Why did SmartBike never match CaBi's success? It lacked day passes, enough locations, good marketing, and the bikes looked goofy. It serves as a case study of what not to do. (TBD)

Chinatown Metro is really is crowded: Growth downtown has made ridership at Gallery Place skyrocket, but the narrow platforms and T-shaped layout make it tricky for riders. WMATA is studying possible solutions, including filling in a "moat," cutting into vault corners, or even a new elevated walkway. (PlanItMetro, Examiner)

Steps forward and back for transparency: Mayor Gray reversed the fire chief's decision to censor tweets. (Post) ... 9 councilmembers booted reporters from an internal ethics chat. Closed-door sessions are permitted in some circumstances. (DCist)

What if Arlington never left DC?: The 100-square-mile District would boast 1 million residents, 12 wards, 1 Walmart, and still no members of Congress. (City Paper) ... This assumes the rest of local history wouldn't change.

No such thing as a free highway: With gas tax and toll revenues falling, Maryland is raising tolls to compensate. Virginia wants to add tolls to I-95 south of Richmond to fund repairs. (Post) ... Will this increase public awareness that highways are expensive?

Pedestrianize Penn Ave on Sundays?: Yesterday's Car-Free Day festivities inspired columnist Harry Jaffe to advocate making Penn. Avenue a bicyclist-pedestrian street on Sundays. It's symbolic, but would other streets be livelier venues? (Examiner)

And...: Fall began this morning at 5:04 am. (Post) ... The earthquake and tropical storm caused over $100 million in damage in Virginia. (Washington Times) ... All Metro riders (who register their cards) can now refill SmarTrips online. (Post)

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Eric Fidler has lived in DC and suburban Maryland his entire life. He likes long walks along the Potomac and considers the L'Enfant Plan an elegant work of art. He also blogs at Left for LeDroit, LeDroit Park's (only) blog of record. 

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Today is also the last weekday of DC Circulator service on the 7th Street, Southwest Waterfront line, but looking at their website, one would never know that.

by Adam on Sep 23, 2011 8:16 am • linkreport

The real problem is the encrypting of the radios. God help us if DC is involved with an interagency emergency and no other jurisdictions can talk to them. The post 9/11 mantra for first responders is to improve interagency communication not hinder it. The encryption of communication is a serious mistake.

by Rj on Sep 23, 2011 8:41 am • linkreport

Which Walmart would have been in DC? There are no Walmarts within the beltway and therefore no Walmarts within the former boundaries of Alexandria County, which included what is now Arlington and parts of what is now the City of Alexandria.

Also, this is sad news: http://alextimes.com/news/2011/sep/21/bicycle-co-ops-days-on-the-waterfront-a/

by Anne on Sep 23, 2011 8:52 am • linkreport

Yes. I'd like to find that Arlington walmart.

by Charlie on Sep 23, 2011 8:55 am • linkreport

Why transparency in DCMPD communications is generally a good thing (these particular communications are not public, but wanted to remind re: general need to oppose efforts to squelch):

http://www.glaa.org/archive/2001/policeemailpost0328.shtml

by Joel on Sep 23, 2011 8:58 am • linkreport

guess smartbike wasn't very smart now was it. i'll show myself out

by JessMan on Sep 23, 2011 9:06 am • linkreport

From the Examiner article - "Why not be car-free for real?" Bravo!

In 2011 North America, WCFD just seems to be an excuse for patting ourselves on our backs and handing out free swag. It used to the be that World Car Free Day was a chance for cities to show their residents what a street or an entire district could be like without cars.

Many European cities jump-started their successful pedestrian zone projects by taking advantage of WCFD events to build support. It seems like yesterday was another missed opportunity to do something similar. Why not a Ciclovia on Car-Free Day?

I like Jaffe's idea of making Pennsylvania Avenue car-free, but it shouldn't be the only street. How about a rotating car-free day each month on different neighborhood retail streets? It would help attract DC residents to explore other neighborhoods and build support for car-free or car-light activity across the whole city.

(PS: The Captcha box first gave me a math equation with square root and division symbols. Where the heck is the square root key on my keyboard?)

by KG on Sep 23, 2011 9:21 am • linkreport

Is there an ETA on when CaBi is going to start adding the new stations?

by Nicoli on Sep 23, 2011 9:25 am • linkreport

I think they mean the Walmart that is planned for Shirlington.

by Rj on Sep 23, 2011 9:28 am • linkreport

@ RJ

Hmmm....the article says it would "already have a Walmart." Why would a planned Walmart in Arlington count for more than the several planned in DC? I think they just don't know the difference between the City of Alexandria and the Alexandria section of Fairfax County. That said, many folks who live in those two jurisdictions don't the difference either.

by Anne on Sep 23, 2011 9:35 am • linkreport

I'm still waiting on the long-overdue 6th & H NE CaBi station. That's been on their "to do" list ever since the system opened. Any idea what the holdup at this particular location is?

by andrew on Sep 23, 2011 9:37 am • linkreport

Glad to see they're taking notice on the Gallery Place issue finally. IMHO, the easiest way they could alleviate problems (especially on the Shady Grove side of the Red line) is to discontinue the practice of stopping all trains like they were 8-cars. Passengers must walk 2 car lengths to find a door, which leads to overcrowding in the last 2 or so cars.

by John M on Sep 23, 2011 9:38 am • linkreport

Re: Cabi. Where are the stations in Arlington? There are still only 4. Many more were promised, yet summer has come and gone and little to no news has come out.

Are there firm dates?

by ArlCoRes on Sep 23, 2011 9:42 am • linkreport

@Anne: re. "no Wal Marts within the beltway"

I'm guessing you meant inside the beltway in Virginia, but there is a Wal Mart in Maryland at 6210 Annapolis Rd, Landover Hills, MD (http://tinyurl.com/44ecop8)

by Scott on Sep 23, 2011 9:42 am • linkreport

Oh, and Metro can (and should) start working on fixing the issues at Gallery Place's Red Line platforms ASAP.

My first (and easiest) suggestion would be to move as much crap off of the platforms as possible. This means that the benches and pylons should be pushed back further, into the "moat." I'm not entirely sure that it

Also, if they can turn ATC back on at this one station, they'll fix the serious safety hazard that develops whenever crowds bunch up on the east end of the Shady Grove platform (compounded by the train drivers' unwillingness to stop long enough for everyone to board).

If anything, short trains should stop at the REAR of this particular platform, rather than the front. (The rationale for stopping trains at the front of platforms also doesn't really apply, as the station is not located near a blind curve)

by andrew on Sep 23, 2011 9:51 am • linkreport

CaBi blew SmartBike away: Why did SmartBike never match CaBi's success? It lacked day passes, enough locations, good marketing, and the bikes looked goofy. It serves as a case study of what not to do.
-----------
Bikeshare (not CaBi -- and not WaPo or MoCo or CoHi or NoMa or HuffPo or AdMo or any other ridiculously cutesy abbreviation. Can't we just use, I don't know, words???!?!!?) bikes did not succeed because of their lack of goofiness. Come on, they look ridiculously dorky. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of the system and the density of stations, as compared to SmartBike, is probably the biggest difference. But who are we kidding - the bikes are goofy.

by Dan on Sep 23, 2011 9:53 am • linkreport

"Bikeshare" is a made-up cutesy word, too. "Bike sharing" is a different story. Or "cycle hire," the UK term.

by David Alpert on Sep 23, 2011 9:56 am • linkreport

Gallery Place definitely is overcrowded, particularly when 6 car red line trains pull into the station during rush hour. I'm usually in Gallery Place around 5 pm and witness crushload cars on 6 car red line trains toward Grosvenor or Shady Grove. In fact, it takes so long for everyone to offboard that frequently the doors close before passengers waiting on the platform are able to board the train. Passengers are unable to exit quickly for two clear reasons: one) 6 car trains force more people to pile into each car, requiring longer deboarding times, and two) narrow platforms lead to overcrowding that prevents a relatively quick exit for passengers deboarding the train. Usually the overcrowding isn't too terrible when 8 car trains are coming into the station, but I typically see two back to back 6 car trains in the direction of Grosvenor/Shady Grove pulling through right around 5 pm, an exceedingly unfortunate time to be running 6 car trains. It's too bad Metro can't ensure only 8 car red line trains are running through the core on weekdays between at least 4:30 - 6 pm.

by Aaron on Sep 23, 2011 9:57 am • linkreport

That's great that the Examiner ran the Jaffe story in light of running this editorial: http://washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/2011/09/automobiles-gave-americans-mobility-prosperity-and-greater-freedom

And as for CaBi, can we please start the petition as to where to place these 500 docks?!?! Federal Center SW NEEDS one badly!

by Shipsa01 on Sep 23, 2011 10:00 am • linkreport

I think if arlington/alexandria had stayed a part of DC it would have actually probably been ignored (part of the "no federal buildings south of the potomac" and all) and probably have been pretty barren and a poorer district just by geography and planning then. By today it might have changed into what it is but the trajectory would have been very different. I was also just thinking about this the other day.

by Canaan on Sep 23, 2011 10:06 am • linkreport

@Andrew: I think the rationale for stopping all trains, regardless of length, with the front at the end of the platform is that train operators sometimes forgot that they were running 8-car trains instead of the 6 cars they were used to. I'm not sure blind curves in stations had anything to do with it.

by davidj on Sep 23, 2011 10:10 am • linkreport

Gallery Place: it might help matters if they could ensure that all the escalators in place there were a.) working and b.) not blocked off for maintenance. *grumble grumble*

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Sep 23, 2011 10:11 am • linkreport

@ Scott,

You are right, my bad. I had read that the Walmarts planned for DC were to be the first inside the beltway and failed to verify that claim. Guess I could use a lesson in local geography as well.

by Anne on Sep 23, 2011 10:14 am • linkreport

Gallery Place: The issue is almost entirely with stopping 6-car trains at the front of the platform. Though I was skeptical, removing the benches on the Shady Grove platform did marginally help, but it's still a mess. Yesterday I noticed there is a section of white lights where the red platform lights usually are near the front of the platform (around where the escalator to exit to 9th Street is). They appear to be new since they have a piece of tape on them that says "white lights". Does anyone know what that's about?

by Laura on Sep 23, 2011 10:25 am • linkreport

The Alexandria as part of DC stats also seem to include that part of Alexandria west of Broad Street, which was not part of the original cession, and only became part of the City of Alexandria in the 20th century.

An interesting facet of this counterfactual: would a unified federal district been more likely to maintain all of its independent municipalities (i.e. Alexandria, Potomac, Georgetown, etc)?

by Kolohe on Sep 23, 2011 11:04 am • linkreport

What are the limitations to running 8-car trains on the red line during rush hour? It's the 6-car trains that cause all the GPlace headaches. To me that's the best thing that will actually work.

by HogWash on Sep 23, 2011 11:04 am • linkreport

"Broad Street" should be "King Street" (i.e. Rt 7)

by Kolohe on Sep 23, 2011 11:06 am • linkreport

Gallery Place ; who was the idiot that designed the station in the shape of a T in the first place someone should have said something during the construction or planning stages.

The way to fix the problems at Gallery Place would be to

1 Extend the platform east past the current end (not possible)

2 Building a platform above the red line connecting the 9th and F Street entrances and somehow add ramps or escalators to connect it to the Red Line platform

by kk on Sep 23, 2011 11:11 am • linkreport

People have identified (correctly) a number of reasons why the platform at Gallery Place for the Red Line to Shady Grove is so overloaded in the morning, but there's an additional wrinkle that I don't know has been explored: there's a major station exit at the west end of that platform, so for every person trying to transfer from the Yellow or Green Line to the Red Line, you've got at least half a dozen more just trying to exit Gallery Place at 9th Street. And the situation gets much, much worse when a Green or Yellow Line train arrives before westbound Red Line passengers who are leaving Metro at Gallery Place have reached the mezzanine or the Chinatown exit point. When that happens, you've got two waves of humanity, each getting in the other's way, and it happens at what's already a narrow chokepoint at the top of the escalators.

by cminus on Sep 23, 2011 11:44 am • linkreport

@KK

Rather speculative here, but I'd presume this was a limitation of the environment and track placement. The same foundations that prevent the red line platforms from being wider would prevent the yellow/green platform from going right through them. I believe the yellow-green line is basically directly under 7th street.

by Distantantennas on Sep 23, 2011 11:52 am • linkreport

@ Distantantennas

You have a point however the Red Line opened early 1976 almost 10 years before the Yellow Line 1984 (Green Line opened in 91). There was plenty of time to fix the mistake that was made. The station was already held up for almost a year Gallery Place open late 76 due to handicap access it could have been held up another 5 years with to fix the problem with no real consequences for riders.

Also in seeing how close Gallery Place, Judiciary Square and Metro Center are the only reason I could see for the station was for a transfer as nothing was there at the time besides a large parking lot for years.

On the issue of the tunnel and Judiciary Square they could have built Judiciary Square , Gallery Place, and Metro Center in a straight line but did not. Someone should have noticed it due to once getting off a train on the lower level you are walking almost a half block to the Red line. No one is going to walk 2 blocks between the lower platform to the Red line platform or 3 blocks from the H Street entrance.

by kk on Sep 23, 2011 12:17 pm • linkreport

If Arlington County had never left the District of Columbia, we probably would never had Mayor-for-Life Barry!
:<))

by Bob on Sep 23, 2011 12:38 pm • linkreport

@kk, @Distantantennas:
I don't know who the "idiot" was who designed Gallery Place that way, but I do know this: There was no easy way to do it.

There are several issues at play here.

The Green/Yellow Line:
The Green and Yellow Lines run under 7th Street from just south of U Street NW to just north of M Street SW. The geography of the city makes this street the best one to run under for that line.

That means that wherever the Red Line was to run, it would have to meet the Green/Yellow at 7th Street.

Judiciary Square, Union Station:
The Red Line coming from Glemnont needed to stop at Union Station. This station was sited parallel to the railroad tracks and First Street, between First and the Station itself.

The tracks curve to the west as soon as they leave the Union Station subway stop. This puts the tracks under D Street NW, headed west.

The White House, Treasury Building:
The Red Line coming from Rockville eventually ends up under Connecticut Avenue. When it gets to LaFayette Square, it has to curve to avoid the White House complex. To head toward the central part of Downtown, that means going east (not south along 17th Street).

This puts the Red Line under G Street NW.

Connecting the dots:
Okay to sum up, we have the Red Line on the west needing to be under G Street NW and the Red Line on the east needing to be under D Street NW.

That's a difference of 3 blocks, and it means that somewhere the Red Line would need to run diagonally across the street grid. It can't happen west of Metro Center because there's not enough room before the line gets to 12th Street, where it has to cross the Orange Line (Metro Center).

With only 1,300 feet separating the ideal station envelopes at Metro Center and Gallery Place, there's not enough room to do that diagonal shift between Metro Center and Gallery Place, either.

That means that the shift has to happen east of Gallery Place station.

But because of I-395, that shift has to happen in time to put the Judiciary Square station at Judiciary Square. And the square provided a mostly building-free path across the grid.

And what that means is that the curve of the Red Line must begin immediately east of 7th Street.

Putting it all together:
What this means is that the Red Line has to have a station intersecting the Green Line at 7th Street. But it cannot have the center of the platform at 7th Street, since the line must curve sharply.

The only feasible solution was to build a "t-shaped" station, with the "crossvault" centered at 7th and G.

No adjustments possible:
@kk:
You are incorrect to say that Metro had time to correct their error. When the Gallery Place station was constructed, all of it was constructed. The Red Line opened first (in 1976), but when it opened, the platform for the Green/Yellow were already there. The Yellow Line opened 7 years later, in 1983 (not 1984).

Metro knew they were designing a t-shaped station from the start. I doubt they thought the crowding would be as severe as it has been. But there was little they could do about it.

Narrow platforms:
The one final problem is the narrowness of the platforms. They are much narrower than the side-platform upper levels at L'Enfant and Metro Center. They can't be any wider on the south side because of the National Portrait Gallery.

An off-center vault would be aesthetically unpleasing, though it might be technically possible.

by Matt Johnson on Sep 23, 2011 1:31 pm • linkreport

As bike sharing spreads, as there been discussion of giving members the ability to use bikes when out of town? I believe that Alta is involved in Boston's proposed bike sharing operation. It seems that might be the best opportunity to test such a notion. Just a thought.

by MarCarMan on Sep 23, 2011 1:32 pm • linkreport

MarCarMan, I talked to Eric Gilliland of Alta about this. They would love to have reciprocity across systems. But as you can imagine, there are some difficulties. Boston charges $80 for their system and DC $75. So how do you keep everyone in Boston from just joining DC's. That's just one example. You need cities to cooperate and work with the manufacturer and the operator. I think everyone sees the potential and the benefits, it's making it all work that will take time. I think you'll see some sort of cooperation at some point.

by David C on Sep 23, 2011 2:00 pm • linkreport

RE: Chinatown

One way to alleviate the problem would be to reduce the number of people using the station by building a ped tunnel between Chinatown and Metro Center. I believe a virtual tunnel is in the works but an actual ped tunnel would be much more heavily used.

What are the limitations to running 8-car trains on the red line during rush hour?

WMATA doesn't own enough rail cars.

Boston charges $80 for their system and DC $75. So how do you keep everyone in Boston from just joining DC's.

By charging DC members an extra $5 if they want to use bikeshare in Boston or an extra $25 if they want to use it in NYC. And/Or, by giving members a limited number of rides in a different city as part of their membership.

How about a rotating car-free day each month on different neighborhood retail streets?

This would be confusing for drivers to keep track of and probably would not be in the best interests of businesses on the street. It would also create traffic problems as cars are crammed into the same detour around the closed off street. We already have enough street closings for various events, and that's fine and works, but those events are always much bigger than car-free day, so it's worth the hassle.

That said, there was a big comment discussion on the idea of creating a pedestrian plaza in DC similar to the one in Charlottesville. I suggest you lookup the GGW article and discussion.

by Falls Church on Sep 23, 2011 3:13 pm • linkreport

I thought the trains stopped all the way at the front because they're being driven manually instead of automatically, and there's some electrical reason that manual drivers can't stop in the middle.

by c on Sep 23, 2011 3:13 pm • linkreport

ArlCoRes,
There are most certainly more than 4 Cabi stations in Arlington County. There are at least a dozen in Crystal City alone.

by spookiness on Sep 23, 2011 3:43 pm • linkreport

As many have noted, letting 6-car Shady-Grove-bound red line trains stop where they used to stop would go a long way towards alleviating Gallery Place crowding; as it is now that huge space at the junction of the 'T' is useless for waiting passengers.

Another way to effectively add more space to the station would be to build platform doors and walls, which would let waiting passengers use more of the space without fear of falling onto the tracks. As an added bonus, it would make the incidence of being struck by a train much rarer. Hard to say though which of the options is more in keeping with the overall design aesthetic of the system.

by thm on Sep 23, 2011 3:48 pm • linkreport

On a red line train now that was the first train through Gallery Place after a 10b-day minute gap during rush hour. Of course it was just 6half cars, so everyone was crowded, the platform was crowded, and the majority couldn't even board the train before it left. All completely avoidable with an 8exciting car train.

by Aaron on Sep 23, 2011 4:49 pm • linkreport

^^ I was typing the above message on my cell phone while on the train. Not sure why my cell phone involuntarily inserted something in after every number (b-day, half, exciting). :-/

by Aaron on Sep 23, 2011 5:15 pm • linkreport

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