The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.


Breakfast links: The new line

Photo by DDOTDC on Flickr.
Circulator crosses the river: Yesterday, the DC Circulator inaugurated a new line connecting Skyland, Anacostia, Barracks Row, and Potomac Avenue Metro. (Post) ... Circulator also consolidated some stops on K Street and Wisconsin Avenue and simplfied the path from Union Station eastward to Capitol Hill. Here's the new map.

Waldorf wants light rail (not Metro): Charles County is asking for a light rail line from Branch Avenue down to Waldorf. They don't want a Green Line extension because they say that would trigger more development than they can handle. (Baynet, Bossi)

HP shouldn't be a weapon: At least one Chevy Chase historic preservation "organization" was formed for the sole purpose of stopping some proposed development. When preservation is used that way, preservation loses. (City Paper)

U and King Streets are great: The American Planning Association released its 2011 "Great Places in America" list. Among the 10 "Great Streets" are U Street in DC, King Street in Alexandria, and Davis Street in Culpeper.

Booth map gets better: Cameron Booth, the People's Choice winner in our map contest, has revised his map some more based on your comments on his entry and on Lance Wyman's revisions.

"Super NoVA" transportation study starts: The McDonnell administration is starting a new study to look at transportation in Northern Virginia. Will it come up with any good solutions or just the same old thing? (Examiner)

Bowser squeezes Orange: Muriel Bowser accused Vincent Orange of "pandering" by pushing his ethics bill as emergency legislation, while Bowser plans more comprehensive hearings on all proposals in her committee. (City Paper)

Republicans not kicking DC (much): Except on abortion, Congressional Republicans are actually living up to their philosophy of more local control by not messing much with the DC budget and even letting DC not shut down if the feds do. (Examiner)

And...: Could DC become a tax shelter for insurers? (City Paper) ... Another boring glass box. (DC Metrocentric) ... There's now a cupcake shop east of the river. (CHOTR) ... Ward 1's task force recommends 4 ANCs but some want 5. (Park View DC, Borderstan)

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David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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U Street is on the list of the 10 best great places? Makes you wonder if the authors of the list visited the place any time other than when Obama went to buy a half smoke. Also makes you wonder about their criteria. Yes, U Street has a lot of potential, but it's still a place you don't really want to be out on alone after dark.

by Lance on Oct 4, 2011 8:34 am • linkreport

re Cameron's map and green Line light rail: I never noticed that the east side of the Metro doesn't go much past the Beltway. It's time for MD to extend all the lines much much farther.

by Redline SOS on Oct 4, 2011 8:55 am • linkreport

Nobody goes to U Street at night anymore. It's too crowded.

by monkeyrotica on Oct 4, 2011 9:02 am • linkreport

Light rail to Waldorf

Whatever MTA Maryland does, whether it be more Commuter Bus trips and/or routes, or the Light Rail up Crain and Branch, they better do it fast.

Traffic is getting worse. The additional lane at the 373/381/5 intersection made it doubly worse. The queue time up to that traffic light is 15 minutes on bad days. The busses go on 301, and get back on Branch after the intersection just to stay on schedule.

by wmataplusside on Oct 4, 2011 9:08 am • linkreport

It's hard not to feel sorry for Francis Lewis Cardozo when even the American Planning Association is convinced his last name was "Cardoza".

by JJ on Oct 4, 2011 9:20 am • linkreport

+ monkey,
I've been to U St a fair amount of times at all hours, and I've never been alone.

by spookiness on Oct 4, 2011 9:28 am • linkreport

VDOT is starting outreach meetings on its six year plan, and isn't coming anywhere Metro-accessible (closest meeting is VDOT in Fairfax), so safe to assume that "Super NoVA" is going to be outer beltway + window dressing.

by darren on Oct 4, 2011 9:31 am • linkreport

I am disappointed that it took more than an hour for the ghost of the outer beltway to show up.

RE: "Cardozo"; well, that's what you get for being a Republican.

by charlie on Oct 4, 2011 9:36 am • linkreport

At one point, Circulator was considering extending the Rosslyn-Dupont Circle line to U Street. Does anyone know what the status is on that?

by Max on Oct 4, 2011 9:38 am • linkreport

"Yes, U Street has a lot of potential, but it's still a place you don't really want to be out on alone after dark. "

Why not?

U Street is perfectly safe. My girlfriend lives 2 blocks from U Street. We walk to have dinner at the restaurants on/near U street all the time. We've even walked to/from a midnight set at Bohemian Caverns with no problems at all and we're in our late 50's.

by ceefer66 on Oct 4, 2011 9:59 am • linkreport

@ Booth map: Much better than Wyman's map, except that MARC does not stop at King St. That's VRE.

by Jasper on Oct 4, 2011 10:07 am • linkreport

I know it's never going to be 100% to scale, but I wish that Booth's map left a bit more room between Foggy Bottom and the river (and did some creative stretching to do the same around Waterfront-SEU). The rivers are handy landmarks, and there's plenty of room to place stations that are on/near the riverfront appropriately without distorting the rest of the map.

Otherwise, I like this second revision a lot. The text is still probably too small to be practical, but it's really a great map... The gradients/shadows even make up for some of the map's slight features.

by andrew on Oct 4, 2011 10:07 am • linkreport

Oh. I just noticed this, but Booth wins hands-down for the best out-of-system transfer icon.

Easily the best concept I've seen presented. It's 100% obvious the second you look at it (just like the new Airport bus icons)

by andrew on Oct 4, 2011 10:09 am • linkreport

Re: Circulator East of the River.

Now it probably should be mentioned that that new line essentially came at the cost of the Convention Center/Waterfront Line. Now that's kind of been replaced with the 74 (but it doesn't run as frequently). However, the 70/71 have also been discontinued south of the Archives, so an an area where you had Circulator and Metrobus coming every 7 minutes or so, you now have a bus every 18-24 minutes. Though in fairness, with the number of close Metro stations along the route, it's possibly an area that can live without a high level of bus service.

by Steven Yates on Oct 4, 2011 10:09 am • linkreport

@Lance - I have not felt unsafe on U Street in about 4 years, at any time of day or night. Crowded, sure, but not unsafe. Not sure which blocks you're wandering on.

@Max - someone brought up Circulator extensions at the ANC2E meeting last night (in particular, the possibility of extending the Union Station-Georgetown line up to the Cathedral). DDOT said that the issue is that any extension of the line requires extra buses, in order to keep the targeted 10 minute headways. They didn't say how many blocks extension requires a new bus, but I'm sure they have some models. Circulator buses apparently cost around $500K in capital and $200K in annual operating expenses, so I think the main constraint on extending lines is DDOT budget right now (as increased ridership would pick up some, but certainly not all of the extra cost).

by Jacques on Oct 4, 2011 10:18 am • linkreport

It should be noted that the 2006 Charles County Comprehensive Plan proposes LRT as far south as La Plata. And unlike Prince George's County, they do not propose LRT along Indian Head Hwy.

And as much as I'd like this "Super NoVA" study to mean something, I'm not holding my breath.

by Froggie on Oct 4, 2011 10:22 am • linkreport

@Lance U Street is safe, especially after dark when the restaurants and bars are hopping and people are out and about. Saying it's a place you "don't want to be alone after dark" is inaccurate at best. What exactly should one be afraid of? Did you feel threatened by that flash mob snowball fight? ;)

by MrTinDC on Oct 4, 2011 10:29 am • linkreport

Waldorf doesn’t want metrorail coming there but they do want rail transit. Light rail will still require a transfer. Remember this post from 09 25 2011 in the Just talking about Metro to Woodbridge is worthwhile. Under this schema not only do you get what Waldorf and Charles County wants you get a one seat ride to the urban core.

by Sand Box John on Oct 4, 2011 10:40 am • linkreport

Yeah, I go home after midnight from gigs on U Street all the time and the most dangerous encounters I have are with Maryland drivers trying to run my bike off the road.

by Phil on Oct 4, 2011 10:41 am • linkreport

@Phil - you should try riding on Pennsylvania Ave SE on a Sunday around noon.

by Redline SOS on Oct 4, 2011 10:49 am • linkreport

RE: U St.
I would agree with Lance's comment if it were made a decade ago. The Atlas District now is about what U St. was back then in terms of safety.

by movement on Oct 4, 2011 11:01 am • linkreport

I think 14th Street and U Street areas together represent a great neighborhood. But I wouldn't single out that several block stretch of U Street as one of the best streets in America yet. It would either need a little more diversity of businesses and/or a streetscaping overhaul to push it into that upper echelon for me.

by Paul S on Oct 4, 2011 12:07 pm • linkreport

@Lance I have lived in the U Street corridor for 10 years. Your fear of being alone after dark (nowadays) is unfounded.

First of all, you will not really be alone because U street neighborhood has constant activity, good lighting, and people on the street. We also have the 3D police headquarters right there on 17th and V St.

So what do you base your opinion of U Street's safety on?

by Ward 1 Guy on Oct 4, 2011 12:49 pm • linkreport

There was a planning initiative for light rail in Southern Maryland from the DC area maybe 10 years ago. If Dan M. has archive versions of his BeyondDC website on disk, he had links to the study. With good URLs, it'd probably be possible to get links to the documents from OTOH, Henry Kay at MTA could probably get someone to resurrect the documents...

maybe it was the bottom entry on this page,

by Richard Layman on Oct 4, 2011 1:12 pm • linkreport

At Ward 1 Guy. U Street is a long street and of course some parts of it are safe at all hours ... and obviously I wasn't talking about the part around 17th Street where no one other than us locals would have a reason to go to. The unsafe parts are the commercial areas way to the east of there ... the parts of the street which you'd think someone looking for 'great streets' would be looking at ... The parts of the street where you'd send tourist too. I.e., Tell me if you really think Mr. and Mrs Average America should be wondering eastward down U Street any farther east than say 12th Street late at night? And that's not even getting into what's great about it? We have plenty of great streets in the DC area ... look at Pennsylvania down between the Capitol and the White House ... look at Connecticut Avenue in Dupont Circle (or even further uptown ... or further downtown from Dupont Circle) ... look at Wisconsin Avenue up in Friendship Heights ... or downtown Annapolis. Sorry, but U Street may have been in that category many decades ago, and it may someday again be in that category, but it's definitely not in that category today ....

by Lance on Oct 4, 2011 2:25 pm • linkreport

Yea, King Street is a great historic area. It really showcases the automobile mentality of 1955.

by OX4 on Oct 4, 2011 2:51 pm • linkreport

Yes, U Street has a lot of potential, but it's still a place you don't really want to be out on alone after dark.

People get mugged on S and T street, not on U, which makes sense: there aren't any people around to be witnesses.

Though I'm kind of convinced that Lance is totally trolling. Doesn't he LIVE right by there?

by JustMe on Oct 4, 2011 4:06 pm • linkreport

you really think Mr. and Mrs Average America should be wondering eastward down U Street any farther east than say 12th Street late at night?

Now you're really pulling our leg. The "American Planning Association" is obviously referring to the strip of U Street between roughly 11th and 17th. They're not referring to the point where U St. merges with Florida and the stretches of U Street in Ledroit Park, because that is the mix of retail, entertainment, and housing that they're praising exists. COME ON.

by JustMe on Oct 4, 2011 4:10 pm • linkreport

@JustMe ... Do you really think even that section of U Street could by any stretch of the imagination be considered 'great'? It's still a transitional area with a long long ways to go. Even the 'relatively safe' parts of it are anything but 'great'. You think the firehouse/MPD complex is 'great'? Or that liquor store across the corner from them? Or even the faded glory of that country western place across the street? Or are you referring to the very bad architecture buildings such as the Reeves Center? Or maybe the Duke Elington Building? Come on ... no trolling here. It's on it's way to getting better ... but it's a long long ways from being 'great' ... I agree a great street doesn't necessarily have to be monumental such as Pennsylvania Avenue, but it at least needs to be nice. Even Bethesda Row beats out U Street at this point ... and that's not saying much ...

by Lance on Oct 4, 2011 4:19 pm • linkreport

So, let me get this straight: You're afraid to walk on U Street after dark because the Reeves Center is ugly?

by Matt Johnson on Oct 4, 2011 4:21 pm • linkreport


Or even the faded glory of that country western place across the street?

You mean Stetson's? Yes, Stetson's is exactly the kind of business establishment that makes U Street great. I wish we had more of those kinds of neighborhood bars in this city.

Also, I can understand the desire to trash the Reeves Center's architecture, but the Ellington? The building that just sold for $100 million?

by Alex B. on Oct 4, 2011 4:27 pm • linkreport

. Do you really think even that section of U Street could by any stretch of the imagination be considered 'great'?

Uh, yes. Otherwise I would have disagreed with the APA's decision in my comment. I mean, IIRC, you live right by there, so you know what's around. When was the last time you hung out on PA Avenue? (I assume you're referring to PA Avenue NW)

Bethesda Row is a nice outdoor mall. U Street is a neighborhood main street.

As I said, Lance knows the area well enough and knows that many of us live and hang out in the area and that U Street is the sort of place that GGW readers and writers like, so I think he's just using this as an attempt at pushing our buttons.

Also, how does one be "alone" on U Street after dark? It's very crowded.

by JustMe on Oct 4, 2011 4:48 pm • linkreport

@OX4: Yea, King Street is a great historic area. It really showcases the automobile mentality of 1955.

Have you actually been to King Street in Old Town? It's two traffic lanes and two parking lanes, lined by buildings that are mostly over 100 years old. How does that reflect a 1955 automobile mentality?

If anything I wish King Street were less arthritically historic. By far the worst buildings on that street are the ones that badly mimic Colonial and Federal styles but with an awkward sense of scale and detail. Some more contemporary architecture might liven up the place.

by jimble on Oct 4, 2011 5:02 pm • linkreport

Even the 900 block of U stacks up better "after dark" than the 900 block of Pennsylvania, which is one big dead zone thanks (ironically) to the brutalist FBI headquarters with no ground level retail.

The east end of U Street (before Florida), in contrast, is bustling with nighttime foot traffic generated by the metro and bikeshare stations, the 9:30 club, Nellie's, the Velvet Lounge, and the many restaurants in "Little Ethiopia."

by Ward 1 Guy on Oct 4, 2011 5:10 pm • linkreport

Lance's "East of there" qualification doesn't hold up. I'm definitely in the post-hipster age category and don't find it a problem late at night and have no trouble with going up 13th, 14th or Vermont at those hours from Logan. Whether it's a "great street" is a different matter. It and King are only moderately interesting and probably reflect what the APA membership knows, with a few obscurities thrown in (like Culpepper). Given the inclusion of lifeless, but pretty German Village and Ansley Park (nice old residential streets hemmed in by strip malls and skyscrapers) in Atlanta, I can't say that they are good judges of "great".

by Rich on Oct 4, 2011 5:22 pm • linkreport

@ Richard Layman, I think you'll find these studies most intriguing.

Planning Slides

MTA Corridor Study Final Report 2010

This includes the studies of possible alignments for light rail along the route 5 corridor.

Charles County is definitely in favor of a transit line alternative of some sort. In fact they're banking on one to help transform their suburban shopping mecca of Southern Maryland into something a lot more permanent. If you check this document out, you'll see that Charles County is very serious about giving Waldorf an urban core. [Via Charles County Government Planning Page]

With the vast amount of watersheds and protected historic lands throughout the county, they want to limit spread of sprawl to Waldorf and concentrate further growth at its core. Many support this.

As wamtaplusside put, Route 5 and Route 210 commuter routes are insanely clogged. I haven't met a single resident in Southern Maryland who wouldn't welcome this development yet.

Unfortunately Maryland does have quite a few more priority lines on the table which puts a Southern Maryland line behind bigger projects like the Purple Line, Corridor Cities Transitway and Baltimore's Red Line.

Still, a light rail line down here would help stabilize growth from getting out of control in a very environmentally sensitive area of our region. We can only hope development will be staved off, but Southern Maryland developers are quite savvy about development interests and do put a lot of thought into good planning around this area, balancing the urban with the natural environment very well.

by Andrew Newsome on Oct 4, 2011 5:27 pm • linkreport

To clarify, APA is specifying the section of U St NW between 9th and 16th.

I don't think it's Top 10 material, but it's definitely better than Lance is trying to make it out to be.

by Froggie on Oct 4, 2011 10:02 pm • linkreport

Though I'm kind of convinced that Lance is totally trolling. Doesn't he LIVE right by there?

I don't think so. IIRC, he owns residential property not too far from there and that's usually where he sleeps, but he lives in Virginia. By his own admission, that's where he works and where he prefers to shop and socialize.

by cminus on Oct 4, 2011 11:01 pm • linkreport

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