Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: See progress


Photo by ep_jhu on Flickr.
Turn off the dark: Some riders think Metro stations are too dark, but station design makes adding more lighting difficult. Maintenance also presents a challenge when other priorities compete for limited budget. (Post)

Anacostia loses grocery store: Anacostia's last grocery store closed but the developer is hoping to replace it with a high-profile tenant and has already turned away interested liquor stores and night clubs. (City Paper)

No one wants to run trolleys: Plans to initiate a free "trolley" route (a bus that looks like a trolley) in the Del Ray and Arlandria neighborhoods of Alexandria have hit a stumbling block after an RFP to operate the route received no bids. (Patch)

A few speed limits rise: Responding to public outcry, Mayor Gray raised the speed limits on part of Benning Road from 30 to 35, and on DC-295 to 50 mph. (Post)

Get stuff for more height: In exchange for building taller than the height limit allows, DC could require the developer to provide more public benefits like public space and LEED certification, like Arlington does today. (RPUS)

Frumin running at large: Ward 3 resident Matt Frumin plans to run for the at-large seat in April's special election. Many of the familiar faces from the recent chain of at-large elections may also run. (Post)

Where will the FBI go?: Fairfax and Prince George's are both pushing hard to get the FBI headquarters. Each has sites very near to Metro stations that would work well. (Bradley Heard suggests Morgan Boulevard). (Examiner)

We can learn from Barcelona: Barcelona can be a model for other cities around the world on topics such as encouraging walking and biking, how to build with varying street widths, and where to build tall buildings. (Atlantic Cities)

And...: Help the DC Streetcar pick a tagline. (DCist) ... HPRB gets a new chair. (City Paper) ... Fairfax Connector will start its 495 HOT lanes bus service next month. (WTOP) ... Pepco is talking to DC officials about a new DC United Stadium at Buzzard Point. (Post)

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Steven Yates grew up in Indiana before moving to DC in 2002 to attend college at American University. He currently lives in Southwest DC.  

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lets be honest. We don't want more lighting in metro stations becasue we'd see what bad condition they are in.

what we really need is better air-handling.

by charlie on Dec 3, 2012 8:37 am • linkreport

>>>Responding to public outcry, Mayor Gray raised the speed limits on part of Benning Road from 30 to 35, and on DC-295 to 50 mph.<<<

Not to speak of the roads themselves and whether they did or did not justify higher speed limits, but it's a bit unnerving to hear media reporting that Mayor Gray raised the speed limits as opposed to, say, traffic engineers.

While the Post does phrase it a bit more appropriately (and I don't intend to knock GGW for using more concise phrasing), the Post still gives the impression (and perhaps rightly so) that DDOT isn't allowed to practice its duties without a mayor signing off on every step along the way... and whether that's a good thing or a bad thing can be an open question with answers that change each time it's asked.

by Bossi on Dec 3, 2012 8:52 am • linkreport

Do you have any evidence that LEED certification provides any public benefit whatsoever?

by Jacob on Dec 3, 2012 9:02 am • linkreport

Don't know Matt Frumin, but he isn't any of the retreads, so am interested in finding out more. I assume GGW will meet all of these candidates and share opinions?

by William on Dec 3, 2012 9:08 am • linkreport

The metro can be super dark. I'll go blind from trying to read in a station.

One thing that has help is white panels underneath the mezzanines. That reflects back a lot of light under there. It was a marked difference that I noticed at Farragut west.

by drumz on Dec 3, 2012 9:14 am • linkreport

Richard layman' piece is very good, and I broadly agree with his point - raising the height limit should not be "as of right" but should be done in such a way as to maximize community benefits. I think that principle needs to be establish first, then we can discuss what the best concessions/proffers would be. LEED may not be the best enviromental/design standard out there, and environmental/design standards for the buildings may not be the preferred give back - as opposed to say parks, or transit proffers.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 3, 2012 9:21 am • linkreport

Plus rather than specific benefits (a la the pocket parks in silver spring) the public benefits should be paid into an earmarked fund. Let DC do the planning for parks/transportation. If say, Vornado pays into a park fund they can have something that says the park they built in Anacostia was paid for in exchange for a building downtown.

by drumz on Dec 3, 2012 9:25 am • linkreport

The Alexandria trolley thing isn't quite a fiasco, but it is close. The problem is that no one has spare rolling stock that they are willing to dedicate to a one year pilot with no guarantees of continuation. I wouldn't bid on it either. I still think the way ahead for Alexandria is to combine the King St. Trolley, AT10, and portions of the Metrobus 9 and 10 lines into a loop that mimics the DC Circulator.

BTW, the Thursday night transportation meeting mentioned in the Patch article was of minimal benefit. The primary objective was for the city to hear complaints from citizens and for the most part that was successful. There was very little in terms of communicating with the public so if you showed up expecting to learn something (like I did) you were disappointed.

by movement on Dec 3, 2012 9:25 am • linkreport

Turn off the dark: Hell, WMATA even succeeds in making the open air station dark. That's what you get for choosing boring brown and gruesome grey as your house colors.

No one wants to run trolleys: What's missing from these stories is the amount of money that Alexandria is willing to pay to their "free" trolley contractor. IMHO, I don't see a reason why DASH could not run it. They have the infrastructure for it. It seems horribly inefficient to run a single bus line.

Responding to public outcry, Mayor Gray raised the speed limits: So glad to hear that safety is what sets traffic policy, not entitlement.

Where will the FBI go?: Considering that the Feds already own that huge GSA site in Franconia, that site seems a shoe in. Unfortunately, a lot of lobby money will be wasted before some illogical decision will be made.

Barcelona can be a model: Barcelona can also be a model for a city that feels entitled to inependence, and a city that got heaps of (EU) money and did little with it to achieve real growth. Unemployment in Spain is around 25%, Barcelona might be a bit lower, but now much. Youth unemployment in Spain is over 50%.

by Jasper on Dec 3, 2012 9:31 am • linkreport

Moco already gives away more height for public amenities, so we end up with a larger pocket park or whatever. Allowing this kind of selective height dosen't address the supply vs. demand argument as the increased supply would be negligable. If having landmark tall buildings sprinkled around a la Barcelona should be done from an urban design perspective, rather than have a hand full of Washington Monument tall skyskrapers pop up wherever a deep pocketed and egotistical developer manages to assemble enough properties. What a Bing View of Barcelona shows is a supre strict height limit with very few pop-ups like Paris's Montparnasse. Unfortunatley for Paris, thier "I'm a modern city" token skyscraper was done in an era where the curtain wall grid pattern was the extent of archtiectural expression. Now of course, they've created a dumping ground (La Defense) for all the additional office square footage that the central city can't handle. They are just now contemplating a selective height increase to aleviate the supply issue. We are a long way from there.

As for lighting the metro, what taken so long? Granted, if you light it up, you might want to take some paint and brush with you, but I'm sure modernists would have no problem hidding the structure with an exquisitly detailed curtain wall!

by Thayer-D on Dec 3, 2012 9:42 am • linkreport

@Jasper
DASH doesn't have the rolling stock to spare. They don't want to buy it because they are not sure the pilot will be successful. They didn't set a price for the contractor. They simply asked for bids. No one was interested in the job.

by movement on Dec 3, 2012 9:47 am • linkreport

The metro station lighting is fine the way it is. The WashPost article makes it sound like there is some kind of consensus behind its headline. It's really just an opinion piece.

by aaa on Dec 3, 2012 9:51 am • linkreport

Layman's article is the classic externality argument, with the state taking over some of the externality. I feel his use of Arlington may weaken his overall argument; the "artisphere" and "black box theatre" are huge wastes and LEED doesn't do much good when you leave the lights on 24/7.

Japser is very correct on the massive waste of money that is Barecelona. Not to mention the linguistic junk. In any case, it is interesting that the high rises there are a offices and hotels. He also didn't mention the enourmous amount of muggings/pickpockets on the Rambla.

by charlie on Dec 3, 2012 9:52 am • linkreport

"Plus rather than specific benefits (a la the pocket parks in silver spring) the public benefits should be paid into an earmarked fund. Let DC do the planning for parks/transportation. If say, Vornado pays into a park fund they can have something that says the park they built in Anacostia was paid for in exchange for a building downtown. "

Maybe. one limit on that approach - not all the concessions will necessarily be fungible like that - parks and transit yes - but if design standards, LEED (or other certification), on site bike/ped accommodation, etc then it can't be only a proffer fund.

Second issue - in some cases opposition will focus on specific impacts in an area - a "la defense" at Poplar Point, say, certainly will require signficantly more transit than now exists there, and anxiety that the proffer money would go to a seperated blue line instead, or streetcars in NW, or a park who knows where - might make it harder to get buy in.

I agree though - for extra height downtown, it doesnt necessarily make sense to mandate parks downtown - it could make more sense to add parks elsewhere.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 3, 2012 9:53 am • linkreport

Personally I think the Tour Montparnasse is a spectacular building. I'll take that any day over some try-hard overdecorated building that looks like it was inspired by The Fountainhead, e.g. this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkview_Square

by Phil on Dec 3, 2012 9:53 am • linkreport

" I feel his use of Arlington may weaken his overall argument; the "artisphere" and "black box theatre" are huge wastes and LEED doesn't do much good when you leave the lights on 24/7. "

Lets not turn this into ArlingtonNow - I happen to like the Artisphere and am hopeful about its future, but if it was an error it was based on particular circumstances, and does not invalidate the general approach. as for lights on, are lights on longer at LEED buildings than non-LEED buildings? If not, than LEED is likely still leading to lower energy use.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 3, 2012 9:57 am • linkreport

@ AWalkerInTheCity; nope, sorry. Both are wasteful projects. Monday, through the RBID, is dropping a lot and making Rosslyn more usable, but the artisphere is not.

I'll agree the problem with LEED is it doesn't control usage, just the developers, but that is sort of the entire problem with that approach.

And again, I just think he picked a few bad examples. The TDM, or mandating bikeshare stations, for instance, is a better approach.

Actually, the first point in the Barelona article is the best:citizen-first rather than county-board-pet-project first.

by charlie on Dec 3, 2012 10:04 am • linkreport

Metro needs to save money so they can pay for lighting? Ok, how about we cease heating (and cooling to some extent) the stations?

In the winter, metro heats the stations to the point where I am too warm to wear a coat. I have one of those keychain thermometer things on my bag and it usually reads high 60's and low 70's all winter long. That is ridiculous. All the heat flows right out the top of the tunnels to street level, and lets be honest, the stations are underground and the natural ground temperate keeps the stations regulated between 50-80 (winter/summer).

The trains themselves are heated cooled, we shouldn't be regulating the temp of the system so that people would be comfortable standing on the platform in shorts and a tee shirt in the middle of winter.

I can understand the greater need to cool the stations in the summer (to an extent) as heat exhaustion etc from the humidity in this town is an issue,but it should only be on the hottest days. Really, we could make an argument that none of them should be regulated as we have plenty of surface stations without heating and cooling and people seem to use them just fine. We could set the threshold at 90 degress, or whatever works. But, no one is going to die of exposure in the stations in the winter.

Metro is paying to heat and cool several million sq/ft of platform space, and doing it with highly inefficient 70's chiller and heating technology. I wouldn't be surprised if metros heating and cooling bill for the year is several million dollars and it is all a huge waste

by Metro on Dec 3, 2012 10:04 am • linkreport

I agree that Metro stations are uncomfortably dark. I wish it were easier to read while waiting for a train. However, it doesn't influence my ride/drive decision one iota.

by movement on Dec 3, 2012 10:06 am • linkreport

Like I said, I don't want to debate artisphere here.

On LEED - I still don't get your point. Any piece of infrastructure or equipment is going to have an energy consumption based on its engineering, and its use. If you run a PRIUS 100,000 miles a year, you will burn more gasoline than a guzzler run 5,000 miles a year. Is that a reason not to encourage ownership of more fuel efficient vehicles? I don't think so. Ditto for more energy efficient appliances, light bulbs, etc. Certainly building more energy efficient buildings (of course LEED addresses things other than energy as well) will save energy, and impact GHG emissions, for any given pattern of usage vs other kinds of buildings.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 3, 2012 10:14 am • linkreport

Can we debate Artisphere somewhere else though? Or point me to a list of the issues? I know people have huge issues with it but I'm completely in the dark about it.

Otherwise, you're right about the non fungible accomodations thought I'd prefer that just be taken care of in the zoning rather than negotiating it every time a building is built.

by drumz on Dec 3, 2012 10:18 am • linkreport

@Jasper-The Basque region is the economic engine of Spain and unemployment is half the rate of the country as a whole.
http://m.npr.org/news/World/163629203
@charlie-Massive waste of money? Linguistic junk? Explain please.

by thump on Dec 3, 2012 10:32 am • linkreport

Jasper, you forgot to mention the main problem with the Springfield site is that it's currently GSA (and CIA) use. Fairfax has been trying to do something there for decades, but GSA can't get out of GSA's way. From a logic standpoint, Springfield makes more sense than Maryland for a variety of reasons, but it seems like they want to give Prince George's something.

by selxic on Dec 3, 2012 10:40 am • linkreport

Phil,
"Personally I think the Tour Montparnasse is a spectacular building. I'll take that any day over some try-hard overdecorated building that looks like it was inspired by The Fountainhead."

No issues with your personal preference of Montparnasse, but isn't the Fountainhead where Roark rips off the decorated facade of a skyscraper to reveal the true "nature" (structural grid) of the building? And you'd think the owners in that movie would be thrilled to save all that money on decoration, but interestingly it took academia to promote modernism before the upperclass developers got behind it, being conservative n' stuff.

by Thayer-D on Dec 3, 2012 10:57 am • linkreport

@Thump

Barcelona isn't part of the Basque region.

by alexandrian on Dec 3, 2012 10:58 am • linkreport

@Thump-

Building on Alexandrian's comment- Jasper was referring to the Catalan independence movement.

by Bossi on Dec 3, 2012 11:08 am • linkreport

Am I the only one that remembers metro being brighter back in the day? I think replacing the burnt out bulbs and washing the dirt off the fixtures could go a long way toward making it seem less like a set from a horror movie.

by Mike on Dec 3, 2012 11:08 am • linkreport

@walker; Is that a reason not to encourage ownership of more fuel efficient vehicles? I don't think so.

Yes, it is. I'm rather use my mid 90s car that gets 21 MPH combined for 3000 miles a year than a prius for 100K a year. Or 50K a year. or, hell, 13K a year.

If you want to regulate usage, regulate usage!

by charlie on Dec 3, 2012 11:10 am • linkreport

Given the time period in which The Fountainhead was written (and the various Rand-approved artworks and cover designs related to it) I always interpreted the book as advocacy for Art Deco over neoclassicism. For example, Roark's final project is pretty clearly supposed to be the Empire State Building.

by Phil on Dec 3, 2012 11:11 am • linkreport

Turn off the dark: Hell, WMATA even succeeds in making the open air station dark. That's what you get for choosing boring brown and gruesome grey as your house colors.

good thing about brown and grey is that they don't show the dirt very well.

The bad thing about brown and grey is that they don't show dirt very well, which means they never get cleaned.

Metro stations don't suffer from a lack of lighting -- they suffer from a lack of cleaning and maintenance. The existing light fixtures would more than sufficient if they were cleaned every now and then.

It's also worth mentioning that the concrete on the station walls is a lot more pitted (and thus, dirty and less reflective) than it should have been, as many of the walls were powerwashed before the concrete had completely cured. It's unfortunate that this happened, but also well into "crying over spilled milk" territory by this point.

Metro's indirect lighting is one of its defining architectural characteristics, and we should be trying to make it work better, rather than augmenting it with the garishly ugly direct lighting fixtures that are being tested in some of the northwestern Red Line stations. (Surely we can engineer some sort of nonstick cover for the lights that prevents grime from sticking?)

by andrew on Dec 3, 2012 11:18 am • linkreport

"@walker; Is that a reason not to encourage ownership of more fuel efficient vehicles? I don't think so.
Yes, it is. I'm rather use my mid 90s car that gets 21 MPH combined for 3000 miles a year than a prius for 100K a year. Or 50K a year. or, hell, 13K a year."

But are you likely to travel more BECAUSE you have a Prius? Maybe a bit more, because your costs are now less, but enough to offset the MPG difference?

"If you want to regulate usage, regulate usage!"

As a great man once said, you can't always get what you want.

A carbon tax was beaten on the Hill in 2009. I don't see the prospects for one being strong now. In its absense, second best policies (like CAFE standards, appliance standards, etc) make sense. From the POV of Arlington County - they cannot impose a carbon tax themselves - and I don't see how they could directly regulate business usage of power - not in a viable, low admin cost kind of way. I think encouraging LEED building practices (or similar but improved cert, for those who dislike technical aspects of LEED) makes sense.

Why make the best be the enemy of the good?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 3, 2012 11:20 am • linkreport

Phil,
I'll take you at your word on the Fountain Head and all things Ann Rand cause from the little I've seen of both I can't stand it. The lone archtiect/hero against humanity, no thanks, But when I googled Howard Roark archtiecture, all it came up with is nastiness.
Maybe it's more art deco in the book? Eitherway, I love that Singapore building you referenced, never heard of it.

by Thayer-D on Dec 3, 2012 11:32 am • linkreport

the enourmous amount of muggings/pickpockets on the Rambla.

Reason enough to replace it with a limited-access freeway.

by Robert Moses on Dec 3, 2012 11:48 am • linkreport

"Metro stations don't suffer from a lack of lighting -- they suffer from a lack of cleaning and maintenance. The existing light fixtures would more than sufficient if they were cleaned every now and then.

...

Metro's indirect lighting is one of its defining architectural characteristics, and we should be trying to make it work better, rather than augmenting it with the garishly ugly direct lighting fixtures that are being tested in some of the northwestern Red Line stations."

This

by King Terrapin on Dec 3, 2012 12:14 pm • linkreport

Yeah, my bad. I'm not really sure what I was thinking this morning. It was pre-coffee.

by thump on Dec 3, 2012 12:20 pm • linkreport

AARGH. The basic point isn't that ArCo is f*ing great necessarily, just that they have set consensus priorities and a system for achieving them.

You can disagree with them or not. Artisphere e.g. might be a waste, but not to potential tenants. Which is what I find very interesting--and in its second year, it was profitable. More importantly, over a longer period of time, will help to reshape reposition rebrand Rosslyn. E.g. look at JBG's promotion of their new development there and how Rosslyn is pitched vis-a-vis Downtown.

Similarly with LEED. I have come around on LEED. Yes, it's not the absolutely best framework in the world. But for better or worse it is reshaping decisionmaking and practice on the part of developers for the better. That's what matters, and ArCo got in front of the curve with their green building incentives years ahead of DC. That's because of the way they integrate planning with the development approval process.

But the ArCo examples aren't really the point, having a robust and clear framework for realizing public benefits is. That's where Arlington excels. (And where DC doesn't.)

And for the most part, this is not how the DC zoning code works. Plus, because of the height limit, in reality there isn't all that much room for it now, because the profits aren't so extraordinary that it is possible to capture more of the revenue stream for public benefit.

WRT drumz point about paying into a fund, it happens that there will probably be 5-6 posts in the series and post #3 will be on development impact fees. That is an alternative to doing the negotiation process. But you too miss the point of that post, what gets funded isn't at the whim of the developer (e.g., sculptures at Station Place) but is determined based on sector planning/policy priorities from the Growth Plan, land use plan, parks plan, and Transportation plan, plus a sector plan.

In short if the various plans call for contributions to public space then that's part of the negotiation. If that isn't the consensus priorities, then it isn't. That's not how it works in DC now.

The grab bag approach is what DC does.

I have argued that it is set up that way (not defined very well) to minimize total outlay by developers. It also provides for a way for Councilmembers to get involved when they shouldn't (e.g., the $65K payment by EYA to a Councilmember Thomas initiative, once a zoning matter was decided in W5).

If a height increase is allowed, it should be conditional, as I argued, and the process changed along the lines that I discussed.

Anyway, in my writings on community benefits agreements my basic point is that achievement of long term structural improvements should be the priority.

This just provides a better opportunity for realization.

by Richard Layman on Dec 3, 2012 12:52 pm • linkreport

Regarding the lighting for the metro stations, perhaps if WMATA didn't have every single light on inside their headquarters at night on the weekends (9-10 PM) it could afford better lighting inside the stations. It is unfortunate that a transit system that is suppose to help with sustainablity can't find a way to shut more of their lights off at night.

by Ben on Dec 3, 2012 1:08 pm • linkreport

Metro's indirect lighting is one of its defining architectural characteristics, and we should be trying to make it work better, rather than augmenting it with the garishly ugly direct lighting fixtures that are being tested in some of the northwestern Red Line stations

*Applause*

by aaa on Dec 3, 2012 1:26 pm • linkreport

"Metro's indirect lighting is one of its defining architectural characteristics, and we should be trying to make it work better, rather than augmenting it with the garishly ugly direct lighting fixtures that are being tested in some of the northwestern Red Line stations"

Hear Hear! The lighting scheme as originally designed provides enough light....WMATA just needs to clean the grime off functioning light bulbs and replace the burnt-out ones.

I feel like the Dowager Countess complaining about the glare every time I get off the train at Friendship Heights.

by Merarch on Dec 3, 2012 1:57 pm • linkreport

I'll add that the new direct lighting at some of the NW DC Red Line stations makes it HARDER to see because of the glare and contrast between lights bright enough to guide planes into National and everything else, which now sits in a murky shadow.

by Merarch on Dec 3, 2012 2:04 pm • linkreport

Hopefully, there will be some consideration of looking at more than just LEED certification. There are some other ones out there that have a better payback to taxpayers including audits after the fact.

by Not just LEED on Dec 3, 2012 3:19 pm • linkreport

@Metro

WMATA does not heat the subway stations in wintertime. The heat comes from the mechanical support systems and the propulsion hardware aboard the trains.

The air conditioned system is more a mechanism for dehumidification then air cooling.

by Sand Box John on Dec 4, 2012 1:42 pm • linkreport

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