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Breakfast links: Light rail designs

Envisioning the Pike streetcar: The Arlington County Board pondered the design for the Columbia Pike streetcar, including how long and wide vehicles should be and whether to use low-floor designs. A fully wireless power system was deemed impractical. (ARLnow)

Trail won't go in Purple Line tunnel: Updated designs for the Purple Line station in Bethesda have a sidewalk along the tracks and a new Metro entrance, but cyclists will cross Wisconsin Avenue at surface level, a tough choice some think is better anyway and others don't. (Patch)

Not so fast: In addition to lowering speed fines, the DC Council blocked the higher speed limits Mayor Gray wanted on several local streets and has forbidden similar changes in the future without council approval. (Examiner)

RAC wants less disruption on minor holidays: The Riders Advisory Council wants better Metro service for minor holidays like Columbus Day and Veterans Day. Metro decreases service on such holidays and has even conducted track work. (Examiner)

DC is mid-peloton: The makers of Walk Score have ranked DC 12th out of 25 US cities for bikeability. The most bike friendly areas are in the central part of the District, expanding up to Petworth and East to Capitol Hill. (Atlantic Cities)

DoD loosens security standards: The Department of Defense is relaxing its security requirements for buildings to match GSA standards. This move will allow the Pentagon to lease space in a much wider range of buildings in the area. (WBJ)

Board wants dedicated transportation funds: The Transportation Planning Board wants local governments to rause dedicated funds for transportation through a higher gas tax or user fees from congestion tolls, emissions, or miles traveled. (WTOP)

Mixed-use for teachers: Teach for America is working with Fundrise, which helps small investors crowd-fund development projects, to build a mixed use project with housing for teachers and office space for TFA. (City Paper)

And...: Same-sex couples in Maryland will be able to file joint taxes after all. (DCist) ... Learn the history of the Barnes Dance. (Atlantic Cities) ... Anyone know Metro's policy on ponies? (Atlantic Cities) ... Joe Lieberman supports DC statehood now that he's retiring and it's too late to pass a bill or even get a hearing. (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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I'd like to see the CCT stay in the Bethesda Tunnel, but I think the decision to reroute it on a surface route is responsible. Some points to consider:
1) The Bethesda Purple Line station will have 15,000 uses each DAY - far more than the 10,000 uses of the trail each WEEK we see now.
2) There will be a 5-7 foot wide sidewalk going through the tunnel so pedestrians will still have a through-tunnel option.
3) The trail surface route is being developed to be a full-width, all off-road trail. It will be only about 400' longer than the tunnel route.
4) And finally, we should acknowledge the right-of-way would never have been purchased without the expectation that it would ultimately be used for transit too. There would be no trail except for the promise to ultimately share the corridor with transit. Trail users cannot reasonably demand to have the exclusive use of this corridor.
Of course the trail would be better if it could stay in the tunnel. But when we balance the competing needs, and consider the history of this corridor, trail users are being asked to make a necessary and reasonable accommodation here.

by Wayne Phyillaier on Dec 20, 2012 8:59 am • linkreport

The Bikescore thing is way off. It doesn't even factor in that there are bike lanes on 14th Street from Columbia Heights north to Walter Reed.

by Matt on Dec 20, 2012 9:08 am • linkreport


Are there any visuals yet for what the trail surface route would look like? Some GGW contributors came up with their own concepts, but is there anything official out there yet?

by MLD on Dec 20, 2012 9:10 am • linkreport


The details of the surface route are being worked out now by a team of stakeholders including MCDOT, WABA, CCCT, the Bethesda Chamber of Commerce, the Town of Chevy Chase, and Councilmember Berliner's Office. Toole Design is the trail design consultant. I don't think they have any visuals yet.
The general route is shown at
The Planning Board has approved a site plan that would have a two way cycletrack and separate sidewalk on the nort side of Bethesda Ave. Toole is exploring the feasibility of having the cycletrack continue on the south side of Willow Street, so the crossing of Wisconsin Ave. can be on a straight alignment. Options for restricting turning traffic at the Wisconsin Avenue intersection are being explored, to reduce conflicts between trail users and motorists.
We should be able to see more about the plans very soon.

by Wayne Phyillaier on Dec 20, 2012 9:25 am • linkreport

Have they said whether the Purple Line will be accessible with SmartTrip? What about the DC streetcar for that matter?

by Colin on Dec 20, 2012 9:37 am • linkreport


I don't know if they have said, but it should be given that the other services operated by DDOT and MTA (except commuter rail) use SmarTrip.

by MLD on Dec 20, 2012 9:40 am • linkreport

Purple Line project manager Mike Madden told the Betheada neighborhood work group on Tuesday that the Purple Line would use SmarTrip.

by Wayne Phyillaier on Dec 20, 2012 9:44 am • linkreport

A fully wireless power system was deemed impractical.

You see DC? If Arlington can figure it out, so can you!

the DC Council blocked the higher speed limits Mayor Gray wanted on several local streets and has forbidden similar changes in the future without council approval.

Nanny-statedistrict take-over from the Council. DC now officially has politicized speed limits. Great job!

Same-sex couples in Maryland will be able to file joint taxes after all.

Kudo's for MD. Sad to see that VA still won't respect the right of its residents to form families.

by Jasper on Dec 20, 2012 9:47 am • linkreport

Wayne is, as always, right on point. Another factor to consider is that if this is done well, there will be even more street life in Bethesda.

by Crickey7 on Dec 20, 2012 10:03 am • linkreport

There was significant political news yesterday that improves the prospects of federal funding for transit projects in Maryland. Senator Mikulski will be the next Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The late Sen. Inouye had been the Chairman and Sen. Leahy was next in line, but he surprised a lot of people by deciding to remain Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

As Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, one of the most powerful positions on the Hill, Mikulski will be in a position to make sure Maryland gets its share of federal funding. While the Baltimore Red Line and the Purple Line are already in good shape to get federal funding (if state and local funding can be put together), the chances of federal funding for various MARC and Amtrak NEC projects in MD (B&P Tunnel replacement for one) in the coming years are much improved.

by AlanF on Dec 20, 2012 10:06 am • linkreport

A narrow 5' to 7' wide pedestrian walkway is being proposed to parallel the light rail tracks through the tunnel. Cyclist would be required to walk their bikes along the narrower part of the path.

Here is a solution I think nobody has thought of. Pave the tracks along the length of the right of way where the trail is narrowed. The combined pedestrian walkway and pave trackways would be at the same elevation. Allow cyclist to ride their bikes along the paved segment of the light rail track adjacent to narrower trail segment when trains are not present. With both the trail and trackway on the same elevation cyclist would able to move from the tracks when trans are approaching.

Mixed traffic, only difference being, the mix is composed of bicycles instead of cars and trucks.

by Sand Box John on Dec 20, 2012 10:21 am • linkreport

Census estimates are out:

DC w/ 2nd biggest increase by % (2.1%, ND was 1st w/ 2.2%). New estimate is 632,323. DC has now surpassed VT, which dropped by 581 people (0.1%) to 626,011.

by EdTheRed on Dec 20, 2012 11:10 am • linkreport


by Lucre on Dec 20, 2012 11:16 am • linkreport

@EdTheRed: It looks like DC's population has also passed Baltimore's, as ISTR the latter being about 625,000 and still declining.

by A Streeter on Dec 20, 2012 11:24 am • linkreport

A narrow 5' to 7' wide pedestrian walkway is being proposed to parallel the light rail tracks through the tunnel. Cyclist would be required to walk their bikes along the narrower part of the path.

Pretty clear what is going to happen here. Cyclists will just keep on riding through the tunnel on the narrowed trail. 5' is enough space, although passing would require you to come pretty much to a stop. It will certainly be quicker to keep riding than take a longer, circuitous on-street trail that will inevitably require waiting 2 minutes to cross Wisconsin. Planners should acknowledge that their 'walk bike through tunnel' sign will be ignored and replace it with a 'cyclists yield to pedestrians' sign.

by renegade09 on Dec 20, 2012 11:27 am • linkreport

@ A Streeter Probably, but DC's estimate comes out with the states, whereas the county and city estimates won't be released for some time, so we don't have a 2012 number for Baltimore yet.

by EdTheRed on Dec 20, 2012 11:29 am • linkreport


Seems to be following right along with expectations of about an extra 1,000 people per month. Good to see, keep the momentum going!

by Kyle-W on Dec 20, 2012 11:32 am • linkreport

@SandBoxJohn, I don't think it would be a good idea to mix bicyclist and the Purple Line in a tunnel. It is a grade separated LRT on the western end for starters and people should be kept off the tracks. In a tunnel, there would be limited visual clues as to how far away the approaching train is and it would surely lead to serious accidents. Besides I expect the pedestrian walkway will be blocked by a fence or wall from the tracks because it will be so narrow to keep people from falling or stepping onto the tracks.

Purple Line Smartrip cards: wonder if there are plans for ride or ticket sharing between the Metro and the Purple Line? (I assuming the systems will have separate paid entry points) There are many ways to offer discounts or combined fares on connecting trips between Metro and Purple Line stops.

by AlanF on Dec 20, 2012 11:47 am • linkreport

The Census estimates for the 2 year period from April 2010 to July 1, 2012 have DC with the largest growth at 5.1%. North Dakota at #2 at 4.0% is due to the Bakken oil boom.

What I find surprising is that Puerto Rico has dropped by -1.6% in the 2 year period with a estimated drop in population of 58 thousand. The economy is doing that poorly in Puerto Rico?

by AlanF on Dec 20, 2012 11:54 am • linkreport

@renegade09: "Pretty clear what is going to happen here. Cyclists will just keep on riding through the tunnel on the narrowed trail."

Don't be so sure of this.
The walking path through the tunnel crosses the north side track at the midpoint where the Metro elevator mezzanine is, then uses the center platform. The tight turn and track crossing will almost force a dismount, even if no pedestrians are present.
But more to the point, there will almost always be many pedestrians present, either using the sidewalk or waiting on the platform. You know how congested the CCT can be at times at the Bethesda Trailhead. But the counted traffic there was 23,000 uses a week, or just over 3000 a day. Imagine five times that traffic, all of it pedestrian traffic, at the Bethesda station platform and sidewalk. You can deal with it if you are a pedestrian, but cycling among that density of pedestrians will be irresponsible and impractical. Walk your bike signs will hardly be needed.
The surface route will only be about 400' longer. The cycletrack sections should be free of pedestrians. The wait at the light at Wisconsin Avenue is about 1/2 the two minutes you have estimated, and that is only if you catch it at the worst time.
Given all this, I think very few cyclists will prefer to use the tunnel route.

by Wayne Phyillaier on Dec 20, 2012 12:02 pm • linkreport

The only thing worse than using 85th percentile to set speed limits is having politicians set them. If you're not going to let Gray and DDOT do their job, DC Council, why bother having a mayor and DOT?

I think Wayne has some good points about the CCT in Bethesda. The only real issue I see with a surface routing is the Wisconsin Ave crossing. I agree with AlanF in that mixing bikes and LRT vehicles inside the tunnel is not a good idea. Look at how many issues we're already having with bikes getting their tires caught in the not-yet-used streetcar tracks on H St NE...

Kinda surprised that Portland scored as low as it did on BikeScore, given that it often vies with Minneapolis for the title of "#1 bike city"...

by Froggie on Dec 20, 2012 12:04 pm • linkreport

Boston and Ann Arbor are more bike-friendly than DC?

Sorry, but you're going to need to back that up with a lot of evidence, because it runs very contrary to my experiences.

Also, notice how Boston's bike lanes don't actually correspond to the location of their bike commuters. For what it's worth, I also don't remember that many usable bike lanes in downtown Boston, and the road network there is generally pretty scary for cyclists. I think that their bikescore may be significantly overstated (although it must also be said that Boston has some of the most bike-friendly suburbs that I've seen)

The bike score also doesn't account for things like the weather, bicycle-friendly traffic laws, bicycle paring, bikesharing, good bike-transit links and infrastructure, availability of grade-separated bicycle facilities, ease/safety of biking on roads without bike lanes, etc.

DC excels on most of these in a way that few other cities can match.

by andrew on Dec 20, 2012 1:23 pm • linkreport


The renderings in the post at looks to me like the trail could be as wide as the island platform at the station. I also don't believe the trains will be approaching the station at the speeds as high as you might think. Light rail normally doesn't operate at heavy rail speeds even on exclusive right of ways.

by Sand Box John on Dec 20, 2012 1:43 pm • linkreport

I really think that cyclist given the choice between (a) a bike lane with a dedicated signalized interval for crossing and (b) a crowded, narrow tunnel, will choose the latter.

by Crickey7 on Dec 20, 2012 2:01 pm • linkreport

Ack! The former!

by Crickey7 on Dec 20, 2012 2:01 pm • linkreport

I don't think of the trail as not going through the tunnel. It's more like the trail is split - with cyclists leaving the tunnel and pedestrians staying in it. The trail isn't just for cyclists. I'm glad to see the sidewalk stay in - it becomes a placeholder for a wider trail when the building are eventually redeveloped.

by David C on Dec 20, 2012 8:20 pm • linkreport

@ Colin

Most likely will use smartrip cards but the real question should be what is the fare structure going to be. Will it be similar to the bus (better be or get ready for complaints from riders) or similar to Metrorail.

I could see people complaing like hell if there are fares anywhere near close to the Metrorail fare from say Bethesda to New Carrolton when its really just a souped up combination of the J&F metrobus routes in Maryland

by kk on Dec 22, 2012 5:05 pm • linkreport

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