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


Breakfast links: Get on the train

Photo by Fairfax County on Flickr.
Silver test: The Silver Line completed its first test run which revealed some glitches, particularly in the automatic train control system. WMATA has still not released a firm opening date. (Post)

DC is 4th best for transit: According to WalkScore, DC ranks 4th nationwide for public transportation access, behind New York, SF, and Boston. (DCist)

Build the bridge: There is now no pedestrian or bike crossing across the Susquehanna River in Maryland, but a new Amtrak bridge could change that. There's a petition pushing for bike and pedestrian facilities on the bridge.(TheWashCycle)

Recharged train stations: While there are big plans locally for Union Station, other cities have made their train stations more inviting by converting parking to outdoor seating in Philadelphia and reopening a downtown station in St. Paul. (Elevation DC)

Anacostia Riverwalk under construction: A 4-mile segment along the Anacostia River will soon feature improvements such as bridges and a wooden boardwalk for biking and walking along the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. (Elevation DC)

Are driving apps dangerous?: Mobile apps like Waze encourage drivers to interact during their commutes, like by reporting crashes and traffic. But most drivers won't pull over, meaning the apps could cause more crashes. (Governing)

DC homeless sent to Maryland hotels: DC homeless families are being housed in Maryland motels, due to a lack of spaces in DC shelters and hotels. (Post)

Grosso for Nadeau: Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) endorsed Brianne Nadeau, one of two candidates (along with Bryan Weaver) running to unseat sitting Ward 1 councilmember Jim Graham. (City Paper)

Light rail cuts driving: People who live near Los Angeles' Expo Line light rail drove 40% less (and rode transit 3 times more) after the line opened versus before. (USC Price)

Happy hour tonight: We hope to see you at tonight's happy hour in Silver Spring!

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Elina Bravve moved to Washington in 2009, after completing a degree in City Planning at UNC-Chapel Hill. She's lived in the Columbia Heights neighborhood since 2010. After recently parting ways with her car, her goal is to learn how to bike around the neighborhood. 


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It's pretty amazing that there are still major glitches in the silver line ATC, years into this project.

I guess I should just accept that I will have to keep driving to work on the Beltway until at least late 2014. Ugh.

by Gray on Jan 29, 2014 9:34 am • linkreport

I hate to be a booster, but how did we lose to Boston?

by charlie on Jan 29, 2014 9:34 am • linkreport

@charlie: Most of the Green Line's branches in Boston may be subpar, but they do provide transit access to a good chunk of the city. In terms of number of transit stops, I'm sure Boston is way above DC.

by Gray on Jan 29, 2014 9:41 am • linkreport

@Gray, that is pretty crude measure.

by charlie on Jan 29, 2014 9:45 am • linkreport

I actually chuckled at the last link about the opening of LA's expo line.

Great news though.

Also: It'd be neat to try and survey what other rivers don't have any reasonable pedestrian/bike crossings. Cursory research has led me to the East Coast Greenway. Which is exciting if ambitious.

by drumz on Jan 29, 2014 9:47 am • linkreport

@charlie: Did you think the Walk Score was anything other than a crude measure?

by Gray on Jan 29, 2014 9:49 am • linkreport

Why will it take so long to finish the Union Station project? Asian and European countries would have that same project finished within 5 years. Typical American slowness. 20 years is a long time for major aspects of the plan to get scrapped. I highly doubt that most of this project will be executed.

by TyGr on Jan 29, 2014 9:52 am • linkreport

@charlie: As Gray said, the green line probably accounts for a higher number of transit stops. This is more a ranking of "transit score" which they calculated using some methodology they came up with.

Transit score aside, having lived in Boston, there are a few things I will give Boston an edge on for transit. The subway has higher frequencies off peak, perhaps due to the fact that it's a true subway and not a hybrid subway/commuter rail. This frustrated me to no end when I moved to DC. I never had to check ahead of time when the train was coming in Boston.

Second, Boston has a vastly more extensive and more heavily used commuter rail system.

Third, almost every destination worth going to has a transit stop right there. In DC, some popular areas are missing a really convenient metro station. For example, Adam's Morgan, Georgetown, Logan Circle, H St NE (soon to be improved).

DC wins for sure on train speed, doesn't have an overcrowded light rail system (green line) and has a much more efficient bus network.

by alex on Jan 29, 2014 9:55 am • linkreport

and I'm a dope. Once I actually clicked the link re: sesquehanna bridge I see its the greenway alliance behind the push for the consideration.

by drumz on Jan 29, 2014 9:55 am • linkreport


I'm not at all surprised that there are "glitches". The train control and signaling system uses microprocessors and software to emulate relay logic. If the software code is not perfect there will be glitches.

Hell this glitch could be a something as simple as a incorrectly wired track circuit transmitter, the track circuit transmitter is transmitting speed commands meant for a different track circuit.

by Sand Box John on Jan 29, 2014 9:57 am • linkreport

I think Alex hits the nail on the head. It's just very hard to compare DC to Boston or NYC, because our system is a hybrid of commuter rail and subway. I'd also toss in that Metro is a later creation, which may account for its limited size and lack of stops in certain locations....Give Metro another 50 years and we'll see where it is then.

by JDC on Jan 29, 2014 9:59 am • linkreport

@Sand Box John: I'm not surprised that there are glitches. I am surprised that, this late in the game, they haven't figured out how to get it working properly. If the software can't handle this implementation even after months of tinkering and adjustment, it clearly wasn't ready for commercial use.

by Gray on Jan 29, 2014 10:04 am • linkreport

It's certainly telling about the state of transit in America when our decrepit Metro ranks as high as 4th.

by LowHeadways on Jan 29, 2014 10:06 am • linkreport

@alex, you make some good points but:

1. A commuter rail system doesn't really help "Boston". I mean there are a few stops in Boston but the vast majority are suburban or beyond.

2. I'm pretty sure GGW did a post a while ago that Logan Circle (or 14th and P) was the best transit location in the city. I don't agree, and I see your point, but as far as I can tell the transit score doesn't account for that.

@Gray, like many things, the transit/walkscore is a useful marker to mark fools. If a real estate agent quoted me on that I'd walk -- no pun intended.

by charlie on Jan 29, 2014 10:11 am • linkreport

Good for Grosso. I hope all of the voters, during this election cycle, will think with a strategy to unseating the most useless or unseemly Councilmembers. Vulnerable are Bonds and Graham, with the open seat in Ward 6.

It is time for the progressive/smart growth advocates to stop splitting the vote.

by William on Jan 29, 2014 10:13 am • linkreport

I bet bridges without crossings are probably actually not that common since most major rivers have some type of city on them and most city bridges have some kind of bike/ped amenity, at least around here.

by BTA on Jan 29, 2014 10:14 am • linkreport

charlie: Here is the post on 14th and P:

Dan Malouff was arguing it's the best corner for urban lifestyle, not the best for transit specifically. It has good transit, but certainly other places have better transit. He gave it high marks for being walking distance to all lines but also for the retail amenities right there.

Also, as with any post (except those labeled as endorsements), that's Dan Malouff's opinion, not an editorial position.

by David Alpert on Jan 29, 2014 10:15 am • linkreport

You know buses are part of transit too and DC has a not too shabby bus system that carries over 30% of traffic, probably a lot more if you are looking strictly within the city limits.

by BTA on Jan 29, 2014 10:17 am • linkreport

Yes, driving apps are dangerous and that's going to be a problem.

You can install these hockey puck sized sensors in parking spaces that will tell you whether a space is filled or not. The great thing is that you connect this information to an app that allows a driver to determine whether a parking space is available or not. It's a great idea, but I honestly have no idea how people will be able to check the app and drive through a busy area at the same time.

by kob on Jan 29, 2014 10:21 am • linkreport

@kob: Seems like that's calling out for text-to-speech. If your car can tell you which spaces are open, that's about as distracting as the radio or GPS directions.

by Gray on Jan 29, 2014 10:24 am • linkreport

I'm for a ped/bike crossing of the Susquehanna, but I dont think it should be the new HSR bridge. The new bridge is going to carry trains going 160mph and likely be designed for higher speeds up to 250 and that just creates too much wind, noise, and possibility for lethal flying debris.

If the old Amtrak bridge is not demolished, it could be converted into a ped/bike bridge but then someone is going to have to account for the maintenance costs.

The CSX bridge up the river was built to carry 2 tracks but currently only carries 1, leaving significant room for a bike path and freight goes so much slower. An additional benefit is that the CSX bridge hits Garret Island, which is a wonderful nature preserve.

by Richard on Jan 29, 2014 10:24 am • linkreport

1. A commuter rail system doesn't really help "Boston". I mean there are a few stops in Boston but the vast majority are suburban or beyond.

The commuter rail doesn't help Boston, the nature of WMATA's commuter hybrid hurts DC. All of those stations that are too far apart for walk-ability and have huge parking garages hurt the walk score of DC.

by Richard on Jan 29, 2014 10:27 am • linkreport

Part of the problem with unseating entrenched/machine pols like Grahamzilla is that reformer-types are less likely to agree on whose 'turn' it is to run and prevent ticket-splitting. Machines and establishments tend to have pecking orders that members follow, with the knowledge that they'll get the establishment's backing once they've paid their dues, put in their time, and their turn comes up. When someone breaks those conventions, things tend to get ugly (e.g. the Biddle/Orange throwdown).

by Dizzy on Jan 29, 2014 10:27 am • linkreport


The commuter rail doesn't help Boston, the nature of WMATA's commuter hybrid hurts DC. All of those stations that are too far apart for walk-ability and have huge parking garages hurt the walk score of DC.

Most Metro stations in DC don't have huge parking garages.

by Dizzy on Jan 29, 2014 10:33 am • linkreport

I view walk score the same way I view BMI for weight. Not entirely accurate but not wrong either. More of a starting point in the conversation instead of the end all, be all.

by jj on Jan 29, 2014 10:35 am • linkreport


Text-to-speech might work if it's integrated with smartphone maps, or a dashboard GPS systems, that are already running.

If it's a stand-alone app, it still has to be launched and while some users might be able to launch an app via a voice command, most will probably have to do it manually. That process, IMHO, takes too long to be safely accomplished while driving.

by kob on Jan 29, 2014 10:37 am • linkreport

It's not clear, but the Transit Score Methodology page ( seems to imply that they are grading the whole metro area (see maps). From that point of view, Boston's superior commuter rail probably does help a lot.
I agree with alex. I recently moved from Boston to DC. While Metro is better than the T in some respects (quieter, better connectivity, more pleasant stations), the frequency is not as good, and that's one of the factors that enters into the Transit Score. Also, DC has a better bus system, but the commuter rail system here is pathetic.

by alurin on Jan 29, 2014 10:37 am • linkreport

DC has been putting up homeless in hotels during the cold for 10-12 years at this point. I think it is ridiculous that DC, with its literal billions in budget surpluses during that period hasn't come up with a permanent solution. I mean much money or time down it cost to build a emergency shelter to accomodate 300 families during extreme cold?

The most ridiculous part of it is DC has a bunch of now idle schools that they've shuttered over the past ~4-5 years that would be fantastic emergency cold shelters. The middle/highschools have shower facilities and locker rooms. Gyms and enough floor space for what must be 300-400 cots per school and what used to be functioning cafeteria facilities. Sure, the city might have to spend would have to spend a few million bucks getting one back in functioning order, but it just has to function a couple months a year.

Then again, with a ~9 billion dollar budget, I am sure the city figures spending 2-3 million a year on hotels for the homeless is a rounding error.

by Homeless on Jan 29, 2014 10:39 am • linkreport

If you're grading the entire region, you have to include Arlington, and that would top boston. I see the points about frequency and that is true.

@Dave Alpert, fine, disclosue about GGW vs. Dan Malouff, but in the article:

"The ideal corner will be within easy walking distance of all 5 Metrorail lines. It will be on a major commercial main street, within one block of a supermarket. It will have bikeshare access, and it will be near a wide variety of shopping and dining amenities. There will be a park nearby, but it need not be quite as close as the supermarket.

The Metrorail requirement eliminates everything but Downtown and the southern end of Dupont & Logan. The Capitol Hills and Columbia Heights of the world are wonderful, but comparatively less well-connected."

Again, I agree with alex that Logan Circle is not that transit accessible, and Dan's article was highly skewed to include it as transit friendly.

by charlie on Jan 29, 2014 10:43 am • linkreport

@Gray, it's not some off-the-shelf software like Microsoft Word. It's all custom code engineered specifically for WMATA. This weekend marked the first actual live test (not a controlled simulation) of the production system. It's pretty unreasonable to expect everything to work perfectly right out of the tin. Last I heard, not all the problems had been attributed to the new ATC system. Some of the test failures were more than likely a result of malfunctioning rail car hardware that has not been in revenue service since June 2009. In-shop periodic maintenance can only go so far to detect problems with this stuff when it's not actually in use.

by dcmike on Jan 29, 2014 11:02 am • linkreport

I lived in Boston for 11 years before moving to DC. While the system is older and a little slower I think it is still much better than the Metro in DC. Don't forget that Boston has in addition to the Green line :the Red, Orange, Blue, and the "Silver" lines and a pretty decent bus system. I lived there car free for years and usually walked most of the time. You can walk from the Brookline border all the way to the North End in 45 minutes. And can you think of anywhere in the DC system that trains are FREE for at least part of the way? The Green line had free outbound trains and that was always great.

by ArchStanton on Jan 29, 2014 11:14 am • linkreport

Re: Driving Apps

Not every vehicle has only a single occupant. Even young children can operate these apps.

by Falls Church on Jan 29, 2014 12:24 pm • linkreport


If you're grading the entire region, you have to include Arlington, and that would top boston. I see the points about frequency and that is true.

I see your Arlington, and I raise you Cambridge, and to a lesser extent, North Brookline, and West Somerville

Joking aside, they're all super transit accessible as well. The biggest difference is that the TOD in Arlington happened far more recently and dramatically. The TOD in those Boston towns occurred as a result of streetcars that existed prior to the subway (though Brookline's transit is still streetcars with dedicated right of way).

You can also throw DT Bethesda and Silver Spring into the mix, but I'd say Boston is competitive in the inner suburbs too.

by alex on Jan 29, 2014 12:56 pm • linkreport


The contractor runs a battery of test during the hardware installation as well as after. The real test is to run a test that simulates normal operating conditions. They ran that test and found some things that were not as they were suppose to be. The contractor will troubleshoot the hardware and software to find where the problem is and correct it then runs the tests again.

I will note that similar issues were encountered and corrected during the installation and testing of the train control and signaling system on the G Route Blue line extension to Largo. The Largo extension train control and signaling system also uses microprocessors and software to emulate relay logic.

by Sand Box John on Jan 29, 2014 1:54 pm • linkreport

The Conowingo Dam doesn't count as crossing the Susquehanna? Might not be optimal for a given route, but it does exist. Or do you mean dedicated bike/ped crossing?

by Catherine on Jan 29, 2014 2:15 pm • linkreport


I completely agree. At least then the money is getting spent in DC. The fact we are forced to pay money to MD hotels (in turn paying RE tax and hotel tax in MD) is really unfortunate. Some of the shuttered schools seem like a good solution to the problem.

by Kyle-w on Jan 29, 2014 3:40 pm • linkreport

SF?!!? S-freakin'-F when it comes to great transit in the country? Someone's been smoking something funny because transit in my city sucks. Just take a look at the pitiful on-time performance and customer "satisfaction" surveys. The transit agency is broke, major investment in current infrastructure is needed just to run the system and there are no concrete plans to improve service (note I said, "concrete plans").

Access means absolutely nothing if the train or bus doesn't arrive on schedule or at all. One of the major issues in the city is that surface stops are too close which makes the commute unbearably longer than it should. Can't wait for the H St. streetcar to get up and "running" in mixed traffic and hear the complaints from riders that it's "too slow." Welcome to my world.

by Mark on Jan 29, 2014 4:36 pm • linkreport

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