Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Transportation equipment that doesn't move


Photo by Angel Schatz on Flickr.
Boxy units: Brookland will get apartments made from shipping containers. The containers will be recycled into individual apartment units where a single-family home currently stands. (WBJ)

Streetcar in November?: A DDOT source says that the H Street streetcar line won't open until November at the earliest. Is even that overly optimistic? (WAMU)

Council votes yes to say no: In the final DC Council session before recess, the council voted to override Mayor Gray's budget veto; ban polystyrene containers; and ban asking about criminal history in hiring until after an employment offer is made. (DCist)

Bike bits: Arlington is considering a bike park with a "learner's loop," repair station, and other amenities where Columbia Pike meets the W&OD Trail. (ArlNow) ... The first of the Ward 8 bike lanes comes to Malcolm X Ave SE. (CHOTR)

Copenhagen's cycle snake: Copenhagen recently opened an elevated cycle track that improves bicycle connections between the highway and a bridge. The Cykelslangen, or Cycle Snake, is completely separated from vehicular and pedestrian traffic. (Guardian) ... Maybe we should have one here? (Just kidding, Courtland Milloy).

Parking space living: Students at the Savannah College of Art and Design created micro-units the size of a parking space to model sustainable options. The installation has hosted several overnight guests since its opening in April. (Streetsblog)

Take the kids on Uber: Uber launched a new service where you can order a vehicle with a car seat for a $10 extra charge. Drivers have been trained to install the seats, which can accommodate children over one year old. (Post)

Lyft launch postponed: Lyft planned to open in New York City today but will hold off amid a legal battle with the state. Lyft says it will work with city regulators to find a compromise between their business model and government regulations. (WBJ)

WiFi for safety: One group is working on a program that will warn pedestrians (via their smartphone's WiFi) if they are in danger of getting hit by a driver. (IEEE Spectrum)

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Kelli (Lafferty) Raboy works as a federal contractor on various projects in transportation planning and management. She loves all things cities, public transit, and rail. She lives in Navy Yard. 

Comments

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interested to see how the shipping container apartments end up looking.

by Richard on Jul 15, 2014 9:28 am • linkreport

The final madness of the zero interest era -- shipping container housing. Car seats for rent. Uber paying people to buy cars.

by charlie on Jul 15, 2014 9:29 am • linkreport

And Alexandria's BRT will be running soon. Purple line, Columbika Pike Streetcar, and H St Streetcars are all embrioled in various hold-ups, and Amtrak still can't improve its rights-of-way.

Meanwhile, Bus Rapid Transit is taking off locally, and intercity buses are experiencing a renaissance.

by alexguy on Jul 15, 2014 9:29 am • linkreport

As I was watching the video of the Copenhagen cycle snake, it kept occurring to me that this is not too dissimilar from the portion of the MBT around New York Avenue. Of course that would never have been built without the Metro, but it shows that we do also have nice things here in DC.

And the article states that there has been opposition there too, so it is a universal thing for cyclists to have to struggle for every bit of infrastructure it seems.

by engrish_major on Jul 15, 2014 9:33 am • linkreport

"doing their part to save the planet, one shipping container apartment at a time."

I'm curious how the near-complete demolition of an existing structure, followed by the trucking in of shipping containers to then be fabricated into housing is somehow more "green" than simply working on the existing structure.

by Lord Baltimore on Jul 15, 2014 9:43 am • linkreport

This one may of not been submitted among the tips before posting this mornings Breakfast links:

Trip Planner at wmata.com now shows trip time and fares between Silver line stations and stations in the existing system.

Must use a time and date after noon 07 26 2014 to return a result.

No word on when Real Time Arrivals goes live.

by Sand Box John on Jul 15, 2014 9:44 am • linkreport

The final madness of the zero interest era -- shipping container housing.

The US would have a shipping container surplus even if it did not have a trade deficit. The US tends to export high value low volume products; like aircraft, mining+construction equipment, and software while importing low value high volume products.

Use to be the opposite, and ships had to carry loads of rocks from Europe to the US to balance out their hold.

by Richard on Jul 15, 2014 9:57 am • linkreport

Is there really a problem recycling shipping containers? I don't buy the save-the-planet spin here.

Gary Imhoff's point in the piece that they " will quickly turn them into slums" might be fair. It might also be an auto-pilot NIMBY reaction: let's just look at the dark side.

These containers are small. Is the plan to create studio apartments or combine them? 350 feet? Assuming the living units are small, that's great for energy efficiency, so I hope people living in 800+ SF apartments take a hard look at their energy lifestyles before attacking this idea.

Will they be ugly? Compared to what? If we were to hold an ugly contest in the District half the properties in this city might be eligible. These units may well be visually interesting, dynamic and add character and visual diversity to a neighborhood.

by kob on Jul 15, 2014 10:01 am • linkreport

@Lord Baltimore

As I understand it the big environmental cost in construction is concrete. SInce this is a single family house (wood frame) and they are replacing it using already existing material (shipping containers) it probably isn't a big cost.

Transporting the containers isn't such a big deal either. I bet they can source them right up the road from Baltimore.

Increasing density is a win for the environment. Maybe by stacking the containers they can achieve that more readily than extensive rehabbing of a structure that may be in very bad condition.

by jeffb on Jul 15, 2014 10:02 am • linkreport

I like the sentiment behind Wi-Fi pedestrian safety, but it's the wrong standard. There are too many lags built in to Wi-Fi for it to handle massive peer to peer notification any faster than old fashioned "stop, look, and listen."

by Tom Veil on Jul 15, 2014 10:09 am • linkreport

These containers are small. Is the plan to create studio apartments or combine them? 350 feet? Assuming the living units are small, that's great for energy efficiency, so I hope people living in 800+ SF apartments take a hard look at their energy lifestyles before attacking this idea.
and
As I understand it the big environmental cost in construction is concrete.

What I worry about is the energy efficiency of the structure after it is completed. Corrugated steel is not the best thermal insulator. Every time I have been in a building made of shipping containers it has been uncomfortably hot in summer/cold in winter. Certainly great for temporary structures and those that do not see 24 use in winter and summers, but an apartment.... Adding in the proper insulation might significantly reduce the benefit of using them in the first place.

by Richard on Jul 15, 2014 10:18 am • linkreport

@Richard - I would imagine that they would use some sort of spray-on insulation and/or industrial thermal coating combined with standard home insulation techniques. See http://www.mascoat.com/ for examples.

by Thad on Jul 15, 2014 11:00 am • linkreport

@Richard
Most older homes had little to no insulation so either rehabbing or using containers I'd assume you'd have add insulation.

Why do you think adding insulation is an environmental cost. It is commonly recommended that we insulate as much as possible. There is a movement in Germany where they build houses so well insulated that they need no heating mechanisms. The natural heat thrown off by household appliances and people is enough.

Ways to insulate shipping containers:
http://www.containertech.com/about-containers/insulating-a-shipping-container/

by jeffb on Jul 15, 2014 11:02 am • linkreport

Thorium asbestos insulation is the safe and environmentally responsible way forward.

by The Truth™ on Jul 15, 2014 11:05 am • linkreport

Why do you think adding insulation is an environmental cost. It is commonly recommended that we insulate as much as possible. There is a movement in Germany where they build houses so well insulated that they need no heating mechanisms. The natural heat thrown off by household appliances and people is enough.

Once you put in a 2*4 wood frame, insulation, moisture barrier and dry wall you are reducing your storage container to aluminum siding. You will of course get a nice house/apartment, but why not just use aluminum siding. Far easier to transport, work, and put in place. Further is comes in all shapes and sizes and doesnt limit you to 20*8*8 sections.

by Richard on Jul 15, 2014 11:13 am • linkreport

@"STREETCAR IN NOVEMBER?"

What a joke! What happened to "Early 2014" or March 2013? or March 2012?

The DDOT source should've said November 2020,...at least then when it finally opens in 2016 or 2018, we won't be disappointed.

by Brett on Jul 15, 2014 11:14 am • linkreport

...and great to see the Council override the mayor's veto. We don't need to keep throwing away our tax dollars on a poorly planned streetcar system that will not help solve our transportation problems.

by Brett on Jul 15, 2014 11:22 am • linkreport

I support the investment in streetcars but DC's three streetcars will have been in storage for at least a half decade by the time service finally begins.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/15/AR2009121504839.html

As I said the other day, it will be embarrassing when Arlington begins its streetcar service before DC.

As for the shipping container housing, more affordable housing options should be welcomed but the Fairgrounds provide a good example about how the containers look as they age.

by 202_Cyclist on Jul 15, 2014 11:54 am • linkreport

Brett

The Council has not, AFAICT, said that the Streetcar system is a waste. They believe there is enough money left to advance it, but don't want to add more money till they have a DDOT they have more confidence in. I think that's mostly a jab at the incumbent Mayor, and will be reexamined when the new Mayor comes into office.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2014 11:59 am • linkreport

@Richard

2 of the 3 methods in the steel container insulation link do not require framing so loss of interior space can be minimized. Also standard aluminum siding does not insulate. But I agree that if you want large open interior spaces steel containers may not be the way to go.

Any developer has an almost infinite number of design choices he/she can make. In this case I assume the developer made theses decisions:
1) 4 small apartments would provide a greater return that a single family home.
2) That the existing structure could not be readily remodeled into 4 apartments.
3) That using pre-fab materials (e.g., shipping containers) would be economically feasible over stick construction - material costs plus time & labor.
4) The developer is pre-supposed to work with non-traditional building materials.

by jeffb on Jul 15, 2014 12:06 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

Not really. Based on the Council's statements prior to the vote, they were not only displeased that the streetcar was "ill-planned" but Barry, for example, thought the money should go to "other capital projects that we need in this city."

Barry expressly said he'd "fight as hard as I know how against anything else happening except finishing H Street."

And Mendelson also explicitly said he wants to limit it to H Street and Anacostia.

by Brett on Jul 15, 2014 12:30 pm • linkreport

link?

because this what Mendelson said earlier
http://wamu.org/news/14/05/28/dc_streetcar_faces_funding_cuts_prompting_warnings_from_gray

"In justifying the decrease, Mendelson said that the D.C. Department of Transportation has not been spending the amount available to it on existing streetcar construction, primarily the 2.5-mile-long route on H Street and Benning Road NE and a short segment in Anacostia. According to him, DDOT has been given $214 million for streetcar-related work since 2006, but has only spent $109 million of it."

""The Council, [b]while supportive of the Streetcar initiative,[/b] remains concerned about the amount of funding being diverted from the operating budget to pay for the system. Setting aside such a large portion of operating funds prevents implementation of other worthy programs and initiatives," said Mendelson's budget recommendation, which will be debated today."

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2014 12:41 pm • linkreport

Any developer has an almost infinite number of design choices he/she can make. In this case I assume the developer made theses decisions:
1) 4 small apartments would provide a greater return that a single family home.
2) That the existing structure could not be readily remodeled into 4 apartments.
3) That using pre-fab materials (e.g., shipping containers) would be economically feasible over stick construction - material costs plus time & labor.
4) The developer is pre-supposed to work with non-traditional building materials.

Hey I support it, hope it works out well. If the developer thinks they can make a profit using shipping containers to make apartments, then great for him. The existing structure probably couldnt be made into 4 apartments of that size or was perhaps in need of too much repair. The developer may also be counting on tenants being willing to pay a premium to living in a shipping container.

by Richard on Jul 15, 2014 1:01 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

Mendelson also said, $3 billion "is not sustainable, nor is it the best use of District resources," which is my point, and

“They have yet to finish H Street. That’s the bottom line...If they can demonstrate to the council they can really build this out, we will provide the dollars.”

But since the funding was cut, it won't go beyond H St, no matter who the future mayor may be or how much they "support streetcars."

Kudos to the Council, for stopping this disastrous plan in its tracks!

by Brett on Jul 15, 2014 1:03 pm • linkreport

"...If they can demonstrate to the council they can really build this out, we will provide the dollars.”

But since the funding was cut, it won't go beyond H St, no matter who the future mayor may be or how much they "support streetcars."

I think that clearly says that Mendo thinks that when they have a competent DDOT that builds out what they already have funding for (what the current funding will cover is a matter of dispute) THEN they will provide the dollars. How they will reconcile that provision of new funds with the tax cuts they have passed will be up to the Council to determine.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2014 1:06 pm • linkreport

again, Mendo said the Council supports the street car initiative - profoundly different from your POV. Only CM who agrees with you seems to be CM Barry.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2014 1:07 pm • linkreport

I was glad Gray vetoed the budget, even though I only agreed with one of his three reasons, and even though it didn't sway any votes. Basically Mendo got the budget he wanted and that he designed, and other than Wells, no one opposed him. I bet Gray wished he'd just remained Council Chair. It seems to be the power position.

by David C on Jul 15, 2014 1:28 pm • linkreport

re: shipping container homes

FWIW, I understand that the new shipping container restaurant El Rey on U St NW cost roughly the same to build as a traditional structure would have cost.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/going-out-guide/wp/2013/12/27/how-el-rey-d-c-s-first-shipping-container-restaurant-was-built-on-u-street/

The shipping container homes will only be around one block south of Monroe Street Market, and only a few blocks away from the Brookland Metro. Whatever their structural/cost merit, it is good to see more density in the area and especially in a manner that, I would argue, is not really out of character with the neighborhood. This is not a ten story building; it is essentially a modernist take on the type of small apartment buildings that can be seen mixed throughout DC's older rowhouse neighborhoods.

If the developer does well with this, it would be great to see similar projects all along 8th St NE between the Metro and Franklin St (along the MBT). There are a number of empty/underused lots in the area, and it has always struck me that that portion of 8th St NE would be a perfect place for small infill apartment buildings.

by ndw_dc on Jul 15, 2014 1:34 pm • linkreport

While the Council says that they support the streetcar system, in actual practice it is a lot easier, politically, to cut taxes than to raise them again. It seems unlikely that the funding will return. The council is being either disingenuous or naive.

by alurin on Jul 15, 2014 1:38 pm • linkreport

re: H St Streetcar

If/when the streetcar begins revenue service on H St/Benning Road, does DDOT plan on providing real time arrival information? After riding home with no phone battery, I realized just home dependent I have become on real time data for WMATA buses.

Real time arrivals (available on a mobile device) are, at least for me, the most important improvement a transit service can make. It would be terrible for the streetcar to debut without it ...

by ndw_dc on Jul 15, 2014 1:45 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

Mendelson's comment that the $3b streetcar budget, "is not sustainable, nor is it the best use of District resources," agrees very well with my statement:

"We don't need to keep throwing away our tax dollars on a poorly planned streetcar system that will not help solve our transportation problems."

Just b/c Mendelson also said "the COUNCIL supports streetcars" obviously does not mean he supports expanding this system, as he has shown with the power of the purse.

Money speaks louder than words, and in this case, it killed the streetcar expansion!

by Brett on Jul 15, 2014 2:52 pm • linkreport

It is not clear that it killed it. Mayor Grey says it killed it, but the Council says there is still money for further expansion. I have not seen a post getting into the accunting nitty-gritty of the two positions.

Mendo's statement that the 3 billion is not sustainable, does not mean a street car system with a different budget would not be sustainable.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2014 2:56 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

Mendelson also said "nor is it the best use of District resources." He agrees it's not the best use of money, and that's why he's using the power of the purse to limit its expansion.

by Brett on Jul 15, 2014 3:24 pm • linkreport

the three billion under current planning and execution. doesnt mean he thinks the mode does not add benefits. And he has I believe stated that this does not prevent its expansion - he seems to think DDOT lacks the managerial capacity to expand any faster.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2014 3:32 pm • linkreport

here is what CM Cheh said

"Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), who chairs the Council's transportation committee, supported the cuts, saying that DDOT has mismanaged the streetcar program. She did ask Mendelson to commit to supporting the streetcar plans, though.

"I do have concerns about this perhaps being... a subterfuge for ending the streetcar or changing the program," she said. "Maybe people want to do that... but it shouldn't be through a budgetary move," she said ahead of the vote."

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2014 3:34 pm • linkreport

note, if the current OP proposal for zoning passes, lowered parking minimums will take place near rail transit lines, but NOT near bus lines - articulated, enhanced or otherwise. That will provide a tangible legal association between rail and development.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2014 3:36 pm • linkreport

Packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes. Oh Sting, you wild-eyed fortune teller. Favela-chic. So depressing.

by crin on Jul 15, 2014 3:43 pm • linkreport

There is no cargo container problem. They are easily recycled as scrap metal. What we need to do is use all the reclaimed railroad ties to build highrise/high density lincoln log apartments.

by The Truth™ on Jul 15, 2014 3:53 pm • linkreport

@crin: The "shiny metal boxes" refers to cars, not shipping containers.

by alurin on Jul 15, 2014 4:04 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

Glad you mentioned Cheh, who chairs the transportation committee, with direct oversight of this project. She's just as responsible for its mismanagement.

I'm glad she also supported the cuts, which she recognized were being used as "a subterfuge for ending the streetcar or changing the program."

Money talks, and thankfully this streetcar expansion is doomed!

by Brett on Jul 15, 2014 4:04 pm • linkreport

we shall see. While it will be some time I guess before anything other than planning takes place on the NS line or on the One City line west of Union Station, I think this will come before the Council again in winter of 2015. If the new non-lame duck mayor opposes further street car expansion it won't happen. If they do, it will be interesting to see if Mendo tries to defeat the new Mayor and if he tries, if he succeeds.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2014 4:14 pm • linkreport

There is no cargo container problem. They are easily recycled as scrap metal. What we need to do is use all the reclaimed railroad ties to build highrise/high density lincoln log apartments.

We will have a lot of those when we replace them all with concrete or ballast-less track

by Richard on Jul 15, 2014 4:49 pm • linkreport

If the cycle track is elevated, how on Earth will Courtland Milloy or his followers be able to run over the cyclists with their cars? Won't someone think of The Milloy?

by Citizen on Jul 17, 2014 1:18 am • linkreport

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