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


Breakfast links II: Roads, rails and walls

Photo by thisisbossi.
Widening 270 is very bad for Baltimore: The I-270 widening is now a Maryland state issue. Baltimore area leaders are asking questions about the State Highway Administration's $4 billion highway widening plan for I-270, possibly the most expensive in the state's history. The widening would just shift growth and jobs far away from most of the state's residents, and Baltimoreans are understandably asking why that's a state priority when there are plenty of Route 29 and I-95 communities eager for those jobs. And, wearing his blogger hat, Michael Dresser agrees that this 270 widening will just create sprawl in Frederick County while hurting Baltimore (and Columbia, Laurel, and Beltsville). (Baltimore Sun)

Yet another highway?: Montgomery County is also considering building another highway through rural, forested land in the Agricultural Reserve near Clarksburg. The plan claims to protect the environment, as all road plans do these days, but really won't; many road contractors are ignoring the stream protection rules that are part of the ICC's environmental mitigation, for example. (MPW)

Game trains you to move cars above all: A fairly fun flash game lets you play traffic operations manager, keeping cars moving. Though, as Noah points out, the game has no mass transit or pedestrians, and moving cars as fast as possible is the whole point. It even insinuates that this fictional city doesn't solve traffic jams because of "the oil lobby and gas sales going up when cars idle in traffic jams." Is this harmless fun, or does it instill a cars-first outlook in innocent people? (TheCityFix)

The people I used to be are ruining my neighborhood!: Some people on U Street are worrying about rising noise. Richard Layman points out the irony (scroll to the second half of his post) that often, people move to a neighborhood for its lively activity and bars, then get older, stop going to the bars, and start fighting against the same things they liked when they moved there in the first place. That said, I think it's fair for residents to specifically oppose outdoor bars with late hours. Bar patrons can go inside after a certain hour. (Post)

Riders not happy: Metrorail riders are increasingly upset with crowding, doors closing on passengers, trains going out of service and long waits following the June crash. They blame Metro, sometimes rightly, but it's also worth pointing out that these maintenance problems stem from underfunding Metro, and they had to cut many of the staff who could otherwise help passengers on platforms. (Dr. Gridlock)

Lynx links new riders to transit: Charlotte's new Lynx light rail has attracted many new riders to transit, just like our Metrorail did. 72% of the riders weren't using public transportation before the line opened. Like Metrorail, it's drawing more educated and wealthier riders than buses, on average Charlotte has also seen human-scale walkable urban development around light rail stations. (Charlotte Observer via The Overhead Wire, Cavan, Michael P, David C)

And...: Roger Lewis praises new development in Tenleytown for its architecture and urbanism (Post, JTS) ... The Arlandrian suggests a roundabout for the corner of Glebe Road and Mount Vernon Avenue ... A property owner on Jefferson Place, between Dupont and downtown, can build a six-story addition behind a three-story townhouse as long as you can't see it from the street.

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.
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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Is it me, or are there a lot more 6 car trains on the Red line these days? Why would the crash cause that to be the case?

by Reid on Jul 27, 2009 10:13 am • linkreport

Eh, this rider wasn't happy on Friday when at Shaw Howard station, the driver announced that we would be skipping U-Street and anyone going there should get off now and take the next train behind us.

Where's the logic in skipping a busy station? If you have to skip a station the obvious choice (in that area) is Shaw Howard (which isn't terribly busy) or better, the Convention Center which isn't busy at all.

by Steve on Jul 27, 2009 10:23 am • linkreport

This is a Maryland state issue. There is an awful lot that could be done with $4.6 billion. It is just insane to throw that kind of money around on a project that will make us worse off in the end.

by Cavan on Jul 27, 2009 10:29 am • linkreport

Steve, why not run specifically express trains during rush hour, that hit only major stops:

by ScottahB on Jul 27, 2009 10:29 am • linkreport

If the bar exists when you move in, you have no right to complain about it later. Reminds me of people who move in next to airports and then complain about the noise or next to a farm and then complain about odor. Dope slaps are in order.

by ksu499 on Jul 27, 2009 10:32 am • linkreport


The express trains will never work because unlike the NY system, Metro only has one track going in each direction. The express train would simply get stuck behind a local train, defeating the whole purpose. If each station has three tracks, like West Falls Church, then you could easily use the 2nd track to run express trains. Alas, that is nowhere in the foreseeable future, but a good idea if we could swing it.

by Matt Glazewski on Jul 27, 2009 10:44 am • linkreport

It costs about the same to build two more tracks to the existing system as it would to build redundant parallel lines. It would be a better use of funds to build more lines so we can get more TOD and a more people in walking distance of the system.

Once again. We are not New York. We are not New York.

by Cavan on Jul 27, 2009 10:53 am • linkreport

@Cavan -- I agree with you 100%. Frankly, I'm proud to say we're not like NY. They may have redundant tracks, but their system is not nearly as nice as ours!

by Matt Glazewski on Jul 27, 2009 10:55 am • linkreport

Nicer or not I like NYC's subway better. Way more useful for getting around.

by NikolasM on Jul 27, 2009 11:04 am • linkreport

Well that's kinda comparing apples to toasters, isn't it? New York is a region of 18 million, it has 229 route miles (to Metro's 103) and more than 600 miles of revenue track (that's where those express tracks are) and serves a lot more people. And that's not even addressing the totally different eras the systems came from.

The comparison just isn't that useful beyond an initial glance. Analyzing the features is one thing, but implying that just because NYC's subway does something that DC's can also do it is naive.

by Alex B. on Jul 27, 2009 11:08 am • linkreport

I figured the number of tracks would be a problem... nice idea, though.

by ScottahB on Jul 27, 2009 11:14 am • linkreport

Metro's long string of wrecks, derailments, dead workers, dead passengers, dead pedestrians, stolen money, ridiculous "security" measures, and other mismanagement make me very glad that I no longer rely on the agency for daily transportation. It also will make me think long and think very hard before ever putting myself in a position where I would ever have to rely on it for daily transportation ever again. The agency is mismanaged, and a few more billion dollars will not solve that.

by Omari on Jul 27, 2009 11:27 am • linkreport

Let me just say that the M-83 northern extension project (Midcounty Highway) has been in the books for a LONG time, since the 1980 Master Plan so this is nothing new. In fact, there's a short stub of road at the Middlebrook Road terminus in Germantown named "Midcounty Highway". It's not much of a highway right now but it's been around since the mid 1990s and was built with the future extension in mind. Frankly, I'll believe it when I see it.
The road's path in the Master Plan as well as the newer Clarksburg sections (Snowden Farm Parkway) do NOT run through the Agricultural Reserve contrary to your blurb (though it abuts the reserve in a few small sections).

Further, the road is NOT planned to link up to the ICC anytime in the foreseeable future AGAIN contrary to what the linked article says, even though a southern extension from Shady Grove Road to a new interchange with MD 200 has been provisioned.

I understand that this website is vehemently anti-road and if it was up to some of you we would never build a single road again. For the most part I agree: for example, I only support widening I-270 on the southbound lanes from I-370 to MD 124 along with extending the HOV lane to Clarksburg to match the northbound lanes. But I'm frankly getting tired of this crusade on Mongomery County road projects. Where's the resounding criticism for the CCT, which would successfully miss nearly ALL of the mixed-use centers built in the county the last 20 years (Rio, Traville, Kentlands, Germantown Town Center, Milestone, Clarksburg) in favor of serving desolate office parks. There is such a thing as poorly-planned transit, and I have seen far too little analysis of it on this site.

by Reza on Jul 27, 2009 12:44 pm • linkreport

New York City's subway isn't particularly great for people who don't live in Manhattan or downtown Brooklyn. Anyone ever taken the G or L trains?

by цarьchitect on Jul 27, 2009 1:16 pm • linkreport

Reza, what real-life examples in our region would you consider poorly planned transit? Transit is as good or bad as the land uses. Human-scale walkable urbanism makes for convenient, cost-effective transit. Car-dependent sprawl makes for inefficient transit. It really is that simple.

I am happy to stand by my call for no more roads in Montgomery County. The new asphalt should be laid for infill human scale streetgrids like in the White Flint Sector Plan. We are almost totally filled up with car-dependent sprawl. Either we can focus growth around our Metro stations or we can go broke in the long run.

We're past the point where more roads would induce economic activity and well into territory where new roads just induce more traffic and demand for more roads. That is why I'm against more new roads. It's not out of idealogy. They're just not the right planning tool for our county in our time.

by Cavan on Jul 27, 2009 1:44 pm • linkreport

I live in the U street area and I am "old" in the sense of too old to want to go to the clubs and bars, but as long as the noise isn't drunk people having fights outside my house (which was a regular occurrence in 2001-2004) or car window smashings (sadly, still happens), it's ridiculous to complain. That Post article was really sad because it took one idiot's perspective and used it to represent the neighborhood. Scott Pomeroy, a long time resident who works on the Mid-City Business Council, had a useful response in the ustreetnews listserv, sorry so long but will try to reproduce it here (can't figre out how to link to it)


I felt compelled to encourage everyone (Washington Post writer included) who
thinks (or reports) that 14th Street and U Street is just about bars and
nightlife to take the time to come out next weekend and see the variety,
quality, and quantity of retail offerings MidCity/14th & U
( has to offer its residents and visitors. There is
an amazingly good mix of morning, daytime, early evening, and night time
offerings to experience, even including 24-hour 7 Elevens for those late night
early moring needs.

I am also writing today because I truly cringe every time I hear a community
discussion about U Street started as the reporter did in this article:

“They worry that U Street will one day become like Adams Morgan, where traffic
and crowds brought in by clubs and bars make living in the area almost

U Street is Not and Never will be Adams Morgan!

U Street and 14th Street were both designed and developed as retail destinations
for the Washington, Maryland, Virginia region. The early car showrooms on 14th
and the theatre district on U Street historically drew people from all over the
region and even the world. Here are some additional reasons why U Street will
never be Adams Morgan as Adams Morgan is perceived today:

Infrastructure and Design: Unlike Adams Morgan, U and 14th streets are very well
served by public transportation, with Metro subway entrances, multiple bus
lines, and the new circulator line, as well as dozens of Zipcars. The roads are
all six lanes wide, to better manage parking, loading, unloading and all the
traffic generated by business activity. These corridors, unlike 18th Street
they also have wide alleyways that mitigate the competing needs of businesses
and residences.

Sustainable Destinations: Unlike Adams Morgan, U and 14th streets have a diverse
array of preserved and well-supported live performance destinations -- Source
Theatre, 930 Club, Studio Theatre, Twins Jazz, Lincoln Theatre, Black Cat,
HR-57, 1409 Playbill, Busboys and Poets and others -- along with over a dozen
galleries, cultural attractions, and other features, that bring tens of
thousands of people to the area every week in the early evenings, for something
besides food and drink. But guess what, while they are here they do sometimes
shop, dine and drink, before and after those performances. Or, return to the
area to make a purchase of an item seen in a store window, or otherwise
advertised in the neighborhood.

Leveraging Base: The fine dining restaurants that have been attracted to the
area in the past few years are leveraging the base of neighborhood density and
regional-serving entertainment venues which is why you see the dining nexuses
that have developed around the theatres. We’ve also seen the development of
several retail clusters that leverage the dynamic energy of the area. Fashion,
home furnishings, design centers, and boutique shops add to what makes our
neighborhood unique and sustainable. Go into most any restaurant or retail
business and take a look at the walls and you will see artwork from local
artists, or the business owners themselves (ACKC or Utopia), for sale as part of
their business models.

Doing Things Now: We can and are deal with the real issues of trash, noise,
parking, and safety: these are the quality of life issues that everyone
complains about that can be mitigated by focusing on solving the specifics.
Examples are: Developers are advised not to put bedrooms on the fronts of
buildings that face the commercial district, particularly on lower floors. We
are working with businesses on rodent proof compactor trash and recycling
solutions that will minimize the number of trash truck visits to the alleyways
that residents and businesses share. Our Ward 1 and Ward 2 Council Members both
have pending legislation that respectively, would help address overall parking
and trash issues in the area and funding is pending to maintain the daily
cleaning services for the commercial district. Just to list a few.

I just hope that as we move forward as a community that we work together to
utilize the limited resources available to cultivate, manage and adapt to our
growth wisely, and let's focus on solutions for the real issues facing 14th & U
Streets. I say let’s get away from wasting time trying to stop “U Street
from becoming Adams Morgan" and instead, lets be U Street, a great place to
live, work and experience.

Scott Pomeroy

by Ward 1 Guy on Jul 27, 2009 3:32 pm • linkreport

"If the bar exists when you move in, you have no right to complain about it later."

By this logic, no one who moves to an area with sprawl should complain about the sprawl. People have a right to try to change their communities in the direction they want, and others have a right to oppose them.

I would agree that they shouldn't be *surprised* at the presence of noisy bars if these were there when they moved in--but I don't think you're seriously arguing that people should just accept the status quo of a given place, whether that status quo be pollution, segregation, crime, sprawl, noise, or anything else. It's perfectly legitimate to join something with the idea of reforming it from the inside.

by JB on Jul 27, 2009 5:40 pm • linkreport

JB, the difference here is that that DC tried very hard for decades to turn U St. exactly into the type of neighborhood it is now. Reminds me of people who move to the country for isolation and then complain about the smell from the 100 year old farm next door or the 50 year old gun range a mile away

by beatbox on Jul 27, 2009 8:41 pm • linkreport

No, the only difference is that the new urbanist hipsters realize that their logic, that a small group of vocal advocates should be able to impose change on a larger group, might actually work against them.

Um, next time, realize that neighborhood planning policies can be *gasp* a double-edged sword; kthnxbai.

by MPC on Jul 27, 2009 9:02 pm • linkreport

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