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

Open thread

Thanksgiving weekend open thread

Several people have emailed recently about issues they'd like to discuss or questions they'd like to bring up, but which don't have recent relevant posts as a proper home for that discussion.

Some blogs create this opportunity with open threads, where readers can comment on and discuss any topics of interest. Some have also suggested a forum or other separate area. What would you like to see?

Meanwhile, use this an open thread to discuss whatever issues are on your mind.

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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I like the idea of open threads, just if possible can you keep them out of the RSS feeds?

by Joshua Davis on Nov 28, 2009 2:39 pm • linkreport

I noticed that DC did not pay to open the metro early for Black Friday this year. Did anyone ride transit for holiday shopping?

I just rode to take my son downtown for museums and lunch but not that early.

by Michael Perkins on Nov 28, 2009 2:45 pm • linkreport

The open thread could happen once a week. Might be a chance for some of our contrarian commenters to point out things they think are being overlooked?

by Michael Perkins on Nov 28, 2009 2:46 pm • linkreport

Why not open threads in RSS feeds? I only access GGW through an RSS feed, and I'd like to know when there's an open thread in case I've got something on my mind when one comes up.

by Lucre on Nov 28, 2009 3:10 pm • linkreport


Friday was a workday for the Federal Government, as was intended to be for the entire day with no early release..I think that was more the reason.

by RJ on Nov 28, 2009 5:06 pm • linkreport

here's a couple random things:

a) The Waterfront Station project in SW is really coming along and I can't wait for 4th Street to open! Though I am concerned about accessing the Safeway when they start working on the area between it and the Metro.

b) Today I walked by 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE and was struck by how cool a building it is. It's the Old Naval Hospital and apparently there's a plan to restore it next year Do people like the plan? Do people think it's actually going to happen?

c) Other than VRE, is there a good non-car way to get to Quantico? Greyhound to Woodbridge and a taxi/friend/occasional local bus ride from there is the best I could find.

d) could we have a thread on movies featuring urban development themes? One of my planning classes showed clips from You've Got Mail (local/national retailing) and Back to the Future (downtowns throughout the late 20th century) and I'd add Be Kind Rewind.

by Stacy on Nov 28, 2009 5:08 pm • linkreport

Last year WMATA opened its service at 4am instead of the usual 5am. DC paid for the improved service, probably at Jim Graham's prompting to help out the DC USA shopping center, which had been recently opened. Later press accounts showed that very few people rode the service (I can't find an article right now), costing the city dozens of dollars per customer that exited at columbia heights.

by Michael Perkins on Nov 28, 2009 5:13 pm • linkreport

My first thoughts would be to check PRTC buses. Also there are private bus lines that serve those parts, Dillon's comes to mind but I don't know if they still do.

Slugging might be a good option, either to Potomac Mills, or there are other points beyond. Google the slug line website.

by spookiness on Nov 28, 2009 5:49 pm • linkreport

A forum would compete with the main page for comments. You'd see duplicate threads for many discussion items - one in the forum and one here. I used to have a forum on BDC and found that it wasn't a good addition.

How about a script on the main page that displays any tweet with the #ggwash hashtag, or something like that?

by BeyondDC on Nov 28, 2009 8:02 pm • linkreport

That is why with forums, rules always need to be implemented and enforced by the admins and moderators. I am not saying that is what happened with the BeyondDC forum but since you did give that reason, one would have to assume something like that. Just sayin'

by Zac on Nov 28, 2009 8:45 pm • linkreport

re: twitter -- i know there is some kind of plugin/service/other that shows twitter trackbacks on a blog. i thought that was kind of cool -- i like to know what others are saying about a particular post via the twitterosphere.

by Peter Smith on Nov 28, 2009 9:29 pm • linkreport

There was a plan about 10 years ago to turn the Old Naval Hospital into the Mayor's Mansion which would be more in keeping with states or even NYC (Gracie Mansion). Then the Casey family offered to give a large estate to DC for that purpose, and the ONH plan fell apart. But when the Casey estate plan fell apart, no one went back to the Naval Hospital plan. It would have been nice as it is on the same Penn Ave axis as the White House, District Building, Capitol. The main concerns given were parking, traffic impacts and security (the unholy trinity of DC planning).

by David C on Nov 28, 2009 10:22 pm • linkreport

here's a coverage wishlist:

* coverage of transit sexual harassment/groping, and ways to combat it. maybe a story/link to/of/by Holla Back, DC!.

* a follow-on of sorts -- decongestion pricing for transit. what's the status in DC?

* still like to see more posts by females about....anything, really. the coverage is good/great, but i just have the feeling that missing the voice from about half the population is probably not a good thing. and, of course, non-white authors about topics which normally stay off the radar of even well-intentioned white folks -- i.e. racism, outright, institutionalized, passive, etc. the links to the taxi stuff was a great start.

* this is more of an advocacy org-type function, but i'd be interested in a 'State of the City'-type post. where have we come? where do we want to go? are things on track? why or why not? who is doing what? what opportunities do we see coming up? which ones did we miss? what is the structure of the various advocacy orgs in town? do they work together? do they represent the right mix, or do we need to re-arrange and/or combine organizations? what about the job of the DDOT? is the city getting better for everyone? do poor and minority communities see/experience any difference? do they feel included in the process? you know, basically, everything. :)

* i'd like to see any coverage of very 'DC' things -- like Gallaudet University. the Pentagon and its transportation system. DC's largest employer, GWU.

* following that -- what are the myriad local public and private universities doing on transportation? any talk of bike-sharing? are there any MBAs at Georgetown who have great ideas and want to save the world instead of go to Wall Street to wreck the world? ;-D

* would definitely like to see some more public grade school-related transportation talk.


by Peter Smith on Nov 28, 2009 11:06 pm • linkreport

I have a question that's been bugging be for some time. People always cite the Rosslyn tunnel as pretty much the number one constraint on the system. I get that the whole blue-orange system is overloaded, but why is this particular segment any more critical than any other point on the line? Are there some issues that occur at Rosslyn that don't occur at Stadium-Armory? Or is the Rosslyn tunnel just cited because it's where the problem begins, and people don't generally think much about the River East side of the equation? On that note, would a separated Blue line solve any problems if they're still reuniting at Stadium-Armory?

by Rob on Nov 29, 2009 1:12 am • linkreport

I'm convinced that while your recent blog post from Dan Reed at Just Up The Pike is focused on skateboarding issues specific to Silver Spring, it's likely one of the most powerful pieces ever written in support of skateparks.

Skateboarding is the fastest growing sport in America, and there's a big push of teens trending away from team sports and towards action sports. The issues Dan wrote about are very similar in DC. The biggest 'skatepark' in DC is not a skatepark -- it's Freedom Plaza, which attracts more skaters than any spot in the DC Metro area. And skating's been going on there for over 20 years.

A couple of weeks ago while some friends and I were skating towards Freedom Plaza, we passed huge hoards of skaters leaving there, heading to other spots. And at Freedom, there were at least 50 skaters.

Even with its long history of skateboarding, skating at Freedom is still illegal, and skaters are regularly chased out. During DC's Go Skate Day event in June (an international skating event), I was told about a little kid who got tased for skating at Freedom, and another who was body-slammed to the ground.

DC needs skateparks badly. And the only one I'm aware of anywhere in NW, is a crappy, badly neglected park at 11th & Rhode Island Avenue, in the Shaw area.

by Skateboard Mom on Nov 29, 2009 9:28 am • linkreport

I'm looking for precedent to turn a large strip mall and parking lots into great streets and mixed-use. Any thoughts? I'd like to make a proposal to the owner/developer.

(I am a recent grad of Andrews University School of Architecture in Michigan, currently working in the city planning department in Chattanooga, Tennessee.)

by jeremiah smith on Nov 29, 2009 12:27 pm • linkreport

While a forum would certainly compete with a blog, there is a middle ground that sites like DailyKos, Slashdot, and Advogato have centered on - the diary-based CMS, where anyone's articles can be commented on, promoted, and by some mechanism (either editorial or democratic) pushed to the frontpage. It's more topical than a forum community, but allows a mix of subjects by various experts. IMO one of those pre-packaged solutions would be entirely appropriate here, and would save David some time coding.

by Squalish on Nov 29, 2009 4:36 pm • linkreport

A) The Rosslyn Tunnel is much more crowded than the split on the other side of the Anacostia. Yes, it's where the problem begins, but it's both the most visible transfer station that is part of the problem (where most people are waiting in the system for trains ahead to move out of the way) and that area is also subject to many more ridership-proportional problems, like platform crowding and door delays, which may even out further down the lines. The Rosslyn tunnel is physically looked at as the "most crowded part" of the system because there are more people on each traincar there than anywhere else, with the possible exception of short trips between adjacent transfer stations.

B) Current plans for the Silver Line have it ending at Stadium Armory. If the Silver is two lines per 12 minutes, that means only three (two Oranges and a Blue) trains per 12 minutes will hit the Blue/Orange split in River East. Whether there is an additional load problem with the turnback switch at Stadium Armory, I don't know - you'll need to consult the track diagrams to answer that one.

by Squalish on Nov 29, 2009 4:49 pm • linkreport

My understanding of why the Rosslyn switch is a problem when the Stadium/Armory switch isn't is because A) the Rosslyn tracks are busier, thus trains are more likely to get slightly delayed if someone holds the doors, and this upsets the 'zipper' timing between Orange and Blue; and B) the actual switch at Rosslyn is right next to the station, while the switch at Stadium-Armory is more than a mile away from the station.

The Silver Line is going to terminate at Stadium-Armory because that's the first pocket track for trains to turn around at along the line in DC.

by Alex B. on Nov 29, 2009 6:48 pm • linkreport

Just wanted to say that I appreciate your coverage of DC, especially Metro. I currently live in NC and I hope to have a Metro of my own one day(Charlotte has started doing something of the sort). In addition, hope to come up to DC and do graduate work at one of the schools in transport policy. I also echo the sentiment of having more women/minority voices, as I am both. I blog occasionally on transport issues myself(currently doing a series on rail).

by Kristen on Nov 29, 2009 10:58 pm • linkreport

I'm very curious about Rosslyn too. A few sources I've read have said that the Potomac tunnel is single-track, but I don't see how that could be. That would cause huge, unfathomable delays if it were permanently in that configuration.

On a related note, as far as I know, the switch directly south of L'Enfant Plaza is the only junction in which two lines converge at grade. The King Street, Pentagon and Rosslyn junctions are flyovers and I'm not sure about the Blue and Orange one east of Stadium/Armory (it isn't in a tunnel so I'd assume it'd be a lot easier to make a flyover, so it probably is one). Does this cause a bottleneck around the L'Enfant junction? It's obviously not nearly as busy as Rosslyn, but still. A junction at grade must be slower than a flyover, so I'm curious as to how bad it is.

by Tim on Nov 29, 2009 11:19 pm • linkreport

The Potomac tunnel is double-track. The tracks converge in one direction just before Rosslyn station, and in the other direction just after Rosslyn station - accounting for the odd 3-track layout of the station itself.

When the tunnel is forced into single-track *operation* because of mechanical problems or things on the track on certain segments of the combined orange/blue line during rush-hour, the busiest segment of Metrorail, where operators had to push through 8-car trains as fast as they could switch the tracks and maintain minimum headways, suddenly sees half capacity. Platforms start to fill up, people across the system gradually see delays. If the trains back up all the way to the core, then people have trouble transferring on other routes.

This diagram by John Cambron is not entirely clear on at-grade vs flyover, but it looks to me like the one south of L'Enfant is the former.

by Squalish on Nov 30, 2009 12:22 am • linkreport

*Latter, that is

by Squalish on Nov 30, 2009 12:23 am • linkreport

I'm a woman, and I too notice that the few women who used to comment on this blog have gotten even fewer. I am not overly fond of the redesign mostly because there's less space for the postings and comments (width-wise). I don't like that. The blog has trended more and more male, which becomes less appealing for me (ie, male ONLY).

The simplicity of the design has been lost, I feel.

I like the then and now feature, but I think it should be put up less frequently than it now is. And I don't really like the what's this? thing.

by Jazzy on Nov 30, 2009 8:00 am • linkreport

in defense of this blog and every other blog that doesn't pay its contributors to post -- finding people to post is often not easy. you'd have an easier time getting cycletracks installed down the middle of Pennsylvania Ave.


i say this from the perspective of someone who used to run his own multi-contributor blog and has specifically gone out to recruit not just other bloggers from any background, but specifically bloggers from backgrounds different from my own. the responses, if you get them, is one of several, but they can be, "no, thanks", or "i'm not really into changing the world -- i'm just doing this for fun", or "what's in it for me?", or "yeah, i'm really excited to do this" and then never posts -- you get the idea. and it's not that people are evil -- it's that they may not have a few hours a day/week to post on a given topic in a quality way, for free. There is research/links/etc. -- requires a lot of time and effort.

i still hope and expect we'll continue to see more and more-varied and better coverage as the days go by. in my not-so-humble opinion, this blog could be the number one quality 'livable streets' blog in the nation right now -- and that's no joke -- there are a lot of people doing a lot of great work, including full-blown professional and funded organizations, but GGW just seems to me to be an excellent resource in so many respects -- i'm impressed, and inspired, and happy that GGW exists. ever since I discovered a couple of years ago, I felt like "every town needs a", and now it's happening, and it's possible that my new mantra might become, "every town needs a".

i would not be at all surprised to see GGW pulling down some awards this year, and more and bigger ones next year.

(adding, a publishing house like GGW will only be as strong as its active readers and comments and doers. we're part of GGW's success, and vice-versa. let's keep working together!)

great things ahead for the greater greater district!


by Peter Smith on Nov 30, 2009 8:50 am • linkreport

Just wanted to say that running the extra and articulated buses to/from BWI airport on Sunday was great...good job Metro!

I think though that if they ever wanted to test out some sort of pre-pay while you're waiting for the bus, the B30 would be a good place for it. Most people don't have smart trip and are lugging huge bags, so it takes forever to board everyone.

Also a great place to have a screen for the NextBUS would be in the BWI terminal. There is only 1 bus, so is shouldn't be that hard. They already have the screens displaying the location of the bus, so I wouldn't think it would be too hard to add a nextbus component to it. Then people could decide if they wanted to wait or pay for the train/super shuttle/cab or whatever.

by Patrick O'Malley on Nov 30, 2009 10:29 am • linkreport

i found a worthy project!

check out the google map linked from this post. it shows circles of radius a couple of miles or so from each of the train stations on Caltrain (our commuter train -- similar I guess, to MARC, etc.). basically, it's a map showing the 'bike shed' for Caltrain access.

i'd like the same for DC, for each existing station, and then for each station as we add new light rail or streetcar lines or BRT lines.

i'd also like to be able to show just walk sheds -- 8 minute walks, or whatever.

obviously, there are lots of bells and whistles, but this blog post from Beyond DC that mentioned transit '(area) coverage' is what got me thinking about walk/bike/transit sheds, again. and there was that recent news about the extension of funding to greater walk and bike shed distances, etc.

and this might sound a bit wacky, but i've actually been thinking about Razor-type scooters lately. i'm thinking they could be an 'in-between' option for folks who are ~1 mile to ~2 miles from a transit station, but don't feel like walking the 30 minutes -- they'd rather get there in about 13 minutes -- and the drama of a bike is just not worth it. so, they use a scooter and can just fold it up and carry on the bus or train. you can even buy them w/ a front brake. only 10-20 pounds. you would use the bike lanes just like the bikers, skateboarders, inliners, etc.

of course, this means we get to concentrate on making the walk/scoot/bike sheds truly walkable/scootable/bikable.

that's my idea for the future awesome city -- mostly human-powered transport, with just enough super-high-quality motorized transit to supplement.

by Peter Smith on Nov 30, 2009 2:10 pm • linkreport

Squalish - what "odd 3-track layout of the station itself" are you referring to? The station is just like Pentagon, one direction on top, one direction on bottom, both lines.

by Rob on Nov 30, 2009 4:58 pm • linkreport

Sorry, mental hiccup. I was either confusing the current layout of the station with the configuration at West Falls Church & National Airport, or with some scheme to make the Blue/Orange 'zippering' more efficient, or with a way to separate the Blue Line. Not sure which one exactly - all I remember is drawing a diagram about it some time ago :) Obviously, I don't use the station too often.

by Squalish on Nov 30, 2009 5:16 pm • linkreport

I also feel that they're are many great ideas that if told to the right people could happen. Despite that, those ideas never progress off this website.

For example; the re-alignment of that streetcar line on Rhode Island Ave and the Pink Line in VA. You're not going to accomplish anything by just posting it on a blog. You need to take it to the next level or the idea will die with you.

by Zac on Nov 30, 2009 9:36 pm • linkreport

I'll admit; the BeyondDC forum did go downhill, not just because of what BeyondDC mentioned in the above posting but also because the admins there seem a bit apathetic. If you lost interest, then just admit that.

by Rob on Dec 1, 2009 11:15 am • linkreport

The forum was hard to administer because posting was sporadic. When there are no new threads for a week then there's little incentive to check every day, so when you get 5 new threads in one day you don't see them for a while. And the reason posting was sporadic was primarily that it was better to have comments on the main page under blog posts. The forum worked pretty well before the site began to function more like a blog, but once there was competition one of them couldn't be sustained.

GGW does obviously get more traffic than BDC got 5 years ago. More people saying more things might make a forum work better. But I would guess not. There are more users now, but also more competition. More topical blogs to read, and a large, easy to use twitter echo chamber.

Others may disagree of course, but my feeling is that a message board just isn't the right technology for the sort of community DC area urbanists have become.

by BeyondDC on Dec 1, 2009 11:40 am • linkreport

my feeling is that a message board just isn't the right technology for the sort of community DC area urbanists have become.

My feeling is that based upon the recent blog posts on here (GGW), people are going off on too many tangents and it makes reading the posts really hard to follow.

by Zac on Dec 4, 2009 6:10 pm • linkreport

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