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Afternoon links: Gotta lotta news

Photo by ccooks3.
June's service disruptions: WMATA has announced their June weekend and weeknight track work schedule. As usual, Matt Johnson has updated our calendar showing planned disruptions to train and bus service.

Crash on K: Two cabs, two other cars, and a Circulator were involved in a crash at 13th and K, and "at least one person has life-threatening injuries." One of the cab drivers might have had a heart attack, say some witnesses. (DCist)

"The park is parked": The Capitol Hill Town Square proposal at Eastern Market Metro is on hold for now. The task force recommended the "triptych" option to create a center oval, but neighbors right on the plaza oppose that option. (The Hill is Home)

What a cyclist sees: A cyclist wore a helmet camera for a year, and recorded many drivers almost hitting him, and in at least one case, actually hitting him. (CNN, MV)

Virginians packing Amtrak: The Northeast Regional extension to Charlottesville and Lynchburg has smashed ridership estimates, though some worry that more trains will turn Charlottesville into a DC suburb and spur sprawl. (The Hook News Blog, Joey)

Roaring for bike sharing: As expected, MWCOG submitted the regional bike sharing program for the second round of TIGER grants. It was in the first application but didn't get funded and would add 2,250 more bikes to the 1,100 recently announced. (WBJ)

The one good MLK Library view: This must be why Mies Van der Rohe designed the MLK Library as he did, and why architects insist that it's a good building: It looks good from far away, but up close and from inside, it's less successful. (Post)

Greater grocers: Safeway plans to build next door to its newly-renovated Georgetown store, but it seems to be bland and have a lot of parking (Georgetown Metropolitan) ... Grocers need to innovate, argues The Internationalist. (Jeff1248)

Even more ART: Arlington just keeps improving its transit. Now it's a new ART bus, #84, serving Douglas Park and Nauck and apartments at 24th St. S. and S. Glebe Rd. (Gavin)

The other late-night change: Besides the streetcar cuts, there was another last-minute change to last week's DC budget: A closed school in Ward 8 was given to UDC to house a new community college. (DC Wire)

Safe cars buried, then destroyed: In the 1970's, NHTSA created prototype cars that were far ahead of their time in safety, but they were unceremoniously junked by the Reagan administration. (Jalopnik, Stephen Miller)

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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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If the C-Ville service is successful, it stands to reason that the Hampton Roads corridor would hugely benefit from improved rail service. IMHO, an improved DC -> VA Beach (via Newport News) rail line should be one of Amtrak's highest priorities, as Hampton Roads has nearly 2 million people, and virtually no access to public transportation.

by andrew on Jun 1, 2010 3:37 pm • linkreport

There is a lot of smart growth around the charlottesville amtrak and plenty of opportunities for more. I have faith that city at least could plan thoughtfully around growth around its train station. I don't know about albermarle or the other surrounding counties but hopefully they would also put a focus on building on top of whats already built.

by Canaan on Jun 1, 2010 3:52 pm • linkreport

RE: Eastern Market Metro Plaza/Barrack's Row story:
So what happens to the [taxpayer] money if the EA doesn’t end up happening? And is that money currently sitting in the bank making money for Barrack’s Row? I’m not familiar with how CDs work. It looks like the town square website has not been updated with the report mentioned in the article. Same thing with the Barrack’s Row site. I would be very interested to see what that report says (and I’m sure other readers would be interested as well). I am also curious about this $2.75 million congressional earmark–which looks to be self-dealing. And what is the deal with the gates/gatewats? Was the money supposed to be for gates, but then Barrack’s row decided to use it for this project? Don’t the taxpayers have the right to demand some answers to these questions?

by Hill Resident on Jun 1, 2010 3:56 pm • linkreport

I believe one hurdle they need to overcome on the Hampton Roads train corridor is competing with freight and the number of tracks/sidings. I don't believe the corridor down to Lynchburg has that same issue.

I really don't see Charlottesville becoming any type of suburban extension of DC. But I feel comfortable that the A-schoolers and faculty down there will help steer development in the right direction.

by Lou on Jun 1, 2010 4:03 pm • linkreport

Rather ugly design by Safeway for those buildings. Not that the current buildings are any beauty queens... But I hope the Einstein Bagles won't be priced out. There are so few decent bagels in that area.

by Fritz on Jun 1, 2010 4:10 pm • linkreport

I love the MLK Library article. If only those damned users wouldn't get in the way of Mies Van der Rohe's minimalist vision. How unappreciative of DCPL to want to use their main library! And those ingrate property owners trying to maximize return on their property by constructing buildings. In city center, none the less!

Next, they'll try to destroy our precious viewsheds with their overhead wires! (I should note here that my spell checker does not accept "viewshed" as a word).

by TimK on Jun 1, 2010 4:12 pm • linkreport

Regarding the Safeway, any proposal that does not include ground-floor retail with 2-3 floors of residential above it should be considered a missed opportunity. This whole parcel (it looks like Safeway only owns part of it-- Safeway doesn't own the property where the paint store and the surface parking lot on the south parcel are located) is quite large and could building new housing here could allow more people to move to what is one of the least affordable parts of DC.

It also looks like this proposal will add a new curb-cut, making this section of Wisconsin Avenue less walkable at the same time that improvements listed in the Glover Park Transportation Study ( proceed.

by Ben on Jun 1, 2010 4:23 pm • linkreport

@ Ben -- There's already a curb cut to access the Einstein bagels etc. parking lot. The other cut appears to be the existing one for access to Safeway, with an entrance off that entry road.

by ah on Jun 1, 2010 4:33 pm • linkreport

@andrew, unfortunately, I doubt we'll see good rail service to Virginia Beach in our lifetimes.

The most likely proposal for improved service to the region is down the current line through Williamsburg to Hampton. There's no current suggestion even for a rail crossing of Hampton Roads (to get to Norfolk or Virginia Beach from Hampton). There's been some loose talk of a third freeway tunnel, plus the imposition of tolls on the other two to pay for it, but I've heard nothing floated even in passing about a rail tunnel.

As a result, rail service will likely only go to the end of the peninsula as it does now, rather than all the way to Norfolk or Virginia Beach, leaving it far less used.

There's an alternate proposal to run new passenger rail down through Petersburg and then along US-460 east, which project would not require a major crossing of Hampton Roads to get to the ocean. But it would cut out Williamsburg entirely and add an hour to the trip to Tidewater, and so I don't see it being the chosen alternative.

There's more info about this at .

by Joey on Jun 1, 2010 4:34 pm • linkreport

Any estimates on how much those safe cars would cost to produce?

I'm sure everyone would have flocked to the sharp styling of an AMC Pacer with Delorean doors. It's like a Wayne's World/Back to the Future mash-up.

by ah on Jun 1, 2010 4:34 pm • linkreport

@Hill Resident-

You don't know much about CDs, but you're "demanding answers"? How about you take a minute to educate yourself on earmarks, interest income, and certificates of deposit. Earmarks have designated uses, and cannot be used for other things. If they generate interest income, it only adds to the balance that must still be used for the designated purpose. As for the "gates", get real. Are you actually dense enough to think someone was going to install a real, physical gate in the middle of 8th Street? There's a fire station right there. The reporter is crazy if she thinks this was ever going to happen. Then again, it's a good thing she set that tone so early in the article! Always good to prep your readers :)

by Hill_Guy on Jun 1, 2010 4:44 pm • linkreport

@ ah--- I think you're correct ( but this proposal would increase the amount of surface parking in what is otherwise a walkable neighborhood, at a time when DDOT and the ANC 3B are working to make this area even more pedestrian-accessible. Safeway should look at a shared parking arrangement with its grocery store, instead of adding additional new parking.

by Ben on Jun 1, 2010 4:44 pm • linkreport

From the Kennicott article:
Mies's vision was symbolically perfect -- at the time -- for a library. It emphasizes a clear view into a glass box for books
Is he aware that an excess of sunlight and heat is destroying the books? And, if form follows function, why does the library look like the first four stories of any other Mies building?

Architecture critics defending Mies make sophistry look like an art form.

by Steve S on Jun 1, 2010 4:45 pm • linkreport

@Ben -- I suppose, but then they'd have to cross the access road. It looks like about 10-12 spaces for the 3 stores, because the Einstein's parking already exists. I imagine retail tenants want at least a modicum of space, particularly for handicapped customers. Having an entrance and exit should also improve vehicle flow (especially if it's entrance only from Wisconsin) and thereby enhance pedestrian safety, by avoiding wacky driving maneuvers.

by ah on Jun 1, 2010 5:03 pm • linkreport


Whoa whoa whoa ... I'm sorry that I clearly offended you with my comment. You seem awfully defensive about this issue.

I was not aware of how CDs work. And I'm not dense, thank you. My point wasn't whether or not the gates SHOULD be there (which I would agree would be a bad idea for several reasons). My real question was - if this money was earmarked for a specific reason, then is it fair to re-purpose that money for something else? You answered my question yourself in your comment: "Earmarks have designated uses and cannot be used for anything else."

So, again, this earmark was designated for one project, but is now being used for something else. Please ... educate me on how that worked out that way. And how that's fair.

And I don't think that the meaning of gate/gateway was for big gates that open and close; I always assumed that these were things akin to the gate in Chinatown. But maybe I'm still being dense.

by Hill Resident on Jun 1, 2010 5:22 pm • linkreport

this post has some more interesting info about the eastern market metro plaza earmark

by Hill Resident on Jun 1, 2010 5:32 pm • linkreport

Re: Hampton Roads Rail. The chosen route is via Petersburg to Norfolk. The new DRPT Director is from Norfolk. The problem with both the Peninsula and the Rt. 460 routes is that the existing rights of way are heavily used by coal trains running from the West Virginia fields to the Hampton Roads ports (Newport News for CSX, Norfolk for Norfolk Southern). Coal trains are heavy, long and slow. It's expensive to create enough capacity for a short, fast passenger train to fit between coal trains. Adding capacity to the Washington-Charlottesville-Lynchburg line is easy by comparison: the line is alternating sections of single and double track; add capacity by double-tracking a single track segment.

Re: Bike-sharing. The story actually says that MWCOG will discuss it on June 16th. How likely is it that some of the original players will back out now they have to contribute money? Who do we have to contact to stiffen spines?

by jim on Jun 1, 2010 5:40 pm • linkreport

If the revenue for the line has already exceeded its projection how about lowering the fares? It stands to reason that if they already made the money they expected (I hope this means profit) that they could easily make money if they dropped the fares, and in fact might make more with even more ridership. I know I'd probably take that train if it were a little cheaper.

I'm sure I'm wrong though...

by Boots on Jun 1, 2010 6:29 pm • linkreport

Hill Resident--

I'm not an appropriations lawyer, I but do know a little about the subject. What the money could be used for would depend on the specific legislative language regarding it. I suspect, but honestly don't have the time to look it up, that the money was appropriate in fairly general terms to improve, beautify or some other generic adjective like that and not for a physical arch or gateway.

It appears that the money currently being spent was to design and study something not to actually build anything. So the money is being spent as intended. The specific appropriations provisions would dictate how long they have to spend and what happens to any they don't spend.

by katydid13 on Jun 1, 2010 6:57 pm • linkreport

@Steve S

The very same problem affected France's Bibliotheque Nationale. It was designed to look like 4 open books. The idea was to show the volumes filling up as the library aquired books. That had to be abandoned because of the light problem. It was one of Mitterand's follies.

BTW, having a library that looks great in a field but not in an urban setting is inane. Is there any way we can have these architects who are too busy making statements to make useful buildings executed? ;-)

by Chuck Coleman on Jun 1, 2010 7:22 pm • linkreport


Petersburg->Norfolk may be the "chosen" route, but it's far from set in stone, and I'm sure that funding would be more easily obtained if a regional commuter rail line could piggyback on Amtrak's route. It might be easier to build, but it bypasses far too much of the population to win the hearts of the public. Hampton Roads is the epitome of urban sprawl -- 2 million people, lots of roads, and no clearly-defined center. If the Petersburg alignment ultimately does get used, they'll need to dig a tunnel under the river to backtrack into Newport News and Williamsburg.

Coal trains are indeed long, slow, and frequent along the CSX line. Double (or, heck..triple) tracking the Hampton Roads CSX line would greatly alleviate congestion.

by andrew on Jun 1, 2010 7:56 pm • linkreport

What has happened to GGW? Dave posts a bike link, and people want to talk about trains instead? Where are the flame wars?

In terms of the train to c-ville, looks great. But isn't it cheaper and more effective to have a working inter-city bus system. What is the economic model of the Chinatown buses? Can they only work between two dense cities and everything else is (crappy) greyhound? Does bus bring development -- and does Amtrak?

by charlie on Jun 2, 2010 6:11 am • linkreport

Re: Amtrak. Whether the Cville service spurs sprawl or responsible development depends entirely on the way the station area is handled. Do we ramp up the parking and push away all uses, or do we pull in the compact development and limit the parking? Fortunately, the station is currently located in a very convenient location right between downtown and the university, and the city has already been proactive about encouraging dense, mixed-use zoning along the West Main corridor. There's pretty good bus service, and plans are floating around for a street car on this route. There certainly is development potential there too.

Also, the distance between DC and Cville doesn't seem to lend itself to daily commuting trips even if train's scheduling were to improve. To me, it seems like a telecommuting/business meetings combo would be more likely, which means that firms may want to open a smaller office in Cville.

by Daniel Nairn on Jun 2, 2010 7:30 am • linkreport

While I normally enjoy Mr. KennicottÂ’s perspectives, this latest effort was a huge dissapointment. It peddles in the most overused cliches of Washington DC and modernism, and gives nothing new to the uninitiated.
He begins by stating DC is “a city temperamentally allergic to anything that isn’t classical, brick, or bland”. I guess he’s not aquainted with the canyons of glass modernism that make our CBD undistinguishable from most mid-size cities in the US. The playfull and wildly varied rowhouse architecture from the Civil War to WWI don’t seem to register on his radar either. He seems to have missed the Newseum alltogether.

Then, the analysis of the MLK Library seems to come straight out of a How-to-Bauhaus manual. If the library needs space to be appreciated, blame the “great” Mies for once again flipping off the context in favor of his genious vision. And the box, or should we say “stern geometrical form” is a one size fits all solution the modernists shoved any function in, to promote their totalitarian arethetic on any sap willing to buy into their warpped world view. Functionalism, not so much. As for decoration, I guess decoration is ok, as long as it’s steel beams, “expressing” structure.

Then the classic modernist elitism of dismissing the users by dissing the librarian who is clearly “not an aesthete” for making the unforgivable sin of demanding the building actually function for what it was designed to. “Cooper is looking to find a balance between the building’s rigorous architectural demands and it’s evolving purpose as a library”. Funny how Mies’s concept of “universal space” can’t handle “provisional offices that have been built along the southwest windows of the ground floor, in utter and reckless disregard for the clarity of Mies’s design”. The modernists’ clarity never allowed for the humanity they where proportidly designed to house from a simple library to whole cities (see Brasillia).

Modernism has long been rejected by the public and shown to be intellectually bankrupt, yet those too invested to look at it with trully critical eyes keep justifying its greatest failures almost as a way to retain the intellectual capital they so assiduously invested in it. I have come to enjoy Mr. KennicottÂ’s perspectives, but this article is a fawning tribute to a building long despised by most all who have had to work in and patronize.

While itÂ’s easy to criticize, I feel the need to say something consructive. The MLK should definatley be preserves as the important architectural monument is surely is, but maybe a sculpture museum might be more appropriate. ItÂ’s no coincidence that so many neo-modernistsÂ’ favorite building type to design is museums. Clean open spaces unencumbered by the complexities of everyday life, detached from their context, itÂ’s all about building as sculpture.

by Thayer-D on Jun 3, 2010 7:35 am • linkreport

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