Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Alexandria's turn


Phoo by Mrs. Gemstone on Flickr.
Potomac Yard planned: Alexandria has approved a plan for Potomac Yard, with 7.5 million square feet of development and a new Metro station paid for by a combination of private contributions and special tax districts around the area. Some residents of adjacent communities aren't happy about the tax districts, however. (AlexandriaNews, Christy Goodman/Post)

Slightly higher, flat parking rates: Alexandria also approved raising meter rates to $1.75/hour, which will now be a flat rate instead of varying the rate by area or demand. A few currently-unmetered blocks on King Street will also get meters. The money will initially go to buy new multispace meters. (Examiner)

Lake no longer?: VDOT cleared debris blocking storm drains along Route 1's "Active Transportation Lake" after Froggie pointed out the problem. They have also been working on new grates that are less likely to clog. (Froggie's Blog)

"Best" high schools: Newsweek published its annual ranking of how hard high schools push students to take AP and IB tests, which they call the "Best High Schools." The top 100 includes all 7 Montgomery County regular high schools as well as 2 from DC and 5 from Northern Virginia. The larger list of 1600 included 7 from Prince George's, 8 from DC, and too many from NoVA to quickly count. (Newsweek, Dave Murphy)

Have some transportation ideas?: Slate is inviting readers to submit sensible or crazy ideas for urban trasportation, and vote on others' ideas to identify the best through crowdsourcing. (Tom Vanderbilt/Slate, Stephen Miller)

Gambling yes, bikes no: Black Hawk, Colorado allows gambling, but has prohibited bicycling. Why? Because with all the cars, "there's really not a lot of room for bikes," and city officials think it's better for the casinos to keep bikes out. (Nelson Garcia/9NEWS Denver, Jaime Fearer)

Raze houses for a highway? In Brooklyn?: New York State is contemplating razing some historic townhouses in Brooklyn Heights to "modernize" (i.e. speed up cars on) the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. This would be unthinkable in DC both for historic preservation and political reasons, and rightfully so. (Brooklyn Paper via Streetsblog) Update: NYSDOT doesn't actually plan to recommend that option, but TSTC thinks they still are focusing too much on big construction instead of, say, road pricing.

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David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. 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 loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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What's a regular high school?

by Vik on Jun 15, 2010 9:13 am • linkreport

Demo part of Brooklyn Heights because of car traffic??? Don't they know who Jane Jacobs was? BTW:
Montgomery Co. - 7
No. Virginia - 5
nuff said...

by Thayer-D on Jun 15, 2010 9:22 am • linkreport

Well, the BQE *is* an awful road. I'm not sure if NYC has much choice in the matter, given that the segment being modernized is indeed a deathtrap. There's a reason we don't build roads like that any more.

The use of eminent domain will also likely be relatively minor compared to the tragedy of the Atlantic Yards project.

by andrew on Jun 15, 2010 9:22 am • linkreport

Montgomery County has 25 regular public high schools, not seven. (The one non-regular public high school is the Thomas Edison High School of Technology, which is vocational/technical.)

by Miriam on Jun 15, 2010 9:25 am • linkreport

Yeah, I wondered if that was wrong too from the NBC article and the tip. Corrected.

by David Alpert on Jun 15, 2010 9:30 am • linkreport

I wondered if Alexandria also passed the parking measure of having people with handicapped placards be required to pay for parking at metered spots. There were notices up for that all around the Carlyle area and I even saw one of the parking police officers explaining to someone how that would affect them.

by rjh on Jun 15, 2010 9:40 am • linkreport

Aarg. I hate parking increases. And as predicted, the money isn't going back into improving the area -- it is part of a general revenue grab. And I have to wonder if the city is benefitting here or the vendors of the new multispace machines?

Has there ever been talk of using SmartTrip cards to pay for parking at the multispace meters?

by charlie on Jun 15, 2010 9:42 am • linkreport

The Potomac Yard plan is pretty wild. Basically they are going to knock down all the stores there (Target, Shopper's, movie theater etc.) and build a new skyscraper enclave. I am a huge fan of Metro-centered growth, but I also wish they could have planned ahead and integrated the commercial area from the get-go.

by muckraker on Jun 15, 2010 9:57 am • linkreport

The block of box stores at Potomac Yards was built as a placeholder when it opened last decade. It was always meant to be replaced with something along the lines of the current proposal.

by Andrew on Jun 15, 2010 10:35 am • linkreport

I don't see why eminent domain would be needed for the cantilever section of the BQE as such could be widened towards the river via widening the cantilever overhang.

The whole reporting sounds like a bit of the let's generate hysterisism of the 1964 deviation-betrayal of JFK's B&O North Central Freeway propsal in Washington, D.C.

Also, if eniment domain is required, such as the minimum amount as I propose for the I-395 extension, it is definitely worthwhile and legal.

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2007/11/i-395-extension-superior-option.html

I might add that eminent domain is being used for the new railroad tunnel to the west side if Manhattan- and what new urbainists oppose that?

by Douglas A. Willinger on Jun 15, 2010 11:33 am • linkreport

Black Hawk-years ago in my youth there was a small private art school in Black Hawk CO. that I attended 2 summers. It was a place where you could get HS or college credit and it was a workshop/retreat for working artists. It was a sleepy little town with the art school, a bar and laundry mat (one business), a grocery store, restaurant, post office and a couple other businesses I don't recall. Up the road 1 mi. was a bigger small town.

Black Hawk was nestled between the creek and the mountain side. Very picturesque. Quite beautiful.

Two years ago I was in the area nd decided to stop by. It was dramatically transformed. Sides of the mountain had been blasted away, the creek channelized, giant casino buildings erected and pavement laid everywhere. It was horrible. We couldn't even get a sandwich let alone bike somewhere. The bigger town up the road was equally transformed.
I had wanted to stop by the town, get lunch and look around. there was no place to eat. You had to enter a casino and pay a $20 fee to do so to get access to food.

It was really bad. I listened to that Chrissie Hynde song (My City was Gone) over and over the next 2 days. I hope the family that ran the BlackHawk Mountain School of Art got a lot of money for selling their land.

by Bianchi on Jun 15, 2010 12:05 pm • linkreport

@muckraker,

The PY plan actually wants to include an urbanized version of at least the Target and Best Buy in the new main shopping district along what will be E Reed Ave extended. I wouldn't be surprised if other existing retailers find a spot, too. I wish I could speak more to the phasing, which is a huge issue, but it has been awhile since I reviewed that part of the plan.

by Nick P. on Jun 15, 2010 12:32 pm • linkreport

@Doug I'm *rarely* in favor of urban freeway expansion, but it only seems logical to extend 395 underground along NY Ave, and reclaim some of that space above. Right now, NY Ave essentially functions as a freeway, and has had a devastating effect on the neighborhoods surrounding it.

It was also interesting to read about the plans to have the downtown blue line alignment proceed down the same corridor from Mt Vernon Square.

And, heck. Let's dig a tunnel under K Street while we're at it. Freeways aren't so bad when they're out of sight. We could even dig a double-deck tunnel, and run the blue line on the lower level.

(I'm a diehard transit advocate, and am 100% serious about everything I just wrote. If we're going to have cars, and drive them across town, we might as well do it without clogging up the surface roads, and put a huge toll on the downtown 395 and theoretical I-66 K St alignments to pay for it)

by andrew on Jun 15, 2010 12:53 pm • linkreport

The second-highest ranking hich school in this area is Bell? Ahead of all Maryland schools aexcept Montgomery and all VA schools? Come on.

The security box requires that I type "greatest floridian" in order to post my comment, leading to the question, who is?

by dcd on Jun 15, 2010 1:21 pm • linkreport

@andrew
+1

by mch on Jun 15, 2010 1:22 pm • linkreport

@dcd Richard Montgomery in Rockville was rated #33, Bell in DC was rated #37. The top two in this region.

by Bianchi on Jun 15, 2010 1:40 pm • linkreport

The rankings can fluctuate quite a bit from year to year, probably +/- 20 spots or so in some cases. Just off the top 100 are Langley and McLean, which are both very good high schools; IIRC they've been just behind WT Woodson but in the top 100 before. I think Lake Braddock was around 80 a year ago and Oakton and Madison have been higher in the past as well.

by Vik on Jun 15, 2010 2:22 pm • linkreport

@bianchi - isn't that what I said (minus the numerous typos, corrected below)?

"The second-highest ranked high school in this area is Bell? Ahead of all Maryland schools except Montgomery, and all VA schools? Come on."

My point is that this, to me, undermines the validity of the rankings. Bell is a "better school" than Yorktown, Langley, McLean, Whitman, Churchill, BCC, etc?

This reminds me of the old saying, "Americans use statistics like a drunk uses a lamppost - for support rather than illumination."

by dcd on Jun 15, 2010 3:08 pm • linkreport

@dcd, yes. I misread your comment. sorry for the redundancy. The article said the criteria was a measure of how many AP and IB courses were offered. That seems pretty quantitative.

by Bianchi on Jun 15, 2010 3:19 pm • linkreport

All Montgomery County High Schools are on the list, and 7 are in the top 100 nationally. In comparison, there are only 5 schools in all of NoVa in the top 100. There are also more total MD high schools on the list than VA high schools, even though VA has more high schools overall.

It's important to note that these aren't the "best" high schools. They're simply the "best" in terms of the ratio of AP, IB, or Cambridge tests to the number of graduating seniors. It's a list of the most challenging high schools, not a best performing high schools list.

by Eric on Jun 15, 2010 4:11 pm • linkreport

TJ is a pretty challenging HS.

by Vik on Jun 15, 2010 4:21 pm • linkreport

The push for IB/AP testing is a fad that varies regionally and in terms of how districts are configured. It produces a list that looks like this--regional magnets in states and cities that otherwise have horrible schools, over-representation of the small number of large well-funded county schools like Montgy & Fairfax, where a concentrated number of students taking a lot of these tests may skew the distribution. This is isn't about being demanding or challenging, it's about the latest fad. "Name" school districts turn out any number of unimpressive students, who lack initiative or analytic skills, and often can't write well. I just spent a semester being reminded of that.

by Rich on Jun 15, 2010 10:38 pm • linkreport

"Muckraker," Andrew and Nick P make interesting points re Potomac Yard. I live a mile from PY and have regularly patronized the convenient and varied big-box stores since they opened in 1997. At the time they opened (if I recall correctly) they were announced as temporary--20 years, I believe--which I thought strange marketing. The Post then reported the stores' patronage has far exceeded projections. Word eventually will get out around the area that the stores are going away and then all Hell will break loose. Why not convert them into an interconnected mall, build a parking garage, and save all this successful retail? Some flexibility and common sense needs to enter the thinking of developers and politicians who've been slavering all over themselves for the profits and taxes they stand to reap when they build this "Manhattan on the Potomac."

by John in Alexandria on Jun 16, 2010 11:35 am • linkreport

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