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


Breakfast links: Going underground

Photo by DandyDanny on Flickr.
More cell service coming to Metro: Metro is rolling out cell service in tunnels, but is slowed by track work. Some riders fear the extra noise uninterrupted service will bring and the Post asks readers what the current cell service is throughout the system. (Post)

Can the new Dupont Underground succeed?: Are the old streetcar tunnels under Dupont Circle doomed to failure? While underground retail is risky business, Richard Layman fails to note that the new galleries may position themselves as destination retail. (RPUS, Eric Fidler)

Metro aims to reduce ridership, costs of MetroAccess: MetroAccess will implement higher fares and stricter qualifications for paratransit rides, as part of the plan in this year's budget to restrain the high growth of the service. (TBD)

Hispanics thrive in DC region: The DC region's Hispanics have incomes and education level well above the national average for their ethnic group. At least one of the reasons is the federal government's strict rules on minority-owned business contracting. (Post)

White Flint runs into issues: There's been a rough start to the implementation of the White Flint Plan, as Ike Leggett refused to approve a coordinator for the area and the council still being cautious about financing. (The Friends of White Flint)

With Oberstar gone, who will be top Dem on House T&I?: Who will replace staunch transit advocate Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN) as top Democrat on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, now that Oberstar lost his election? The WSJ speculates, and one surprising name is DC's own Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton. (Streetsblog Capitol Hill)

Chicago asks residents for suggestions: The CTA is asking Chicagoans to "Give a Minute" and tell them what would make them walk, bike and ride transit more. After Chicago, the project will move to New York, Memphis and San Jose. (CEOs for Cities)

Why salmon create trouble for cyclists and planners: Felix Salmon analyzes the different types of interactions between modes and why cities are having such struggle integrating cyclists. Part of the responsibility is on cyclists, especially NYC's ubiquitous "bike salmon," riders who go the wrong way on a busy one-way street. (Reuters via Baltimore Sun)

And...: While most jurisdictions give out generic "I voted" stickers, Arlington makes sure everybody knows who its residents are. (Snoburbia, Cavan) ... A giant dumbell outside the Farragut West metro entrance is causing traffic flow issues when people stop to gawk. (TBD) ... A GGW reader has some extensive photos of the Dulles Metrorail Phase I construction. (Cambronj)

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Erik Weber has been living car-free in the District since 2009. Hailing from the home of the nation's first Urban Growth Boundary, Erik has been interested in transit since spending summers in Germany as a kid where he rode as many buses, trains and streetcars as he could find. Views expressed here are Erik's alone. 


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From the--relatively good--Salmon piece:

New York needs to make a collective quantum leap, from treating bicyclists like pedestrians to treating bicyclists like motorists.

I think we've gone over and over this on GGW, but Salmon makes a common over-generalization here...common at least among non-cyclists. Bicyclists do need to act like motorists--where it makes sense.

There are safe and intuitive ways to cross against the light. Allowing cyclists to treat a red-light as a "yield" is no different than allowing motorists to take a right turn on red. You make sure no cars are coming...obviously. But you also wait until there are no pedestrians crossing. For a lot of cyclists, this is apparently less obvious. But there are self-centered assholes in every mode.

There are no safe and intuitive ways to ride against traffic unless you're on the sidewalk--and then unless you're riding at a walking pace, you're transferring risk to pedestrians.

The argument "cyclists must act like drivers at all times" is simply off-the-mark, whether the focus is on personal safety or cultivating "good-will" of non-cyclists. Cyclists lose goodwill to the extent that they act like assholes, and while there's some overlap between "act like assholes" and "obey the Uniform Traffic Code to the letter" it certainly isn't the same thing. Unfortunately, anyone can ride a bike.

by oboe on Nov 4, 2010 9:02 am • linkreport

Grr. Obviously that should be:

"there's some overlap between "don't act like assholes" and "obey the Uniform Traffic Code to the letter" it certainly isn't the same thing."

by oboe on Nov 4, 2010 9:03 am • linkreport

Oh, and is there really some significant number of Metro riders who "fear the extra noise uninterrupted service will bring"? What timid souls we've become... :)

by oboe on Nov 4, 2010 9:05 am • linkreport

I'm not even sure better cell reception is going to result in a lot more voice calls. I see mostly people staring at glowing rectangles.

Sure, not everyone has a smart phone, but even the non-smart phones I see people are texting or whatnot.

by Michael Perkins on Nov 4, 2010 9:09 am • linkreport

True -- it's not like Metro is so quiet it's easy to make a voice call. Other than "I'm stuck in the tunnel . . . again" call seems not worth making until after you're out of the system.

by ah on Nov 4, 2010 9:37 am • linkreport

Oboe, I agree with your sentiment, but since we're talking about NYC here, it's probably worth noting that they don't allow right on red. I do agree that there is some similarity between right on red and bikes treating red lights as yields (or jaywalking). We allow drivers to make a judgement call and go through a red light in a prescribed manner, why not allow bikers and pedestrians to make that same judgment call?

by Reid on Nov 4, 2010 9:42 am • linkreport

Efficent (aka "Dutch") cycling takes a lot more investment in infrastructure than people want to admit. It is a zero sum game -- there are usually only so many lanes in a road.

And at what percentage of trips does cycling make driving more efficient?

I was shocked at bike usage in New Delhi. the new bike lanes are being used like no tomorrow, although I've seen scooters on them as well. The bus lanes, however, are a complete failure. But there it is an easy economic argument -- most of the population can't afford a car.

by charlie on Nov 4, 2010 9:50 am • linkreport

If you read the entry more carefully, you'd have noted that I did mention the opportunity to position this as a destination, using the examples of Buffalo Billiards and The Underground, if well run, but also mentioning the fact that art galleries don't seem to be a successful business in DC, linking to articles about the failure of galleries on 7th Street and 14th Street (and not including links to past blog entries about failures of galleries in Georgetown).

In any case, if you want to mitigate against failure of projects such as these, which is why I write what I write as a kind of premortem:

The point is to reduce the likelihood of failure, not just to make offhand comments or cheerlead.

by Richard Layman on Nov 4, 2010 9:53 am • linkreport

Oboe -

I imagine "fear" is too strong of a word - but I have no desire to be subjected to someone's loud cell phone conversations while stuck on a packed train in the tunnels. My anticipation of this is perhaps better characterized as "anxiety?" "dread?" What is a word that signifies unhappy anticipation without actually being afraid?

I don't think you can talk about self-centered bicycling behavior and refer to people who indulge in it as "assholes" and not also apply the same moniker to those who indulge in self-centered cell phone behavior.

As far as the direction towards timidity or what have you - ten (roughly) years ago people survived the entire ride on Metro without making cell phone calls. Why is it so important?

by Josh S on Nov 4, 2010 10:23 am • linkreport

re: cell phones on the Metro, it's not like we're subjected to constant loud conversations (with the occasional exception) on the expanses of rail that is above ground. But it's not like the difference in cell phone use is strikingly noticeable.

by engrish_major on Nov 4, 2010 10:35 am • linkreport

Slate is running a series of posts on Urban Design by Witold Rybczynski. The slideshow today is interesting, and mentions The Yards admiringly.

by jcm on Nov 4, 2010 10:40 am • linkreport

It's not at all surprising that Norton is mentioned as a possible ranking member of the HOuse Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. In the 112th Congress she will be the third most senior Democrat on the Committee; she currently chairs one of its subcommittees.

by rg on Nov 4, 2010 10:48 am • linkreport

Re: The dumbell at Farragut West. Has anyone else seen the GIANT red shoe at the Union Station Metro entrance? I think it's a pretty cool advertising campaign/concept; it has the feel of public pop art. Has MasterCard put anything else at other Metro entrances?

by David T on Nov 4, 2010 10:49 am • linkreport

Thanks, jcm.

I liked Witold's closing remarks on the slideshow:

Densification is the next great challenge for American cities, not only densification of downtowns, but also of residential neighborhoods. Densification promotes walkability, allows more use of mass transit, supports a greater variety of amenities, and produces more active cities. But most newer American cities in the South and West have been built to suburban densities (three-five persons per acre). Denser residential neighborhoods—50 persons per acre would be the upper range—will have to include low-rise apartment buildings and town houses, as well as detached single-family houses, still the first choice of most Americans. Detached houses don't have to be built on sprawling lots, however.

It's important to emphasize the different kinds of density, and what density really feels like. There's a far greater continuum of urbanism than just the false dichotomy we too often hear about between suburban sprawl and Manhattan-like living.

by Alex B. on Nov 4, 2010 10:54 am • linkreport

Memorable pop art, $5000. Pissing off the Commission of Fine Arts, priceless.

by Matt Johnson on Nov 4, 2010 10:57 am • linkreport

For those that clicked through to see my Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project construction photos, The next group of pictures can be seen here, photos in and around the VA-267 VA-123 interchange.

by Sand Box John on Nov 4, 2010 11:17 am • linkreport

Gosh, that gantry system is a cool bit of technology.

(And, sigh. Those pictures really do make the case for an underground alignment through Tyson's. Elevated railways are ugggly)

by andrew on Nov 4, 2010 11:30 am • linkreport

@oboe, Two minor points--

As Reid notes, there is no right on red in NYC, and there are good arguments that right on red is really bad for pedestrians, whose crosswalks often get blocked with right-on-red cars. (I think I first heard this from Michael King of Nelson Nygaard in a CSG presentation.) Don't quite know where this leaves the analogy.

And I know you wrote "There are no safe and intuitive ways to ride against traffic"--and not "the wrong way on one-way streets" but there are occasions when riding the wrong way on a one-way street is the best option, if there isn't much traffic. Before the lowering of the South Capitol Street bridge, the west side foot/bike path was at O Street SW, and approaching from the west one could either ride the wrong way on O Street SW between Carrolsburg Place SW and S. Capitol Street (which is one way westbound) and cross the S. Capitol Street service lane to get on the path, or you could take M Street SW to South Capitol Street, ride on S. Capitol, then just before O, switch from the right hand side of the lane to the left hand side of the lane to get on the path. I believe it was with the latter maneuver that David van Keuren was struck and killed there.

by thm on Nov 4, 2010 12:41 pm • linkreport

RE: Norton

While I wouldn't mind having a local rep taking on such an important role and *assume* Norton would be friendly toward increasing transportation & housing choices, her website is decidedly lacking in much mention of such subjects... on the one hand, I'd prefer to have someone take on the role whom has actually demonstrated an interest in it; though on the other hand: perhaps getting someone unfamiliar with the subject involved could be an opportunity to help shape someone's mindset from the ground up.

RE: Density

Just wanted to add that transit-, bike-, and ped-oriented communities don't have to be dense; I've visited and lived in plenty of low-density communities which have managed to be rail-focused and walkable (similarly, there are plenty of high-density communities which viable only by car). While I tend to personally prefer a higher density, I can't deny that it's not for everyone; and to exclude the lower-density elements will likely result in greater opposition to moving forward with transit-, bike-, and walkable communities.

RE: Phones on Metro

So many people are typing away & *usually* the chatters' noise is dampened pretty quickly. There's at least some greater use for phones on trains than on planes: already at ground-level, disembarking shortly, unscheduled services, and no one is constrained to sit beside someone who's loud (though count me among those who'd be stubborn & refuse to move). Personally I'm more put off by loud children... if they're cute & adorable, that's one thing, but I don't like loud and non-cute children. Can't there be a rule about that?

by Bossi on Nov 4, 2010 1:08 pm • linkreport


While I tend to personally prefer a higher density, I can't deny that it's not for everyone; and to exclude the lower-density elements will likely result in greater opposition to moving forward with transit-, bike-, and walkable communities.

This is my frustration - density is not a binary choice! You make it seem like we only have two options - high density or low density. This is not true at all.

Instead, we need to realize that some baseline level of density is needed to provide quality urban spaces. This kind of density can be achieved with single family detached homes on fairly small lots, if you like.

Arguing that they "do not have to be dense" is a misreading of density's importance. They do not have to be really dense, but they need some level of density to work - and most people would probably find that their impression of density is quite skewed - you can get nice levels of densities in places they would normally associate with suburbia - single family homes, bucolic parks, etc.

What we need is a better understanding of what density is, what it looks like, and why it's important. This argument doesn't further any of those goals, in my opinion.

by Alex B. on Nov 4, 2010 1:18 pm • linkreport

@Alex B-

My apologies if I may not have phrased things perfectly, but I think you and I might be sort-of on the same page. Certainly 100% acre-sized or larger lots would quickly limit the ridership potential within walking/biking distance of transit or other destinations. However, it's certainly feasible for a mixture of densities to coexist such that a more central higher-density core can enable a lower-density periphery.

To give some of my examples: I partly grew up in East Falls, Philly, right beside Penn Charter School- well served by the Queen Lane and East Falls stations; or my family's place in Westfield, NJ, along NJ Transit's Raritan Line. These neighborhoods both consist of 1/3 acre lots akin to Chevy Chase: large homes, large yards, leafy green, quiet suburban setting; all an easy walk to the rail stations. The denser areas immediately at the stations provide a large boost to ridership. I'd always adored these mixtures of mid-level and low-density.

Or another example from my personal experience is Castelfiorentino, Italy, where our 10 acre farm is 2 miles from town. It's an incredibly easy walk or bike ride to the train for a commute into Firenze. The downtown area is a dense small town with 4-6 story buildings on average, a population of only about 15000, and a footprint the size of Bethesda. On the outside of the ring road land is strictly regulated to discourage development outside of the core. It's an interesting mix of high density (generating ridership) alongside and low density (stocking the farmers' markets, preserving an aesthetic countryside, and lodging the hordes of tourists).

by Bossi on Nov 4, 2010 1:53 pm • linkreport


Apologies for jumping on you - I do think we're on the same page, but I want to make sure that this issue is framed in the correct way. Density is horribly maligned when it should not be. People misunderstand what it means and what effects it actually has.

Case in point - in the grand scheme of things, I don't know that I'd call any of those areas you cite in PA, NJ or DC "low" density at all - medium-low, perhaps, but not necessarily low. The more important point, however, is that you can increase the density of those areas without altering the look and feel of the places.

Fundamentally, density is a good thing for cities. It provides a positive feedback loop for walkability, transit usage, urban design, etc. Too often, a neighborhood will see a proposal to increase density and reflexively oppose it based on traffic or crime concerns. In reality, this isn't the case at all - more people means more eyes on the street, more density means alternative modes are both more feasible and more successful - that's how the R-B corridor has managed massive growth over the last few decades without any actual increase in street traffic.

Instead, people are usually concerned about issues of design - and rightly so. These issues get masked behind a misplaced opposition to density, however. I feel that urbanists need to combat this mis-percetion and sing the praises of density for all to hear.

by Alex B. on Nov 4, 2010 2:10 pm • linkreport

Leggett's still an idiot. I seriously wish we could get a more intelligent guy in the County Executive office. I know I'm not ready, at age 24, but there has to be a better guy out there. How about Hans Riemer 2014 (contingent upon him being an effective councilman)?!!

by Eric on Nov 4, 2010 2:45 pm • linkreport

Unfortunately, the views of many on this blog is to give lip service to "density" but fight anything that would encourage it. Sometimes I feel this blog should be named "Greater Greater Reston Center", since that seems to be the (sub)urban ideal.

by beatbox on Nov 4, 2010 3:16 pm • linkreport

Examples, beatbox? Do you mean writers or commenters?

by Alex B. on Nov 4, 2010 3:23 pm • linkreport

You know the quickest way to end salmoning?

Paint a yellow line down the middle of new york's10 foot bike lanes.

There is no reason grade separated bike lanes should be one way.

by JJJJ on Nov 4, 2010 7:01 pm • linkreport

Segmented post-tension concrete bridge construction is pretty fascination technology. My beef is, the finished produced is somewhat massive when compared to more traditional construction. The advantage to its use is, it is fast and cheap to build. WMATA first used it on the J Route Blue line in the bridge over Eisenhower Avenue between King Street and Van Dorn Street. It was used in the elevateds on the southern F Route Green line and in the elevated between Fort Totten and West Hyattsville.

Check back to my home page in few days and see what the segments look like up close.

by Sand Box John on Nov 4, 2010 10:13 pm • linkreport

@ Alex B.

Low rise architecture, endless underused green spaces

by beatbox on Nov 5, 2010 1:36 pm • linkreport

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