Greater Greater Washington

Posts by Steven Yates

Steven Yates grew up in Indiana before moving to DC in 2002 to attend college at American University. He currently lives in Southwest DC.  

Breakfast links: Who's the boss?

Photo by Peter Roome on Flickr.
GM officially: WMATA officially swore in Paul Wiedefeld as its new general manager. In his first public remarks, he acknowledged the agency's loss of credibility, said he's opposed to raising fares until the system has better reliability, and plans on riding all rail and bus lines to hear from riders. (WAMU)

Bowser is...just OK: A majority of people think Mayor Bowser is doing a good job, but most only "somewhat" approve of her performance. She also gets low marks in affordable housing and fighting the spike in homicides. (Post)

5A lives to fight another day: The WMATA board opted to keep the 5A bus route to Dulles, but will eliminate or modify dozens of other routes. (Post)

Not all for redevelopment: A majority of DC residents think redevelopment is good. However, a majority of black residents, who may be concerned about rising rents and property taxes, think it's bad for them. (Post)

Govies underground: While WMATA is sometimes thought of as a commuter service for federal workers, they only make up about a third of WMATA's riders. They tend to ride disproportionately at peak times and on rail. (PlanItMetro)

Living at school: When DC was short on funds, they sold 18 former schoolhouses. Now, these schoolhouses are used as housing. Here's how they've changed. (Curbed)

Expensive house, short commute: Why are high-income, well-educated people paying big bucks to move back to the city? One study says longer workdays are driving people to pay for the extra leisure time that comes with a short commute. (The Atlantic)

And...: Getting access to MPD body camera footage will be easier than initially proposed. (WAMU) ... A couple of the buildings at the Maine Avenue Fish Market will get historic designation. (City Paper) ... Here's an amusing take on whether Union Station is more mall than train station. (Rock Creek Snark)

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Breakfast links: Visions

Photo by Ted Eytan on Flickr.
Vision to reality: Is Vision Zero going to be more than just a vision? DC has committed to eliminating deaths on the road and agencies are taking steps to achieve it, but are they willing to really do what it takes? (City Paper)

Visualizing crashes: The City Paper gathered data on all the crashes in DC involving people walking or biking, and created fascinating maps and graphs to better understand where and when crashes are happening.

More eights are great: Metro will start using more 8-car trains this week after taking advantage of the lower number of riders in the summer to perform maintenance on the train cars. (Post)

Words with Wyman: Metro map designer Lance Wyman discusses wayfinding, squeezing in the Silver Line to the map, and unique icons for each Metro station which so far have never been used. (CityLab)

Fix Fairfax's funding: Think you can fix the $50 million budget hole in the Fairfax County schools budget? Now you can try with an online tool. (Post)

Avoid delays with math: A mathematician in Sweden thinks an algorithm can predict train delays up to two hours before they happen. This could help transit agencies to adjust the number of trains in service to avoid delays. (Post)

Lucky NY and Portland: It was a big weekend for US transit, as major new rail extensions opened in New York and Portland. Portland also opened a car-free bridge. (NYT, Catch the Orange, CityLab)

Smart Growth chat: Today at noon you can chat with the Post's Dr. Gridlock and Stewart Schwartz, the executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth to talk about Metro, traffic, and Potomac River crossings.

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Breakfast links: Paying and placing transit

Image from the State of Maryland via BeyondDC on Flickr.
Green for Purple: Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn breaks down where the money is coming from for the Purple Line. While Montgomery and Prince George's will pay more and Maryland less, it's still not final how large those amount will be. (WAMU)

Silver at bat: Follow a team as they search for a threatened bat in the path of the future Silver Line rail yard. If they find it, it could mean increased costs and delays. (Post)

No bus parking: Ivy City's Crummell School will not serve as bus parking for buses serving Union Station. But will the site be developed, preserved, or converted to some community use? (Post)

Housing paying for transit: San Francisco officials are considering charging larger, market-rate housing buildings a fee that would help fund public transit. Even developers are for the plan, but does that mean the proposed fees are too low? (CityLab)

The housing burden: Nearly half of DC-area renters are cost burdened, meaning they pay at least 30% of their income on rent. The problem is particularly bad for low earners, where 93% are cost burdened. (City Paper)

Worse before it gets better: Fairfax County will replace an aging bike and pedestrian bridge along Van Dorn Street. But that will close the current route for two weeks leaving pedestrians a shuttle bus and bikers to fend for themselves. (FABB)

Tokyo drifts toward zero deaths: How did Tokyo nearly eliminate traffic deaths? Like many of the safest cities, it was built compactly and made space for public transportation, bikes, and pedestrians. (Tech Insider, Leo)

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Two downtown parking spots just became a new public park

What if we used the space we currently devote to parked cars for something else? DC's first seasonal parklet, a mini park that takes the place of street parking spaces, opened on Tuesday.

The parKIT at its ribbon cutting ceremony. All photos by the author.

Called parKIT, the parklet is at 2020 K Street NW. While DC has had many temporary parklets to celebrate Park(ing) Day, the ParKIT will be semi-permanent, staying around until October.

ParKIT is a joint venture between DDOT, the District Department of the Environment, architecture firm Gensler, and the Golden Triangle BID. Its yellow triangles are a nod to the BID.

At the ribbon cutting, DDOE Director Tommy Wells commended all those involved for their willingness to consider a different use for space traditionally reserved for parking—removing parking spaces is undoubtedly the most controversial part of creating parklets. If parKIT is successful, it might become easier to create other parklets around the region.

The Golden Triangle BID will hold events at the parKIT every Tuesday from noon until 2:00 pm, with the theme of "making the city."

How big are Dulles and BWI airports? These maps give you an idea

Dulles and Baltimore Washington International airports can sometimes feel like they're not all that close to the District. But what would happen if they were built closer to DC? Like, in DC itself?

Dulles (black) and BWI (red) airports over DC. Rendering by the author and base image from Google Maps. Click for interactive version.

Above is where the runways would fall if you built Dulles or BWI as is in DC. In the image, each airport's terminal is roughly aligned with Union Station.

As you can see, Dulles is more spread out than BWI: from north to south, its runways span the distance from T Street NW (in the overlay, the Black Cat is among the northern-most landmarks that the "airport" covers) to south of the Navy Yard. East to west, it spreads from the Lincoln Memorial to 9th Street NE and SE.

While it's relatively compact, BWI would cover a good chunk of Capitol Hill and spread nearly to 12th Street NW.

And all that's just accounting for Dulles and BWI's runways. Contributor Adam Froehlig created an image to show just how much land all three of the region's major airports take up:

Centered on the Capitol, Dulles takes up a huge amount of land, from north of the McMillan Reservoir to Mississippi Avenue SE. It covers all of Arlington Cemetery and nearly reaches the Starburst intersection. BWI looks modest in comparison, while National looks downright tiny.

What do you notice?

Google just updated its maps of our region. Here's what's new

From time to time Google, updates the images it uses for Google Maps and Google Earth. It just refreshed its stock for parts of the Washington region.

All images from Google Maps

We've covered Google's efforts to keep up with the region's changing landscape before. Like always, this set of images includes some where big changes occurred between when they were taken and when Google made them public.

The most interesting new thing on the map is probably Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada's "Out Of Many, One" portrait on the National Mall, which is pictured above.

The Monroe Street Market in Brookland is done:

You can see the green-painted First Street Bike lane:

Construction is underway on the Takoma/Langley Crossroads Transit Center:

Lots of work getting done for the coming Wharf development in Southwest DC:

You can see the Capital Wheel at National Harbor (or, more easily, its shadow):

You may notice something missing in the rundown of new additions to the area: the Silver Line. That's because the imagery hasn't been updated west of the West Falls Church Metro. In fact, you can see the seam cut right through the West Falls Church Rail Yard:

Another place that's now much different from the image Google has: On Google Maps, you can see demolition underway on the PEPCO plant on Benning Road. Today, the structure is totally gone:

When, exactly, did Google take these pictures?

According to Google Earth, the new images are from October 7, 2014. But the "taken on" date was off by a day last time, and that could be the case again. It's hard to know for sure since October 7th was a Tuesday and most weekdays look pretty much the same from the sky, but it's a safe bet that the 7th is at least very close since we know the fair pictured below that was going on at Fort McNair from the 7th to the 10th.

What have you noticed?

Breakfast links: Takes a toll

Photo by Jimmy Emerson, DVM on Flickr.
Lower toll in Maryland: Govenor Hogan unexpectedly cut tolls starting in July. Supporters claim toll revenue that currently goes to paying off bonds for maintenance and new construction will now come from cost cutting at MTA, but that might not be true. (Post, Baltimore Sun, LEW)

Flipped off: DC Attorney General Karl Racine filed suit against a developer who sold a slew of poorly and illegally renovated homes. Racine asked the judge to stop Hofgard from selling any property and to compensate buyers. (WAMU)

Where CaBi goes: There's a huge gap between the most and least used CaBi stations. But the reason probably has more to do with hills than race or income. (City Paper)

Change the law: If you could change one law to improve bicyclist or pedestrian safety in DC, what would it be? A new task force is looking for your input. (WABA)

No stopping a traffic signal: The Maryland State Highway Administration is finally installing a traffic signal at the problem intersection of Wisconsin and Stanford in Bethesda even after SHA initially said they would not. (Bethesda Magazine)

Behind the Uber curtain: How much does an Uber driver really make? Philly City Paper does a huge expose on what it's like to be an Uber driver.

Who killed the streetcar?: Streetcars died in this country in the mid-20th century not because GM bought them out, but because too many cars clogged the streetcar lines. Artificially low fares also helped the streetcar's decline. (Vox, LEW)

Rain brings art: A Seattle artist put a coating on sidewalks that repels water, so that when the sidewalk gets wet, patterns or messages appear. (SlipTalk)

And...: Flights from BWI to Havana, Cuba, are coming soon. (Baltimore Sun, LEW) ... Is this what the new CaBi bike will look like? (TheWashCycle) ... Alexandria's budget includes more CaBi stations and a new bus. (Post)

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Transit to Wolf Trap will still run through West Falls Church

Despite speculation that the Silver Line might change how the Fairfax Connector runs to Wolf Trap, the service's Route 480 Wolf Trap Express will continue to run from West Falls Church this season. While some Silver Line stations are closer, it turns out West Falls Church still makes sense.

Photo from FCDOT.

According to Nicholas Perfili, the Fairfax Connector section chief, Wolf Trap and Fairfax County DOT officials did discuss the possibility of changing the service to run from a station on the Silver Line. Ultimately, they decided against it.

West Falls Church still has a lot to offer

The main reason for keeping the current routing is to make sure concert goers can stay at Wolf Trap for as long as possible. While the last train to DC leaves Spring Hill at 11:18 pm during the week, the last train from West Falls leaves at 11:32. Concerts can run late into the evening, and those extra few minutes can be the difference between having to leave before a show ends and catching the encore.

Perfili also pointed out that the route from West Falls Church to Wolf Trap offers a more reliable trip time because it has HOV-2 restrictions on the Dulles Connector Road and a bus-on-shoulder lane that lets buses bypass other traffic. Also, a bus from Spring Hill would be subject to Tysons congestion, which can be quite bad.

Photo from FCDOT.

While there's ample parking at West Falls Church, there isn't at any of the Tysons stations. A final thing West Falls Church has that the others don't: room for buses to park and wait if need be.

The Wolf Trap Express will undergo one change this year: it will now use West Falls Church's Bus Bay E, which is closer than Bay B, which it used to use. The move comes thanks to the Silver Line, which made it possible to cut the number of buses needing to run through West Falls Church.

That means that, albeit indirectly, the Silver Line is making trips to Wolf Trap shorter... if only by a few feet.

The Silver Line might change how you bus to Wolf Trap

Wolf Trap is one of the region's premier entertainment venues, and you can take transit to most of its major events. Thanks to the Silver Line, the exact route might change.

Photo by @jbtaylor on Flickr.

Right now, the Fairfax Connector provides bus transportation from the West Falls Church Metro station along along route 480 for events at Wolf Trap's main stage, the Filene Center. The West Falls station is a little over seven miles from Wolf Trap, about a 12-minute drive without traffic.

With the Silver Line up and running, it may make sense to run that connection from the the Spring Hill Metro station. Spring Hill is less than 2.5 miles from Wolf Trap, and the drive can take under five minutes.

Running the Wolf Trap Express from Spring Hill instead of West Falls would require half the number of buses for about the same level of service. That'd save the Fairfax Connector money, and it'd also mean passengers would spend less time on the bus.

Fairfax is open to the change, but it's not in a hurry

In a chat with Dr. Gridlock last year, Fairfax Transportation Director Tom Biesiadny said that a Silver Line connection to Wolf Trap could be an option this year. But the season of events starts in a little over a month, and so far there is no word of a change.

That could be because there's reason to consider keeping service as it is. First, passengers traveling from east of East Falls Church (which is home to the vast majority of the system) would likely not see much of a difference in total travel time. While the current routing means a longer time on the bus, it's almost all on highways, meaning it's about as fast as Metro.

Also, Spring Hill doesn't have the bus facilities or parking that West Falls Church does. Finally, a change like this would require new signs and a public education campaign.

It's unclear whether the benefits of changing the Wolf Trap Express to run from Spring Hill rather than West Falls Church would outweigh the costs. But if they did, it'd be smart to make the change before the start of this year's concert season.

Help us fund live event coverage

This past year, we hosted live chats with DC's leading mayoral candidates. A lot of you said you found them useful. Next year we'd like to do even more live chats, but we need your help.

Aimee Custis and Jonathan Neeley type during our Muriel Bowser live chat. Photo by the author.

You got to ask questions, questions that no one else was asking, which we posed to Muriel Bowser and David Catania. Many of you said you found out information that helped you decide who to vote for, information you didn't hear elsewhere.

But to do more chats like that, we need your support.

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The software we use for the chats costs money, and so does staff time to actually organize and run them. While there is not a mayoral election next year, there are two special elections in DC and two seats up in Arlington, to start with. Plus, we can talk with elected officials on the future of our area or with area planners on exciting new projects.

If we get enough support from you we, we'd also like to start a series of live-streamed video events with fascinating speakers from around the country to give you insight into the trends in building better cities. Want to hear Harriet Tregoning's thoughts on DC's future? Have a burning question for a Montgomery County councilmember? Imagine getting real answers from a different guest every single month. Who would you like to hear from? Tell us in the comments!

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